Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

21 Sept 2017: Seaweed Pudding probably tastes better than it sounds September 21, 2017

Today I continue my series of posts on the traditional local foods prepared by our ancestors in Hopkinton. Rhode Island isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Mom’s cousin Dorothy remembers her mother (Sylvia Wells, daughter of Williams R Wells and Pauline Stillman Wells) making pudding from seaweed they would gather off the beaches down near Quonny. This would be back in about the mid 1930’s. Although it seems this is a real thing, after scouring the internet I as only able to come up with one recipe for such a pudding called Blancmange.

Blancmange as defined by Wikipedia: “Blancmange (from French blanc-manger) is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss(a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds.”

Blancmange: A pudding made from Irish Sea Moss

  • 1/3 cup Irish Sea Moss
  • 2 cups of milk

Gather fresh moss on the beach. Rinse well in cold water and spread in the sun to dry.

When ready to use, soften 1/3 cup of moss by covering it in cold water for fifteen minutes.

Drain and add 2 cups of milk. Cook in a double boiler for thirty minutes without stirring.

Strain into a bowl or molds, and cool—it thickens only on cooling.

Serve with jam, light flavored cream, boiled custard, chocolate sauce, or fruit, fresh or stewed. The blancmange is rather tasteless by itself and depends on the sauce for flavor.

* * * * *

There are several different types of edible seaweeds that grow off the coast of Rhode Island that our ancestors probably harvested to use as food. Here are a few:

Irish Sea Moss – Contains carrageenan and is used to thicken and stabilize ice cream, puddings, cream cheese, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, pie fillings etc.

Irish Sea Moss

Bladderwrack/Knotted Wrack/Rockweed – Used in between layers of New England clam bakes for flavor and steam.

Bladderwrack

Oarweed and Sugar Kelp are two varieties of kelp that grow in Rhode Island. Oarweed (or Kombu as it is called in supermarkets) is cooked and enjoyed in salads and soups. Sugar Kelp can be cut into strips to make an Asian seaweed salad.

Sugar Kelp

Sea Lettuce – Used in fresh salads.

Sea Lettuce

Now, who’s ready to go foraging down at the beach?  🙂

Have you ever tried seaweed pudding? if so, where and what was it like?

If you have a recipe for Seaweed Pudding you’d like to share, send it my way!

-Jennifer

T minus 9 days til I leave on my Rhode Island/Conn vacation!  YAY!

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6 Sep 2017: Foraging for dessert on the beaches of Rhode Island. September 6, 2017

Today I continue my series on food traditions of the Hopkinton/Westerly, RI area. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers cook? From what I can tell, they drew heavily on foods that grew locally or even in their own back yard. My mother’s cousin Dorothy (from the Wells side of the family), remembers her mother making jelly from Beach Plums which would grow down by the water. From what I’ve read, they sound like they taste bitter, so I’m wondering what this Jelly would taste like.

First, lets talk about exactly what is a Beach Plum.  For this, I’ll borrow some text from Wikipedia:

The beach plum, is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland. … It  is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 40–80 inches high, although it can grow larger, over 13 feet tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 1.2–2.8 inches long and 0.8–1.6 inches broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 0.4–0.6 inches in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 0.6–0.8 inches in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.

The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.

The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.”

Beach Plums

Beach Plums grow on the shores of Long Island as well. My cousin Sharon did a report in grade school about cooking and included some information from my Grandmother (on the Geoghan side of my family.) She lived only a short distance from the Sound, in Mount Sinai, New York. Here is the page out of Sharon’s report that talks about Beach Plums.

Beach Plums. As mentioned in my Cousin Sharon’s grade school report on cooking.

Here are a few recipes for Beach Plum Jam that I found.

Beach Plum Jam

Wash beach plums.  Cook in water to barely cover until soft.  Strain through colander, add sugar, cup for cup, to pulp and juice. 1lbs. of lemon juice may be added if desired.  Boil until drops “string out”. Delicious with all kinds of meats.

Beach Plum Jam

Makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups whole beach plums
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot

Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer so that the plums release their juices. Let cook 5 more minutes. Then pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl, and press on the solids to extract the juice and fruit.
Return extract to heat and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to keep from boiling up. Remove the chilled plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. It should thicken when it hits the cold. If it’s thick enough, stop there. If not, return the plate to the freezer and continue cooking the puree, checking it at 5-minute intervals, until it reaches the desired thickness (it should form a skin when chilled).
Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, adjust lids, and process in boiling water 5 minutes. Let cool at room temperature and check seals.

