Early Wooden Cooking Tools

Nelson and Eleanor Montgomery

Portraits of Nelson and Eleanor Montgomery. Wood engravings. In: History of Madison County, Illinois. Edwardsville: W.R. Brink & Co., 1882. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

Eleanor Montgomery used this chopping bowl in the mid-nineteenth century. Her husband made it from a linden tree on their farm south of Edwardsville. At that time, people used wood chopping bowls the way we use cutting boards today.

Wooden chopping bowl

Chopping bowl, ca. 1838-1898. MCHS object 1934-303-0014-FIC.

Eleanor Kinder was just shy of her 19th birthday when she married Nelson Montgomery in 1838. They raised seven children together on their farm.

Nelson worked hard and eventually the farm grew to encompass over 500 acres. The St. Louis & Eastern Railroad established Montgomery Station on his property in 1893, two years before Nelson’s death. The area around the farm came to be known as Mont Station.

Montgomery farm

Farm residence of Nelson Montgomery. Chalk lithograph. In: Brink, McCormick & Co. of Illinois. Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas Map of Madison County, Ill. St. Louis: Brink, McCormick & Co. of Illinois, 1873. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

Rolling pin

Rolling pin, ca. 1830s. MCHS object 1959-001-0001.

At first glance, this wooden rolling pin might look very similar to a modern version you have used. But your rolling pin probably has a revolving barrel that spins around an axis connecting the handles. This one is made from one solid piece of wood: no moving parts. The revolving barrel feature wasn’t commercially available in the United States until 1902.

Nancy Prickett

Photograph of Nancy Prickett, ca. 1860s. MCHS photograph.

This rolling pin belonged to Nancy Prickett. Nancy Lamkin married Isaac Prickett in 1821. They lived in Edwardsville, where Isaac and his brother had opened a general store.

Nancy’s life was filled with tragedy. Two of her four children died in infancy. When she was about 40 years old, her husband died. She remained in Edwardsville and raised her boys as a single mom. Then she lost another son in 1850.

When she was in her 60s, about five to ten years after this photograph was taken, Nancy married a Bavarian-born farmer 25 years her junior. She came to be known as “Aunt Nancy” to the people of Edwardsville, where she remained until her death in 1883.