Before furnaces and before even coal stoves, crackling was the sound that kept homes warm.
Not too much crackling, though. Fireplace wood that snapped, crackled or popped too much was either “wet” or the wrong kind. Early Americans favored aged, dried hardwoods like hickories, oaks or maples that burned slowly and relatively cleanly. They shunned oily pines and hemlocks; those burned too quickly and their popping pitch threw sparks and coated chimneys with flammable resins.
Pitch pine had its use, however. Logs were split into long, thin sticks that our forefathers used like matches. The sticks could carry a flame to light candles, especially out in the barn in the evening or early morning. These sticks came to be known as “candlewood,” a word almost unknown today except as the name of a lake north of Danbury. —J.S.