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Old 05-31-2014, 06:17 AM
Peasant
 
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Location: Missouri
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Default 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri



In the early to mid 1880's, our Great Grandfather built this outdoor bread oven from limestone he'd mined, transported and fitted into shape. The stone was cut from right here on the property. As you can see, the area is now overgrown severely, having been abandoned for decades. Many years ago, the huge chimney 5' wide and at least 16' to 18' tall had been knocked down by a tree. I hauled that portion home in 1994 (with permission from the new owner). The property was sold in 1974 and later purchased by the contractor my son, brother and nephew work for.



A little more clearly visible is the old oven, viewed from the chimney end. In this end of the photo is the tree that took it down. Also the deteriorated condition is more visible. The dimensions were a little over 7' in length, approximately 4' in width and the height was not discernable when we begun due to the decades of dirt washed against and inside it.

This process began last fall when my brother got permission from his boss to retrieve the remaining pieces of the oven from our past in the hope we could build at least one and possibly two of a different style from the parts.



The top stone slab alone measures approximately 4' in width, more than 7' in length and more than 7" in thickness. Imagine moving this stone with nothing but a mule, pry bars and a hand hewn sled made of logs then positioning it on top of the walls without disturbing the mortar. An extremely conservative guestimate on the weight of this single stone would top 1,500 pounds we're guessing. If I knew the weight per cubic foot, a more exact figure could be obtained.

There is only two of the older generation left, in their early 90's and they do not remember being there when our Great Grandmother would fire the oven, but an aunt that died recently (at 93 +or-) told us she remembered 16 loaves of bread at a time coming out of it.

Obviously the bent bough or hand hewn timber and tin covering has deteriorated many years past and the oven has been exposed to the elements for a long time. I'm 63 and can remember climbing all over this thing as a kid playing with the younger cousins and there was nothing covering it then.



As you can see, there is little of the mortar left in the joints. Also quite evident is the physical size of a lot of the stones in the walls. A sidebar..... The house he built in that timeframe was a two story brick house. A large house was required because he had 15 children. What's unique about the bricks though is that they were hand fired clay bricks.

The clay was also dug on the farm. Great supposition exists that this oven was used originally to fireharden the clay brick molds while they lived in a log cabin during contruction of the new home. Of course serving double duty for cooking. Unfortunately all of the information that could confirm the suggestions has been taken to the grave by the generations long past.

So, what do you think so far? Too much drivel and diatribe accompanying the photos ??
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Old 05-31-2014, 06:38 AM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

Some great! history here. Too much has been lost to the ages. Thank's for sharing .
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:33 AM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

Are you sure he used it for cooking? It is mighty large and has a lot of mass to heat for cooking. Maybe he used as a brick kiln instead?
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:30 AM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

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Are you sure he used it for cooking? It is mighty large and has a lot of mass to heat for cooking. Maybe he used as a brick kiln instead?
If they used it as a brick kiln , then its reasonable that they would bake bread after the brick was removed.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:33 AM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

There are very few early bake ovens in America, let alone an oven with family connections. Keep the info coming, if you have more.

Btw, that big slab weighs 2662 lbs, if the dimensions are correct.

Is it possible that there was a clay brick liner in the chamber at one time? Have you checked the ground inside and out for evidence of mortared brick?
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Last edited by stonecutter; 05-31-2014 at 01:37 PM. Reason: Additional Question
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Old 05-31-2014, 11:16 AM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

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Are you sure he used it for cooking? It is mighty large and has a lot of mass to heat for cooking. Maybe he used as a brick kiln instead?
Yessir, absolutely positive it was used for cooking. I remember our dad always talking about the old "Limestone Dutch Oven" and his grannys bread baking. You know how it is with youth, never paying attention and asking questions about the past. Now that its too late to glean that information, we seek it with fervor.

Wood and the time to cut it meant nothing to the early members of our family and other farm families as well, with dozens upon dozens of acres to clear for farmland. Trees were cut by crosscut saw and double bit axe and the stumps grubbed out as far as possible to clear the soil for the plow shares. Wood was stacked in huge piles for cooking, butchering and winter heat.

