When the settlers first arrived, their top priority was to build a home. The people on the treeless homesteads built sod homes (sometimes called ‘soddies’), and those who lived in a wooded area built log homes. The settlers of Saskatchewan arrived with very little. They only had what they could carry in their trunks and what was on their backs. They had to use their resources in order to survive. They built their homes and many of the items in their homes by hand.
The fireplace inside the home had many different uses. In the winter, it would be used to keep the house warm, but it would also be used for drying laundry. In the summer the laundry could be hung outside to dry, but in the winter the laundry had to be hung by the warm fireplace to dry.
The fireplace was essential to families because it had so many uses.
The settlers would also use their fireplace to dry out food to make it last throughout the winter. Before settlers owned stoves, everything was cooked in the fireplace in iron cooking pots and kettles. Some pots hung from a hook attached to an iron bar called a ‘swing crane’. Some pots had legs so the pots could be placed on the fire and hot coals. Bread was baked in an oven that was built into the side of the fireplace.
There was a separate oven on the side of the fireplace for bread because families baked so much bread.
The fireplace was built of stone and had a large chimney. If there was not enough wood, then twisted straw and corn stalks were burned. Even buffalo and cow dung were gathered for fuel.
Cooking in a fireplace required some important kitchen tools.
Prairie winters were long and very cold. A lot of wood was needed for the fireplace to keep the home warm. There were not many trees, so settlers had to search for trees near the rivers and sloughs (ponds). Stoves became more popular than the fireplace because less wood was needed to heat a room.
Settlers liked that stoves required less wood than a fireplace to heat up a room.
The first stoves were small and made of cast iron. Stoves were used for cooking and for heating the home. The stoves were rectangular in shape and stood on four legs. There were stoves with two burners on the top and an oven. Some stoves even had a water tank called a ‘reservoir’ that could be heated for hot water.
The first stoves were small and made of cast iron.
Wood or coal was used as fuel for the stove. If wood or coal was hard to find, then twisted straw and corn stalks were burned, just like in a fireplace. A pipe carried the smoke out of the house. The children had to keep the wood box full and fill the reservoir with water. In the winter, snow was melted and the water was used for washing clothes and for baths.
The stove quickly filled with ashes and required cleaning. A metal bucket for ashes was kept near the stove.
Stoves in settler’s homes were used for cooking and for heating.
There was not much furniture in a home, but families would often have a table, some chairs or benches made of split logs, and a cupboard for dishes. Most of the furniture was handmade.
PHOTO CREDIT: SASKATCHEWAN HISTORY ALBUM
This photo shows some of the furniture that was in this 1920s home.
There were shelves and wooden pegs on the walls for hanging up pots and pans, as well as clothing. Clothing was also kept in chests or trunks. A cradle was made for the baby. The family slept on wooden beds with ropes stretched across the frame to hold the straw mattresses. The beds were covered with homemade feather quilts. Because the houses were very small the children would often all share a bed.
There were never enough beds in the house so the children would all sleep together.