A root cellar can be described as a structure that was built in the days before electricity in order to keep vegetables from freezing in the winter months. Elliston first received electrical power in the main part of town in the 1920's, but the Maberly area did not have this service until the 1960's. However, even after people began using electric refrigerators, the root cellars were still used by some families.
The oldest root cellars date back to 1839. A root cellar that was built in 1839, and located in the Maberly area, is still in use today, and is in quite good condition. The newer root cellars are at least fifty years old, having been built in the 1950's.
There were two main reasons why the citizens of this community used root cellars in the past: to keep food supplies from freezing during the winter months and to keep food supplies cool during the summer months. Typically, families would put a variety of vegetables in the root cellar in the fall of the year, after the harvesting of the vegetable gardens had been completed. The main vegetables stored in the root cellar consisted of potatoes, turnip, and carrot. Although some people did store cabbage in the root cellar, it would appear that most did not as cabbage had a tendency to rot if not pickled first. Other food supplies placed in the root cellar over the winter months included beets, preserves/jams, salt meat, salt turbot, and salt herring.
Food supplies were kept in the root cellar in the summer months to avoid spoilage. Water, bread, butter, milk, and cream were stored in the typical root cellar so that these items could be used more than once by the family. In addition, items such as salads, fresh meat, and jam pies were kept in the root cellar early in the day, so that they could keep cool until they were needed for supper.
Another important reason to use a root cellar was the unavailably of electric refrigeration to the community in the 1800's and early 1900's. The root cellar was essential to the people living in Elliston from the time of settlement up until the time when electricity first came to the community.
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