Woodstoves Over the Years

~ Gordon Peery

Back in the winter of 1974, Seth Kallman and I were renting a modest house on Zephyr Lake in Greenfield. We had acquired a rusty wood cookstove that we hauled out of an abandoned cabin in the woods. In retrospect, it probably did not belong to the person who sold it to us. That stove led to me coming to live in Nelson, as follows: Seth had met Michael Iselin from selling a truck through the Market Bulletin, and though we didn’t really know him, we ended up inviting him (and by extension, Alouette) to a Sunday dinner. We had bought a turkey for the occasion, and late morning popped it into the leaky oven. We hadn’t done much cooking with it, and realized, shortly after our guests arrived, that our dinner planned for 1 p.m. was going to be delayed – by several hours. We utilized that time by working on several bottles of wine and engaging in the kind of enlightened conversation that can only come from those circumstances. By evening after we’d finally had dinner, we had somehow earned a reciprocal invitation, and some weeks later I came to Nelson for the first time. As we drove into the Village I thought, “This is the town where I want to live.”

By the next winter (with Seth still in tow) I had moved to a huge run-down farmhouse in Sullivan, but almost in Nelson – right off Route 9, where there is currently a Toyota Land Cruiser business. The house (14 rooms, I believe) was a stranger to insulation, and we being strangers to solvency, had quickly foregone buying propane for the furnace, and settled into hauling water, as the pipes had no deterrent from freezing. By then we’d acquired an Ashley stove. That brand of stove was known for being able to burn green wood, albeit without producing many BTUs. We were working over at Onset Ski area in Bennington, and for a while on our daily commute on Route 123 we were able to pick up wood that the State was cutting. When that ran out, we took to going out into the yard, felling a tree, and cutting a couple of days worth of logs. The living room, where the wood stove was located, was the only room in the house where a glass of water wouldn’t freeze. Some years later the place burned down. I suspect it was the only time the house ever got warm. As an aside, one fond memory I have of living there was frequenting Lester’s Store, which, like the Munsonville Store, also housed the post office. Frank Lester, always puffing on his pipe, was a friendly character and I suspect some people reading this will remember him.

The next stove I remember (and there are several that I don’t) was a Tempwood, which utilized a downdraft system. Most people I know who experienced Tempwoods either loved or hated them. I was in the former category, and one particular feature I liked was being able to take off the top lid and set in a wok, which would achieve the intense temperature required for good wok cooking.

When I met my wife, Susan, she was already established in the house where we still live. She had built it in the winter of 1979-80 and had acquired a new Lange stove. We had it rebuilt a couple of times, and it gave us many years of service before we replaced it about three years ago with a Jotul, which we don’t like nearly as well (the Lange, a Danish stove, is no longer being made). One charming feature of that stove was a relief image on the side (see photo). At one point, when he was a young boy, our son Spencer carried part of that image as a brand, a result of trying to warm himself after a bath (we’ll spare further details, but you can ask him).

Perhaps one reason wood stoves are so associated with deep memories is that our involvement with them usually commences with a chainsaw, and continues with hauling, splitting, and stacking logs, then the final act of getting the wood from the shed into the stove. It’s a labor-intensive process that, at some point, we will let go of.

Meanwhile, we are not the only ones to find comfort from the heat.

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By |2022-03-15T15:01:26-04:00January 16, 2022|Articles, current, Nelson in Common|3 Comments


  1. Russ Thomas January 19, 2022 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Hah! I know another former Nelson resident with a Lange brand on (probably) the same general area of her body. I still have a Tempwood that I love, as one of my two stoves, bought an Ashley knockoff from Seth, my first wood stove was also a cookstove (a Boston Beauty), and for a short time ran a disappointing Jotul.

  2. Susan Hansel January 19, 2022 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Love the story but I really like the picture at the end. Notice the cat is the first in line by the stove. Love it!

  3. Hope Lothrop January 20, 2022 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Have always loved wood stoves and wouldn’t want to live in a home without one. We used to do the wood all ourselves, then we got lazy and purchased log length wood, then lazier and went to cut and split green and you guessed it – lazier still to cut, split and dry wood. Still have one wood stove and also (gotten lazier still) a pellet stove. Though carrying 40lb bags of pellets up the cellar stairs isn’t as easy as going outside to bring in an armful of cut & split wood. Oh, well, some things work out that way. Still love the convenience of the pellets. When we first moved here to Nelson/Munsonville, we installed a wood/coal combo stove in the basement. There was an old cistern in a corner of the cellar where a spring would fill the cistern and that’s where water for the house was stored. By the time we got here the spring outlet had been closed off so we used the cistern area to store our stove size coal. Man – that coal was the warmest we ever were in this old house but it was so temperamental. If it went out it was tricky to get it restarted and if you didn’t restart it just right it wouldn’t work right at all and you’d eventually give up and start all over again. Finally replace that furnace with a hot air furnace which not crazy about but it is what it is and we don’t use all that much oil – maybe a tank or 2 a season cause the pellets and the woodstove keep us snug and warm but have to let the furnace run at night especially when super cold so pipes won’t freeze and even then, sometimes the bathroom sink pipes will freeze. Have learned to let the water drip when it’s going to be in the single digits or below. That usually does the trick. Anyway – nothing better than backing your tush up to the a nice toasty woodstove – even can do that with the pellet stove. That’s where I am right now!

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