Remembering the woodburning cookstove

Jerry Apps
Few things on the farm were more important than the woodburning kitchen stove.

Those of us who grew up on farms before electricity, indoor plumbing, and other taken for granted conveniences today remember the woodburning cookstoves. They were the centerpiece of the farmhouse kitchens.

The kitchen was the most important room in the house. Not only did we eat all of our meals here, but it was also the warmest room in the farm home.

Especially in winter, I remember our woodburning cookstove. My mother was in charge of it. She decided what kind of wood to put in it, and when. She knew the difference between quick burning pine and slow burning oak that offered more heat. She knew just when the oven was hot enough to bake bread by opening the oven door and holding her hand in it just long enough to judge the temperature as our stove had no temperature gauge.

She made sure the reservoir located on the right side of the stove was filled with water, as this was the source of our warm water. She made sure the teakettle was always on the hottest part of the stove, as this was our source of hot water.

The cookstove, besides cooking and baking, kept the kitchen toasty warm. It was here that on a cold winter day, a visitor pulled up a chair near the stove to chat and share a story. We sat at the kitchen table to do our homework. Dad sat near the stove to read the farm paper.

It was behind the cookstove that Pa put newly born little pigs, especially if the weather was below zero. It was here where we put little chicks, freshly arrived, to keep warm until they could be placed in the brooder house. Oh, so many uses for that old cookstove.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Few things on the farm were more important than the woodburning kitchen stove.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to