Friday, 21 February 2020 16:37

COLUMN: Ma's old cook stove

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)
J.A. Bolton's grandmother's old Modern Maid wood cook stove. J.A. Bolton's grandmother's old Modern Maid wood cook stove. J.A. Bolton

In the ‘40s, my grandparents moved from their farm in the Capel’s Mill section of Richmond County to a farm just north of Rockingham.

Electric power had just been connected to their old home but Ma still cooked on her wood stove. During the move to their new place, a crack developed in the old cast iron stove. She still used it for several years until the crack became a little bit too dangerous.

Even though it had power, the new house wasn’t wired for an electric stove. Ma was brought up using a wood stove and that’s what she cooked their meals and canned their food on. She didn’t want anything but another wood stove. She was set in her ways and didn’t even want a kitchen sink in her cook room. So, after granddaddy sold his tobacco in the fall of ‘53, he bought her a brand spanking new wood cook stove called Modern Maid.

It was my job and granddaddy’s job to saw up pine slabs with a crosscut saw. They had to be a certain length and split several times with an axe so they would fit in the stove. Ma kept a wood box behind her stove and a larger one on the porch. The wood had to be dry and no oak wood was ever used in the cook stove because a quick hot fire was needed to heat the stove quickly. Also, to start the wood burning, we split splinters from a lighter stump (boy that lighter would get your fire a blazing.)

Granddaddy would have a pile of split stove wood 10 feet high between the tobacco pack shed and the mule barn. Also, in a much larger pile, was a stack of firewood for their two wood heaters. I would load the wood on granddad’s homemade wheelbarrow and he would push it to the back porch and unload it. The wheelbarrow was made using a metal push plow wheel with a wooden bed and high standards made of oak strips.

In the winter time, the cook room would be nice and cozy, but in the summer months, I don’t know how she stood it in there. Why, I’ll bet it got 110 degrees in that little cook room. Won’t but one little window and no fan to cool the air down.

 Ma did a lot of canning of all types of garden vegetables ‘cause all they had was a little Kelvinator refrigerator. You were lucky if you got two trays of ice in the top freezer part of the unit.

 Ma didn’t own one of them new pressure canners with gauges, no siree, all she had was two of those purple galvanized pots that held seven jars each. Why, it could take three or four hours for them canners to finish cooking.

In the summer, Ma would make homemade jellies such as plum, strawberry and blackberry. She would spend hours in front of that stove stirring and canning her jams and jellies.

Did I mention that she made homemade biscuits for every meal? Won’t nothing better than to slice one of them cathead biscuits into, slap on a little butter on one side, and then put a large tablespoon of homemade jelly between them slices. Well, pat your foot and rub your belly, that was some more good eating. Sometimes Ma would slide a piece of sharp hoop cheese between several of them biscuits just as they were getting golden brown. The warm cheese would be running from every side of the biscuit. 

Well, time went on and my grandparents decided to put in an indoor bathroom and a hot water heater. As the electrician wired the house for the water heater, some of the family told him to put in an outlet for an electric stove.

Finally, after much debate, Ma was talked into getting an electric stove but there was a catch. Before she would agree to an electric stove, a new cook house had to be built outside to house the old wood stove. Ma said the wood stove would be used to cook stews, fry fish and be put to use for hog-killing time. I have to admit, for several years that old wood stove cooked up several good stews and pans of the best fried sausage and tenderloin I most ever ate.

After Ma passed, the old wood stove sat silent in the cook house. Folks seemed just too busy and didn’t have the time to fire up the old stove.

Today, as I occasionally walk around the old home place, I get a whiff of pine wood smoke. It seems to be coming from the flue protruding from the cook house that still protects Ma’s old wood cook stove. No finer food was ever cooked than what came off that Modern Maid wood stove.

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club, the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies, the N.C. Storytelling Guild and the Story Spinners of Laurinburg. Contact him at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..