Mennonite Heaters, 1878 Nebraska

Prof. John Davie Butler described the Grass-burning Brick Stove of the Nebraska Mennonites in an 1878 article in the Nebraska Farmer:

The grass furnace or stove is nothing costly or complicated, or likely to get out of order.  In a word, as the Irishman made a cannon by taking a large hole and pouring iron around it, so the Mennonite mother of food and warmth is developed by piling brick or stones around a hollow.

Thus Yankee cuteness may render the Russian stove simpler, smaller, cheaper, of better material, of more elegant design, of more economical combustion.  But as now used by the Mennonites, it is worth of all acceptation by every prairie pioneer.”

Some employ common brick, others stone; one builder told me he preferred to mix one part of sand with two parts of clay.  In his judgement, this mixture retained heat longest for radiantion through a house.  The position of the furnace is naturally as central as possible, because heat tends to diffuse itself on all sides alike.

Furnaces will, of course, vary in size with the size of houses.  At the house of Bishop Peters, it’s length is five feet, its height six, and its width two and a half.  The bricks employed are about six hundred.   The grass or straw is pitched in for about twenty minutes, twice or at most three times in twenty-four hours.  That amount of firing up suffices both for cooking and comfort.

It will be observed that the heated air strikes the oven and also the reservoir of hot air both above and below, and that no particle of hot air reaches the chimney till after turning four corners.

Many Nebraska Yankees were made happy last winter thanks to the Mennonite Stove.  More will be next winter.  That household blessing, to the outsider, seems capable of little improvement.  But the Yankee will improve it, for he has improved everything else he has borrowed, everything from watches to steam engines, ships and religion.

Leave a Reply

WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing