Joseph Bent: Bang! You’re Dead

Joseph Bent, 1641-1675

Joseph Bent, the sixth child of John Bent and his wife, and the first to be born in the new world, arrived in the springtime.  John and his wife Agnes and their five children had arrived in Boston from England a year earlier, in April 1640, hoping for a life more peaceful than in old England.

When Joseph joined the family, the other five children, all born in Penton-Grafton England, ranged between 5 and 16 years of age. My 7x great-grandmother, Martha Bent (Howe) would join the family two years later.

Having toiled for a year establishing a new home in Sudbury, his parents surely saw Joseph’s May birth  as one more springtime blessing .  Spring in New England, and the seeds they had planted would have been just breaking ground, trees and flowers blooming and new life all around.

As Joseph grew up, playing with his sisters and brothers and other children of Sudbury, parents surely cautioned to be careful of the Indians who might be lurking in the woods, but they had acres of meadow and woods and streams in which to play.  I can imagine Joseph and his brothers playing “English and Indians”, waving make believe swords and firing make believe guns with cries of “Bang, you’re dead.” At the age of six, Joseph experienced death in the family. His older brother, just twenty-two years old, died.

(We will learn more about Joseph’s and Martha’s older siblings in the future.)

Joseph Takes His Place as an Adult

By the time Joseph was 19, Joseph gave a disposition in the courts of Middlesex County, although I have no idea about the subject.  Joseph did not marry as young as some in the Massachusetts towns, but on June 30 of 1666, at the age of 25, he married the 20-year-old Elizabeth Bourne of Marshfield in Plymouth County.

A Move to Marshfield

His new wife Elizabeth came from a distinguished line related by marriage to Pilgrim leaders. The couple resettled in the oceanfront town Marshfield after Joseph sold off his Sudbury lands and buildings. Records show he sold  13 acres of upland in Sudbury adjoining the common (Surely a very propitious location), houses, barns and two acres of meadow land.  Not bad for a twenty-five year old.

Joseph and Elizabeth named their first son, born in 1667, after Joseph. Sadly, baby Joseph died in infancy.

By 1669, the people of Marshfield chose Joseph as their Constable. I like this explanation of the historic job from the website of today’s Massachusetts Bay Constables Association.

The constable had to be of good character and an actual resident of the parish he served. The office was a personal, not a pecuniary one. No salary was attached to it. His personal presence in the parish was indispensable, for he was presumed to be known to all the inhabitants of the parish, and they were all bound to obey his orders and to aid and assist him whenever called upon, in the exercise of his lawful authority. In short, he was a public officer, well known in the community, and exercising an indispensable governmental function. The importance of the office did not arise wholly, however, from the broad powers attached to it, but largely from the close contact which the constable had with the life of the people among whom he dwelt. Strangers could not long remain in the community without his knowledge, nor little could go on without coming to his ears. This combination of official authority with intimate knowledge of the character and habits of the members of the community was well adapted, in earlier times, to preserve a wholesome respect for law and order, and to foster the belief that violators of the peace would be marked and punished.

The Joseph Bent Family Returns to Sudbury

I do not know how long he served as Constable of Marshfield, but when his father died in 1672, Joseph moved his family back to Sudbury, probably to live on the family property.

While Joseph and Elizabeth lived in Marshfield, they added to their family. After their first child died, they had a son named Experience (born in 1669) and two daughters whose names and birth dates are unknown. When they returned to Sudbury,Elizabeth, named for her mother, was born in 1673.  Elizabeth gave birth one more time in 1675, to a son who they named Joseph.

Records show that all five of these children survived until at least 1684 because John Bourne, Elizabeth’s father, mentions them in his will written that year. However the lives of the two unnamed daughters of Joseph and Elizabeth Bent remains a mystery.

An Accidental Death

The family had barely settled in Sudbury, and Joseph Jr. had been born in May 1675, when Joseph Bent’s life came to an unexpected end. He was only thirty-four years old in the summer of 1675. Joseph’s older brother Peter accidentally shot and killed Joseph. With Indian unrest growing, Peter may have been showing his brother a weapon he had ordered from England.