_____

Have you ever tried Beach Plum Jelly?

If so, where and who made it?

What did you think of it?

I’m in search of a recipe for the sea weed pudding I’ve heard was another dish cousin Dorothy’s mother made.  If you have one stashed away in the back of a kitchen drawer, I’d love it if you could send it my way.

-Jennifer

 

30 Aug 2017: The case of the missing cemetery August 30, 2017

Filed under: Cemeteries,Wells Family — jgeoghan @ 2:34 pm
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The case of the missing cemetery.  It sounds like the title of a mystery novel in the vein of Nancy Drew or Sherlock Homes.  In this case, it’s a missing Wells Family cemetery in Ashaway, RI.

This past weekend I was up visiting my mom.  We went over to visit her cousin Dorothy who lives around the block.  We were talking about recipes and the produce they grew around the old Wells house when she started talking about this cemetery, one she was sure was a really, really old Wells family cemetery, that was located right off of Route 3 just south of the old Wells house (the one that was in Crandall Field.) When I showed her the area on Google earth, she pointed out the spot where it was.  I circled it in red.

Missing Cemetery should be located here.

She says that it was just south of the driveway to the house her father built, which is the one hidden by the trees in the google pic.

She also said it was surrounded by HUGE rocks, so tall she couldn’t see the inside of the cemetery.  (Mind you, she was a child at the time.) The cemetery was pretty sizable as well. About the size of a house lot. The stones, she thinks, were placed there on purpose to protect the cemetery.  I asked her if she remembered headstones, but she doesn’t. She said she never climbed up the rocks to look over them.

Right now, there is no physical evidence at this location to ever suggest there was a cemetery there at any point in time.  Dorothy remembers it being there around the time she lived in the house whose driveway is just north of Wells Street which would be around 1935. She couldn’t remember when the stoned disappeared. Dorothy says the rocks were very close to the road, easily visible to anyone passing by.  

I’ve searched through all my old photos of the Old Wells house to see if there were any signs of large stones in the distance.  Unfortunately, all the photos seem to be facing the other direction, north up Route 3, not south.

The question is, who’s buried in this cemetery? Dorothy seemed convinced it was a Wells family plot as it was on Wells land, land that had been in the family as long as anyone could remember.

So, anyone out there have any information about this cemetery? I’d LOVE to hear from you if you do. I’ve reached out to my friend, Lauri, who wrote the Hopkinton Historical Cemeteries book to see if she can lend a hand, but she’d never heard of it either.

-Jennifer

 

27 Aug 2017: The continuing search for the food of my family August 27, 2017

This weekend I continued my search for recipes the were regulars in the kitchens of my Rhode Island ancestors.  A reader of this blog suggested I should see if Indian Pudding, a Rhode Island staple of sorts, might be among the recipes in the Wells family cookbooks.  She was right, it was!  When my mother and I asked her cousin Dorothy about it, she remembered her mother (A Wells) did indeed make it. I also found a recipe for it in my grandmothers old cookbook as well.

Indian Pudding

Indian Pudding from my Grandmother’s old cookbook

  • ½ cup corn-meal
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 4 cups Milk, scalded
  • 1 egg, well Beaten

Combine corn-meal flour, molasses, sugar, egg, salt and spices.  Beat thoroughly.  Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken.  Pour into well-oiled baking dish.  Bake in slow over (325 degrees) about 30 minutes.  Serve warm with cream or with lemon or orange sauce.  If desired, ½ cup of raisins may be added before pudding is baked.  8 Servings.

 

Here is the recipe Cousin Dorothy had in her cookbook. It included a few different sauces that could be put on top of the pudding as well.

Cousin Dorothy’s recipe for Indian Pudding

Makes 8 servings

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Boil in the top of a double boiler over direct heat: 4 cups milk

Stir in ½ cup corn meal.

Place these ingredients over boiling water.  Cook them for about 15 minutes.  Stir into them and cook for about 5 minutes ¾ cup dark molasses.

Remove from heat. Stir in:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 well-beaten egg
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pour the batter into a well-greased baking dish. To have a soft center, pour over the top: 1 cup of milk. Bake the pudding 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve pudding hot with hard sauce, cream or vanilla ice cream. This dish is sometimes made with apples. In that case, add 2 cups of thinly sliced apples and use

 

Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup. The basic ingredients of hard sauce are always the same, although proportions and flavoring vary. In this recipe, the larger amount of butter is preferable.  An attractive way to serve hard sauce on cold cake or pudding is to chill it and mold it with a small fancy cutter – or to put it through an individual butter mold.

Sift: 1 cup powdered sugar

Beat until soft: 2 to 5 tablespoons butter

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until they are well blended.

Add: 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon coffee, rum, whisky, brandy lemon juice, etc.

Beat in: 1 egg or ¼ cup cream.

When the sauce is very smooth, chill thoroughly.

 

Spicy Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup.

Prepare: Hard Sauce

Beat into it:

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon sale
  • (Liqueur, to taste)

Chill.

 

Brown-Sugar Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Sift: 1 ½ cups brown sugar

Beat ½ cup butter until soft

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until well blended.

Beat in 1/3 cup cream slowly:

Beat in, drop by drop: 2 tablespoons dry wine or 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill well.  Add for garnish: ¼ cup chopped nuts

 

So, does any out there have any memories of eating Indian Pudding when they were growing up in Rhode Island?

I did find a few Rhode Island restaurants that still serve it and plan on visiting them for samples while I’m up there in October. If you know of any places that serve it that I should check out, let me know and I’ll add them to my list.

As always, I’m looking for more traditional South County food to add to my recipe file for future testing.  I’ve heard tell that I should investigate Clam Cakes.  Any thoughts???  

Cousin Dorothy, who is 93 years old, remembers that back when she was a girl, they grew all sorts of produce in the area around Hopkinton and Westerly.  On the old Wells homestead (the current location of Crandall Field in Ashaway) they grew apples and pears and had a grape arbor. She remembers fields upon fields of corn and her mother making jams from beach plums, as well as a pudding from sea weed.  Never heard of sea weed pudding before.  Anyone out there heard of that one?

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Ronald: “Hi. I tried the Indian pudding from your grandmothers old cook book, and it was delicious.”  Thanks, Ronald.  I’m sure Grandma Wells would be happy to hear that!  I’m looking forward to picking me up some cornmeal while I’m up in RI on vacation in a few weeks.  I’ll be trying this recipe when I get home. -Jennifer

 

17 Aug 2017: Planning a trip to my homeland August 17, 2017

It’s that time of year again when I get to blow this pop stand and head north.  YAY!! I’ll be up in CT/RI on vacation the beginning of October and have started my list of things to do and places to see. HOWEVER, my list is incomplete.

Read to the VERY BOTTOM for things I need help/suggestions for.

Visit Randall & Lois Wells’ graves in Hopkinton, RI.  My annual pilgrimage to my 4th great grandparent’s graves back in the woods.  Let’s face it, not too many of us still can even find them. I usually visit John Rogers grave on the grounds of Connecticut College as well.

Take my favorite hike.  There’s a great Nature Conservancy trail up to Long Pond in Hopkinton. Super scenic, like something out of Lord of the Rings.  There’s a timelessness to the landscape there that seems untouched, like some native American tribe from long ago could come strolling around a boulder.

Visit Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT.  I know, the cheesiest and most wonderful of the chic flicks of the 80’s.  Not only that, the pizza is like … totally awesome (to quote the 80’s) Not sure how well it will fare now that I’ve had gastric bypass, but I’m willing to give it a shot. It’s worth a visit if for nothing but to inhale deeply and take in the scent of wonderful food.  Plus it’s a location I used a few times in my novels so it’s fun to visit.  I ever wrote some of my books sitting at the table in the bay windows up front.

Speaking of food …. I’m also planning meals at Abbots in Noank, CT and Ford’s Lobsters in Noank. I plan on being so tired of lobster by the time I drive out of New England that it will hold me for a long time!

Visit the Lighthouse Museum in Stonington.  Yes, the infamous lighthouse that is the setting for my third novel. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and knew I had to feature it in a book.  I’ll also spend time roaming the streets of picturesque Stonington.

Visit B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic.  Again, after my gastric bypass surgery, this should be an interesting experience.  I love their apple baked goods and plan on sampling quite a bit.

Visit Oak Grove Cemetery in Ashaway.  Not only my future resting place, but also the current resting place for a good portion of my mom’s side of the family.  I always stop in to pay my respects but also to inspect the condition of our stones and do any necessary cleaning of them that may need to be done.

Fulfilling any Findagrave.com photo requests that are online for the area. Need any photos taken of a headstone in the area? I’ll be checking them out while I’m up there to see who I can help out.  I also plan on updating FAG.com on new burials in Oak Grove and finishing adding photos of all the stones.

Visiting Kenyon’s Grist Mill in West Kingston, RI. I’ve never been to a grist mill before so I’m looking forward to learning something new. I’m also in the market for some corn meal to make me some Johnny Cakes upon my return to FL.  

Popping over to Stonington Vineyards to buy a case of my favorite wine of theirs. Sadly, I can’t get it here in Orlando. Also sadly, gastric bypass severely limits how much alcohol I can drink, so that case will last me a couple of year!

Shop Craigslist.com for cool stuff in people’s basements! Sounds odd, but I bought a cool old trunk off of Craigslist last time I was up there from some couple in Ashaway. I’m on the hunt for cool antiques. I’m also looking for some good antique stores to visit if you know of any you can suggest. Not the shiny, all cleaned up kind of antiques, but the paint chipping off, just pulled out of the barn kind. Will also be looking for yard sales and estate sales as well.

If time permits, I’d like to visit Mystic Aquarium.  Haven’t been there since I was a kid.

Pop into the Mystic Seaport Gift Shop.  I’ll be honest and say I’ve been to the Seaport enough that I don’t need to go again …. for a long time, but the gift shop is awesome! I love the book section up stairs too. Always worth a visit.

Get out on the water.  No plans finalized for this yet, but I will get out on the water for a few hours, if not longer. I did a sunset sail out of Mystic a few years back that I could do again, but ideally I’d love to take sailing lessons.  I’m just having a hard time finding a place to do that so late in the year.  Seems sailing season ends the week before I arrive!!!

A day at the Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol, RI.  I can’t wait to spend some time here so I can do some research on farm life in the late 1700s.  Valuable info I can weave into my stories of the vampire, Randall Wells!!

St. Edmund’s Severed Arm.  Yes, you read me right. This one just has to be seen to be believed, at least by me.  It’s in Mystic and apparently on display.

CAN YOU HELP ME?

I’m looking for:

  • Good antique stores/malls. Ones that sell reasonably priced items of local origin. Items that are not all spit and polished, but need love and have chipped paint.
  • Scenic hiking trails (other than my favorite up to Long Pond in Hopkinton.)
  • Restaurants that serve good local cuisine.  Rhode Island Clam Chowder?  Johnny Cakes?
  • How can I get out on the water?  Boat tours you can suggest.  I’d even be up for whale watching. Ideally I’d love to take a sailing lesson or two.
  • Know of any places of local history interest like Kenyon’s Grist Mill? I love to learn about local history.
  • If you know where I can buy a courting candle, you’re my new best friend!!!

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Bruce: “Know you are connected to the Crandall family. Think about a trip north of Mystic to Canterbury, CT (Windham Co.) to the Prudence Crandall museum. Check their hours – I don’t think they are open every day.”  Thanks, Bruce.  I’ll add the museum to my list of possibles.  I’m sure a trip there would make a nice subject for a blog post.

From Wayne:  “Hi Jennifer – I too am a direct descendant of Samuel Hubbard (my mother is a Burdick), living now in southern RI. We are distant cousins. If you haven’t been, you might consider seeing the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace in Saunderstown, and maybe taking the Francis Fleet Whale Watch out of Galillee. BTW, white corn meal is ubiquitous here! Wayne”  Thanks Wayne. I’ve added the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace to my list. Looks really cool. Sadly, Frances Fleet Whale Watching closes in September so they won’t be open.  Too bad, they looked ideal.

 

15 Aug 2017: In the kitchen with the Wells family August 15, 2017

As you know, I’m an author as well as a genealogist. It seems only natural for there to be overlap between these two loves of mine.  One way I was thinking I’d like to overlap my writing and family history was to create a family cookbook filled with recipes that have been enjoyed by the different generations of my family.

This is not as easy as it sounds.

First of all, though I love to cook, I live alone and therefor don’t cook much beyond a quick meal.

Secondly, my mother does not like to cook at all.  Though she tells tales of how her mother, Florence (Weber) Wells was a wonderful cook.  I do have an old cookbook of Florence’s with some notations next to recipes I assume she cooked quite a bit.  However, what I’d really like are regional recipes, things common with the folks of Washington County, Rhode Island.

Here’s where my mom’s cousin, Dorothy, came in.  She provided me with a recipe for Rhode Island Clam Chowder. Together, mom and I tried our hand at it, but our results were a little lacking.  Here’s the recipe we started with:

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Need salt pork or bacon, salt pork better

  • minced clams (Seriously, the more the better.)
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • ½ an onion
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bottle of clam juice

 Cut salt pork (or bacon) into small cubes then brown in butter or olive oil.

cut celery and onions small and put in with pork after pork is browned. Cook them until lightly browned.

Put in desired amount of water (1-2 quarts)

Add 2-3 chicken bouillon cubes

Bring to a boil.

Peel potatoes and cut into ½ inch cubes. Put into boiling water. Also put in clam juice and clams. Lower heat and let slow boil until potatoes are cooked.

Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.

Salt Port

Celery and Onion.

Adding the Stock

The finished product.

It was … bland.  Plus we should have at least doubled the amount of clams.  I think we added one can.  Next time I’d add at least three.  So … anyone out there have a better recipe for Rhode Island Clam Chowder that would be regional to Washington County, RI?  If so, send it my way and I’ll update this post with everyone’s suggestions.

My mother did say she remembered eating Johnny Cakes when she was little.  When I googled how to make a Johnny Cake, I found some recipes but they all called for White Corn Meal.  I have a feeling this may be easier to find up north than here in Orlando.  Here in Orlando, I have a lot of Spanish-speaking friends and I went with the Spanish equivalent of Pan.

Our Johnny Cakes came out alright.  Here’s mom slaving over a hot griddle.

Mom, wondering why I’m taking a picture of her.

Johnny Cakes cooking

The recipe we used called for:

  • 1 cup Corn Meal (Pan)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups boiling water

Although my mother (and the recipes I read) all stated that Rhode Islanders do NOT eat Johnny Cakes with maple syrup …. I did. And it was quite tasty.  I’ve cooked with Pan a bunch seeing as a friend from Venezuela got me eating Arepas, which are made with Pan, a little salt and water.  Not too dissimilar from a Johnny Cake except there is no sugar and the consistency is much like play dough when you make a ball, flatten it then cook it up.  Then you cut it in half, slit the opening and stuff with cheese or ham or anything you like.  I like cheddar cheese and butter.  Yum!.

I’m going on vacation in October up to Washington County and plan on stopping by Kenyon’s Grist Mill to pick up some official Corn Meal so mom and I can take another pass at the Johnny Cakes.  If you have a favorite Johnny Cake Recipe you think mom and I should try, send it my way!

I’d also love to hear what were some favorite meals you remember from growing up in Washington County, RI.  Let’s talk food, Folks!!

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Richard: “Kenyon’s corn meal is a must and then cook them in a large cast iron pan in a lot of butter. Keep the temperature down so the butter doesn’t brown and don’t flip them until the crust is nice and crunchy, about three to four minutes.”  Thanks, Richard.  I’ll be sure to try the cast iron pan next time.

From Don:  “You have a good recipe. The difference is that you need to use fresh clams. No matter how many canned clams you use , it will will still be bland. Maybe frozen chopped clams might work if they are available in your area. But they might be tough. You make my mouth water you write of the old fashion Johnny cakes- with real butter.”  Thanks, Don. I’m now in search of fresh clams here in Orlando.

From Carol: “Thanks Jennifer! Enjoy your trip specially the great Rhode Island chowder, so much better than Boston chowda! At your grist mill visit pickup some cornmeal and do some Indian pudding along with the Johnnycake! Yum!” Thanks Carol.  I’d never heard of Indian Pudding before.  I’ll try making some when I get home with my cornmeal from the grist mill!

 

20 July 2017: Great Summer Read featuring the Wells Family … and it’s FREE July 20, 2017

Hello friends, fans and family.

Just wanted to let you know that the ebook version of FALLING for Death is free on Amazon until Sunday. This is the novel I wrote featuring Randall Wells, his wife Lois Maxson and a host of other Wells family members. It’s the first in a five book series but is also a full length, stand alone story.  If you’re a fan of Hopkinton, RI and the Wells Family and …. happen to like vampires, you’re in a for a real treat!

Check it out!

-Jennifer