There's stories of his huge hog pen lined with slabs of limestone at least 3' x 5' stood on edge at 45 degree angles and dug into the ground. No money to buy the wire and wood posts and rails won't hardly hold a hog, our Great Grandfather solved the dilemma with a little creativity and a lot of labor. My older brother remembers the hog pen well.

...and yes, Stonecutter, those dimensions though not exact to the quarter inch, are accurate. We've actually trimmed that piece down and as you will see later it has become an integral part of the first rebuild.

As far as any evidence of ever having a clay liner, the answer is no we have found no evidence. And we have removed every piece from the original site no matter how small. I was able to scrounge together a small bucket full of the original mortar yesterday. It was still attached to some of the stone surfaces and several actually survived the relocation project still stuck together !!

Stay tuned....there's a little more to come. Thank you all for your interest !!
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Old 05-31-2014, 01:44 PM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

I know what about not taking full advantage of our time when it comes to questions about our family's past....when you really want to, it's usually too late.

Here's a website for mortar testing. I've never used them though.
Mortar Testing Lab-Mortar Analysis, Mortar Matching Services-Match Mortar Composition - Home
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Old 05-31-2014, 05:48 PM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri



We loaded up and got ready to go pick up the pieces early morning one day last fall. We took pry bars to dislodge those we could by hand and a number of nylon slings to leave choked on the large stone.

The old backhoe belongs to my brother and is just about worn out, but the hydraulics are much better than muscle.... My old Dodge is hooked to the other gooseneck and will transport the stone goodies.

A day or two before this excursion, my brother was able to catch a co-worker working nearby with a Cat 345 Trac-hoe so they loaded the single large 7' stone by itself on the trailer to minimize the chance of breaking it into smaller pieces. That hoe was large enough to just stretch right over the top of all the debris and pluck the stone from its perch.



Attacking the brush from the opposite end of the original photos, we opted to load uphill onto the trailer. It would be much easier to control the pieces coming out of the bucket and its MY toes that are going to be on the deck and in the way of the stone.



The sides are now exposed and read to come apart. The old two story house would have been uphill and to the left about 100' or so and forward and to the right was the old log grainery with a limestone foundation and a small loft above.

In the old grainery was the G-Grandfathers hand dug "brine tank". When I say "hand dug" it means a huge log was dug out by hand to form a horizontal holding tank. It is 9 1/2' long and about 30" (+/-) in diameter and now lives in my garage. The lid rotted away years ago, the metal straps that bound the ends to keep from splitting have broken, but the tank will still hold water !!! This too dates from the 1880's.

The old timers would "salt cure" their meat in tanks like this due to no refrigeration. Add salt to water until a hard boiled egg floats and the brine solution is just right to cure meat correctly. A couple "bung holes" were bored into the side just at the tank bottom to drain the brine when the meat was ready to store in the smoke house.



The huge top stone is already home, and most of the top course of sidewall are already setting on the trailer. We were able to gently pry loose and roll easily into the hoe bucket with the 4' pry bar. Most mortar is gone.

At this point we still didn't know how many courses high nor how deep the foundation. Notice how some of the stone split over the years.

Only four images allowed per post, so I'll be back later with a little more.
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Old 05-31-2014, 05:57 PM
Peasant
 
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

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I know what about not taking full advantage of our time when it comes to questions about our family's past....when you really want to, it's usually too late.
No truer words were ever spoken. When we're young, we don't feel like wasting the time learning about something we don't think we'll ever use. When we're older, we realize what a waste it is to now have lost that opportunity to learn it from those that lived it. The old ways were tough ways, but they had to do it that way to survive.
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Old 06-01-2014, 03:14 AM
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Default Re: 1880's Limestone Oven Dismantling and Rebuild in Missouri

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I know what about not taking full advantage of our time when it comes to questions about our family's past....when you really want to, it's usually too late.
Too right. I often ask myself what was the point of coming from good Prussian (Silesia - Polish since WW11) free settler stock, then letting most of the family smallgoods knowledge go to the grave with my Dad and my grand parents.
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