Although there is no direct record of when Joseph died, the Bent Family History reports that he acknowledged a deed on June 14, 1675 and the probate inventory of his property was taken on August 10, 1675.  That would lead me to conclude that the accidental shooting happened in the second half of June, because it generally took a few weeks for the court to complete probate business.

Elizabeth Bent pulled up stakes once more and moved her family back to Marshfield where her family lived. According to the Bent Family history, the probate inventory valued Joseph’s house and lands in Sudbury at £95. Elizabeth must have died soon after, because her father (John Bourne)’s will, written in 1684, clearly states that he is the  caretaker of her five children.

Post Script

Normally, I would end the story here, but I found one other interesting story related to Joseph’s wife and oldest surviving son.  The first immigrants–the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth–relied on investors to fund their journey.  The settlers were in effect indentured servants, expected to send goods back to England to repay the investors.  But the later wave of immigrants in the  1640s owned property in England, and funded their new plantations themselves.

Elizabeth Bourne Bent had a very wealthy grandfather, Thomas Beesbeech of Sudbury, who wrote a will in November 1672.  I say very wealthy, because in addition to owning lands in Sudbury worth £45, he owned lands valued at £400 in Kent, England and £30 of marshland in Marshfield in Plymouth Colony.  His will specifies that he also owns “a considerable estate in the hands of John Bourne, his son-in-law in Marshfield.” That John Bourne was the father of Elizabeth Bourne Bent.

Although Beesbeech makes no bequest to his granddaughter Elizabeth Bourne Bent,  he does leave funds for her mother Alice Beesbeech Bourne. But the thing that caught my attention is that he left a bequest of 5 shillings to “Experience, the son of Elizabeth Bent, wife of Joseph Bent of Sudbury.” Why?  Experience, I learn by checking the dates, was the first great-grandson of Thomas Beesbeech. At the time he wrote his will, he had a great-grand daughter, who also got 5 shillings. No other great-grandchildren had yet been born.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout (Anderson),the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel Howe, the son of
  • David How, the son of
  • Samuel and Martha Bent How, the sister of
  • Joseph Bent

Notes on Research

  • The Bent family in America : being mainly a genealogy of the descendants of John Bent : who settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 1638 : with notes upon the family in England and elsewhere. in North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 at Ancestry.com, Allen H. Bent, 1900
  • Massachusetts, Marriages, 1633-1850, Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp, Ancestry.com
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, Jay Mack Holbrook, Compiled by Ancestry.com in a larger index. This is an alphabetical listing of all marriages. Groom, bride, date. Holbrook Research Institute: Oxford MASS. 1985 Joseph Bent birth
  • Middlesex County, Massachusetts Deponents, 1649-1700, Sanborn, Melinde Lutz, comp, Ancestry.com Joseph Bent, age 20, 1660.
  • Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Index, 1648-1870, Flint, James, comp, ancestry.com, Joseph Bent, Sudbury, 1677
  • The Great Migration (1999) developed as part of The Great Migration Study of The New England Historical and Genealogical Society, Boston. Sketch of Thomas Beesbeech.

Oatmeal Pie: Oats, Coconut, Maple Syrup

Oatmeal Pie

Oatmeal Pie piece with whipped cream

I’m an advocate for pie for breakfast at all times, but who could find fault with eating oatmeal with maple syrup in the form of pie?

Frugal and tasty, “Oatmeal Pie” demonstrates the make-do attitude of our ancestors in aprons.  As I frequently do, I turned to the Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial cookbook for some vintage takes on this poor man’s pecan pie. After also consulting some web sites, I was prepared to try a variation on the Mennonite cookbook recipe that most appealed to me.

Mennonite

Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial Cook Book

Please understand right at the outset, that although it is called “oatmeal” pie, the pie does not contain a gooey mixture of cooked oats–oatmeal.  Instead, the base for the pie contains either quick-cooking or old fashioned oatmeal–UNCOOKED. Also, although the name “Amish” is attached, other people probably made the pie also.  The history is elusive.

