A dough trencher is a wooden bowl carved from a single piece of hardwood. This trencher was hollowed from a 38-by-16-inch cherry log using a short-handled adze. This type of bowl was used to mix, raise and knead yeasted dough. Wooden bowls were preferred because they retained heat generated by the yeast and promoted an even rise. The deep sides protected the dough from drafts. The bowl needed to be able to accommodate a large dough recipe since baking was usually done only once a week.
In 18th century Western Pennsylvania, before bakeries, every household baked its own bread. The family dough trencher was a prized possession, evoking memory of family, childhood and comfort. A mother would pass her dough trencher to the oldest daughter, and some bridegrooms would carve a dough trencher as a wedding present for their bride.
This trencher was made by George Hill in the 1860s and donated to the Washington County Historical Society by his granddaughter in 1923.
Linda Zelch is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society and a member of the antiquities committee.