The Historic Five Mile House  

Five Miles Southeast of Charleston, Illinois







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The Search For An 1850s-60s Cook Stove

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Check out the new cook stove

     Stoves became generally available in East Central Illinois in the 1850s.  They had been around since the 18th century, but the limiting factor in their widespread commercial availability was the difficulty and cost of transporting them.  That changed in the 1850s when the railroads came to Illinois.  Ads for stoves begin appearing in Charleston newspapers in 1851.  The railroads also brought many other manufactured goods and the age of hand crafted gave way to the age of factory made.

     The Five Mile House provides a perfect setting for exploring the changes that took place between the 1840s and the 1860s.  The front two rooms of the house were built in the 1840s and featured fireplaces on both the east and west ends.  Cooking was done over the open hearth, probably in the east room.  In the 1850s or 60s, the house underwent a remodeling that added a rear kitchen room or "ell".  Although fireplaces generally continued to be built and used in the 1850s and 60s, archaeology done at the site uncovered no evidence of a fireplace in the ell, so it is assumed that a stove was used. 

     The fireplace in the west room was removed during the remodeling and was replaced by an 1850s-60s four over four window.  The original fireplace, however, is still found in the east room and has been restored to its original appearance and function.  It has been outfitted with a mantel, crane, the original andirons and other open hearth cooking implements.  It has already been used for demonstrating open hearth cooking for school children and during  open houses in the summer months.

     The 1850s-60s kitchen ell has been reconstructed including a chimney and we needed a period cook stove.  So, we began the search for an appropriate stove.  First we had to determine the type of stove that would be appropriate for the Five Mile House 1860s kitchen. Advertisements from 1850s Charleston newspapers gave us the answer.

      We found an appropriate stove at Bryant Stove Company in Thorndyke, Maine and added it to the 1860s Five Mile House kitchen in June of 2010. The stove was hooked up by May of 2011 and used for the first time at the May 29th open house. The new stove is shown in the picture to the right.

     The Five Mile House affords the rare opportunity to demonstrate 1840s open hearth cooking and 1860s stove cooking in adjacent rooms.  This can provide a tremendous educational opportunity for our visiting school children and visitors who come during our living history open houses.





     The best source of information on local cook stoves comes from the Charleston Courier newspaper.  Stove ads first appear in 1851. The papers were searched through 1872.  The style of stove seen in all the ads is a four-burner stove with the oven located underneath. 

Ads from the Charleston Courier


August 2, 1851

July 29, 1852 August 25, 1853

The stove above is located at Mahaffie Stage Coach Stop and Farm in Olathe, KS and has a patent date of 1866. It is very similar to the ones pictured in the ads. It is used at Mahaffie in their living history program.

April 18, 1872 February 17, 1858 1866




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