The original Amish oatmeal pie relies on dark corn syrup (Karo©), as do most pecan pie recipes.  However, I was thinking how delicious maple syrup is on oatmeal, and had decided to make a swap.  An experienced baker friend recommended that I include a couple of spoonfuls of the dark corn syrup to balance out the mysterious chemistry and characteristics of corn syrup.  However, by the time I got her advice, I had baked the pie. The good news is, the pie turned out fine.

Whether its a dessert or breakfast–try this old fashioned pie recipe.  Of course, I recommend my Perfect Pie Crust recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can use a pre-made crust.

Oatmeal Pie with Maple Syrup

Serves 8-10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Old fashioned Oatmeal Pie makes a frugal substitute for pecan pie. It forms a chewy nutty crust on top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cups coconut (flaked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pie shell (unbaked)

Directions

1. Line pie plate with pie dough and put in refrigerator while you make the filling. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars. Add spices and syrup and blend well.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time. and mix until well blended.
4. Stir in milk.
5. Add oatmeal and coconut and stir in well. [ I thought the filling was too thin, and added two tablespoons of rice flour to thicken. This will depend on the texture of your maple syrup. (Use corn starch or flour if you do not have rice flour.)]
6. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees about one hour.

Note

You can use Karo syrup or molasses in your oatmeal pie instead of maple syrup for a slightly different flavor.

Some recipes for oatmeal pie call for addition of nuts, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of substituting oats for pecans, but do your own thing.

As mentioned in the article, an expert in baking suggested it would be better to include a couple spoonsful of Karo syrup when substituting maple syrup to avoid the sugar crystalizing. However, my version did not have any crystalizing. Again, use your own judgment.

Butter Chicken: American Colonial Curry

Close your eyes and imagine an American Colonial meal.  I imagine that you’re seeing roasts, overcooked vegetables, pastries both sweet and savory. But I’ll bet you didn’t think to put a curry dish like butter chicken on your Puritan grandmother’s table.  I certainly didn’t, until I received some spices from Pereg to try. I started looking into what spices the 17th and 18th century American colonists might have been using.

Our grandmothers in that period would not have been using these particular spices, however, with the possible exception of Sumac. (I’ll explain below)

Pereg Spices

Some of the Pereg spices sent to me for testing.

How Do We Know What Seasonings Colonists Used?

Spices in Colonial America

Common Spices used in 18th century America

I remembered reading in the book A Thousand Years Over A Hot Stove a list of recommended foods for the early settlers to take with them on the Atlantic passage.  Higginson’s book, New England Plantation published in 1630 included packing hints for survival in the new world. Under spices, Francis Higginson recommended housewives should take Sugar, Pepper, Cloves, Mace, Cinnamon, Nutmegs and Fruit. (Not sure about that one? Dried fruit, probably.)

In my own family, I have read two wills that shed light on products that housewives considered essential.

Rudolph Manbeck, an ancestor of my husband, wrote a bill in 1794 that sets aside certain property for his wife, including

  • half bushel of salt
  • 1/4 lb. pepper
  • 1/4 lb. allspice
  • 1/3 lb. ginger
  • 4 gall(on) vinegar

In the inventory of Asahel Platt’s property (he died intestate in 1833) I learned that he must have been a merchant. So what seasonings did he carry in his store? The long inventory includes these items:

  • 34 lb. pepper
  • 3 lb. spice ( unspecified)
  • 7 lb. ginger
  • 2 lb. Salt Peter (sic) [used for curing meat]
  • 5/16 lb. nut megs
  • 1/2 lb. cloves
  • 22 lb. raisins
  • 1 barrel of salt

Home Grown Herbs and Sumac Berries

Of course these lists focus on those seasonings that need to be imported. Additionally, plenty of herbs were growing just outside the kitchen door.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove reminds us that the spices and herbs are used as much for curing as for cooking.  The author lists thistle, borage, peppermint, licorice, rosemary, lavender, sage, anise, fennel, cloves, elder, garlic and ginger and some of the multi-purpose spices and herbs.

Of the seasonings sent to me by Pereg, I thought Sumac might be the most likely to have been used by our Puritan ancestors.  After all indigenous people used the red-berried sumac, and our grandmothers learned to use many American Indian foods. If you think of Sumac as poison, don’t worry–that only applies to the white-berried sumac plant. The red berry grows on another plant and is entirely edible.

However, I can find no direct reference to that cross over from American Indians to colonists. Too bad, because although I have never used sumac before I have become a fan. It has such a beautiful color and a nice tangy lemon, almost sweet and sour taste.

Butter Chicken meal

Butter chicken with eggplant and salad. Note sprinkle of Sumac on the butter chicken and on the eggplant.

Butter Chicken: Colonial Curry

I perked up when I read about the popularity of curried foods in America, even in the mid-17th century. If I want to use sumac in colonial food, curry provides a great opportunity. English housewives had discovered curry early in that century, and anything popular in England  carried over into American habits.  The most popular cookbook in the late 18th century in American would have been The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Simple by Hannah Glasse.

The clever Ms. Glasse recreated tastes of dishes made with seasonings not yet available in either England or America.  Which brings us to her Butter Chicken, a curry dish popular in the 17th and 18th century.  Although her version had much simpler seasonings than the “original” Indian dish, as spices became more available, we see an expansion of seasonings in later recipes.  Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, calls for eight spices (ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin seeds, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cayenne) instead of the three in Glasse’s recipe (ginger turmeric, pepper).

You will notice a lack of curry powder in both–colonial housewives had to be creative rather than use pre-mixed seasonings like curry powder.

I was a bit surprised that turmeric would have been used by the 18th century housewives, but there it is in Glasses’s 1774 book as she makes India pickle and butter chicken.

Check out  Silkroad Gourmet  for a nice comparison of these two recipes that were published fifty years apart. There you will find the entire recipe as originally published in each of the books.

I started with Hannah Glasse’s curry recipe for Butter Chicken, but spiced it up just a bit. My use of spices in the recipe as written below still could use some pepping up, I think. Let me know what spices you will use in Butter Chicken.

Colonial Butter Chicken

Serves 3-4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Asian

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2lb chicken breast (cut in one inch chunks)
  • 1/4lb butter ((one stick))
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 1/2-2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups orange juice ([or use lemon juice])
  • 1/2 cup half and half

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a skillet, brown chicken slightly. Be careful not to overcook--just get rid of all pink.
2. Remove chicken from pan and add onion to saute until soft.
3. Add spices and garlic and stir about one minute.
4. Put chicken back in pan and pour broth over--just about covering.
5. Turn heat down and simmer about 20 minutes.
6. Add cream and juice, stir well until warm, then remove chicken again.
7. Bring liquid to a boil and reduce until you get desired thickness.
8. Stir chicken in briefly to warm, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle with sumac powder.
P.S.  Pereg Gourmet sent me several spices plus dried Lemon Verbena so that I could try them out and share them with you.  This gift is welcome, but does not affect my opinion.  I had not heard of Pereg, even though they have been around since the early twentieth century, but I am glad to learn about them.  Their spice jars are much bigger than the usual ones on my shelf and the prices seem very reasonable.

Perez big spice jars

Comparing the size of most spice jars on my shelf with the standard size of a Pereg spice jar.

This size difference is a mixed blessing.  Since the price for the large Pereg jar is the same or less than the normal size, they are a bargain. However, I don’t generally use up a jar of spice before it is a year old–the time period in which most should be replaced.  And secondly, storage becomes a problem because the large jars do not fit on my standard spice shelves, and hog space in a drawer.

On the plus side for Pereg, they have an amazing variety of mixes ready to go for many kinds of cuisine.  If you feel like experimenting and don’t want to invest in ten different herbs and spices they’ve got you covered.  They carry a lot of spices that I have not seen routinely on my grocer’s shelf–like the Sumac and in the very top picture the fenugreek seeds.  If you shop their website, you may be inspired to try some very different kinds of cuisine.