Sandburg's Hometown

October 13, 2014

19th century cook stove
Wood burning stove, late 19th century

Ashes to Ashes

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg wrote in his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers: “It could be that if I should stand before St. Peter at the Gate and he should ask, 'What good deeds did you ever do on earth?' I would answer, 'For years and years when I was a boy I carried out the stove ashes of a house at 622 East Berrien Street, Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois'.”

Clara Sandburg did her cooking on a cast iron stove in the kitchen. There were lids in the cooking surface which could be lifted with an iron handle for adding more coal. The placement of the lids allowed for putting pots and pans at several cooking temperatures. To simmer soup or brew coffee, the kettle or pot was put on a rear lid where the heat was lower.

Mrs. Sandburg learned from experience which places on the stove top were best for cooking various foods. She could tell by placing her hand near the open oven if the temperature was just right for baking cookies or bread.

The kitchen stove was a high maintenance piece of equipment. Coal had to be added regularly to assure a proper fire. The fire had to be “banked” at night so it could be brought back to a hotter temperature every morning. Clinkers and ashes had to be removed regularly and carried out to the ash pile in the backyard. This was a task assigned to the boys in the family.

Later, the old cook stove was put in the basement and used for boiling water for the laundry during the summer. A gasoline stove was purchased for the kitchen when the Sandburgs could afford it. The stove was a much more efficient piece of equipment, but very dangerous to use. More than one homemaker was seriously burned or killed when her long skirts caught fire.

The Sandburgs also added a parlor stove to their abode for warming the front room. It was upright with a door on the front. There were eisenglass windows in the door so one could look inside to check on how the coal was burning. It stood on metal legs above the floor and was connected to a pipe which fitted through the wall into the chimney.

This kind of stove was somewhat more efficient than a fireplace, but the work of keeping it burning coal and removing the ashes was still time-consuming. A right angle in the stove pipe helped to keep the smoke in the stove longer and thus provided more heat. Along with the smoke and cinders of the many steam engines traveling though Galesburg and the hundreds household stoves being used in the city, it must have been a smokey time for the residents.

Next week, a description of putting up the parlor stove for winter use and taking it down when warm weather arrived.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity