Just a Trifle, Nobody’s Fool

Trifle in Hattie Morgan’s cut glass bowl

It all started when I made a cake that didn’t quite turn out right. In trying to get the cake to cook through to the middle, the entire cake got a bit too dry. We ate most of the cake, but I didn’t want to throw the rest out. Then I remembered that I’d been meaning to try making a trifle.

What is a Trifle?

Trifle recipes today generally call for ladyfingers, but the general construction can be quite flexible. Basically, you will have some kind of cake, moistened with some kind of liquid, spread with some kind of preserves or jelly, layered with custard (and more recently, fruit and maybe nuts) and topped with a layer of whipped cream.

The trifle will show off its colorful layers best in a glass dish with plain sides. Thus, you can buy a dish specifically for trifle, like this one by Libby’s glass, advertised at Amazon.

A Bit of History of Trifle

1585 The Gud Huswife’s Jewel by Thomas Dawson, who apparently mansplained to huswifes how to cook.

1774 Hannah Glasse added jelly to the Trifle in her book, The Art of Cookery. (see her recipe below.)

Scots have their Tipsy Laird (tipsy Lord), with whiskey to moisten the cake. That name morphed to a more democratic Tipsy Parson or Tipsy Squire in Colonial America.

A neighbor who dropped by to sample my trifle said that in her mother’s case, the cake would macerate for several days and everyone in the household might add a few drops of booze to the cake. She called it Tipsy Cake. Appropriately, her family lived in the South, and the dessert is commonly called Tipsy Cake in the South.

So what’s this about Fools? Although the term is used interchangeably, the fool does not have pudding and cake–just a tangy fruit, cooked and cooled, mixed with whipped cream. But Fools originated about the same time as trifles and both feature whipped cream.

I want to share an earlier recipe for Trifle, but in case you are impatient to start cooking, I’ll jump to the modern recipe first.

Trifle with strawberries
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Strawberry Trifle

The traditional English trifle made with a different fruit juice, strawberries and almonds and a  pudding mix.
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Keyword fruit, pudding, trifle, whipped cream
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients

  • pieces dry or stale cake equivalent of 9″ layer cake
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice or sherry
  • 1/4 cup rasberry preserves or flavor of your choice
  • 1 pkg pudding mix
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 cup almonds, sliced

Instructions

  • Make pudding mix according to instructions.  If cooked, let cool in refrigerator with plastic wrap spread across top to prevent 
  • Cut cake in one inch cubes. Lay the cake cubes out on a cookie sheet and brush with the liquid.
  • Spoon dabs of preserves on cake and spread with back of spoon.
  • When pudding is cool, start layering in deep glass bowl–cake, then pudding, scatter some almonds, then fruit–2 or three layers according to size of bowl.
  • Whip cream with sugar and vanilla.  Spread on top or drop swirls in decorative pattern.  Top with whole strawberries, almonds, or other fruit or garnish.
  • Put whole bowl into refrigerator for an hour or until ready to serve.

Notes

Times given assume you have the cake on hand and use a  boxed pudding mix. Allow more time, if you are baking a cake to use, or are making custard from scratch.
Some recipes for decorations include flowers.  Fruits other than or in addition to strawberries might include sliced bananas, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.
Brandy or sherry are traditional, but I used cranberry-mango juice for a very good taste.

18th Century Version–Hannah Glasse

To Make a Trifle

Cover the bottom of your dish or bowl with Naples biscuits broke in pieces, mackeroons brlke in halves, and ratafia cakes. Just wet them all through with sack, then make a good boiled custard, not too thick and when cold pour it over it, then put a syllabub over that. You may garnish it with ratafia cakes, currant jelly, and flowers and strew different coloured nonpareils over it. Note, these are bought at confectioners.

Glossary

Naples biscuits:  no longer used–a cookie made with egg whites and flavored with rose water.

mackaroonsMrs. Glasse provides a recipe for a cookie made with almonds pounded fine (like almond flour) , sugar and eggs whites 

ratafia: Almond liqueur, and the flavoring in ratafia cakes or biscuits.

syllabub: A drink or dessert of whipped cream with wine or other acidic drink. Mrs. Glasse has several recipes, including one for “solid syllabub, which I imagine is the type you would use for the trifle.

sack: no longer used term for a fortified wine, although sherry is close.

I hope you’ll have fun trying your own version of trifle, and will come back and share your results in our comment section.

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Captain John Morgan The First and The Missing Will

Captain John Morgan (1645-1712)

John being such a popular name, it comes as no surprise that there are several generations of John Morgans in my family tree. Sometimes you can distinguish one generation from the next by using titles. But not in this case. Captain John Morgan, my 6th great-grandfather, had a son who had a son–all called John, and all achieving the rank of Captain in the Connecticut Militia. (Despite a bit of a kerfluffle surrounding the third John, which I wrote about here.)

Besides all the Johns, there were several James Morgans, also, and besides passing their names on from generation to generation –James, son of James, son of James, son of James, etc.–it seemed that every James had a son named John and every John had a son named James.

Now that I have that whining out of my system, I will explain the “Captain” part of the name. Titles were held in high esteem in the early Puritan communities. If a man held an elected office, that title would stay attached to his name forever. Captain, the highest rank elected in the militia, therefore became the most common title, sort of like Colonel in the old South.

John’s Young Life

John Morgan was born on March 30, 1645 in Roxbury Massachusetts. His father Captain James Morgan, had arrived in North America from Wales in 1636. John’s mother Margery Hill came from Essex in England, and married James in 1640. John was born third, after a sister who died as an infant and the eldest son James, Jr. After James was born, he saw two of his three younger siblings die in infancy.

When he was five years old, John’s family moved to New London Connecticut. Settlers named the area on the Northern edge of the Long Island Sound “Pequot,” for the predominant native tribe in the area. The town’s name became Groton, and John spent the rest of his years in Groton, Connecticut.

First Marriage and Children

At the age of twenty, Captain John Morgan married Rachel Dymond, a native of Connecticut. (Some records list her maiden name as Deming, and I have not seen an original record, so am not sure which is correct, but the majority seem to be Dymond.)

Fourteen months after the wedding, their first son, another John Morgan, was born, and Rachel gave birth to six more children:

John and Rachel were fortunate in that all of their children lived to adulthood. However, the offspring outlived their mother. Rachel died in August,1689, leaving six children between 9 and 22 years old still living at home. The first four children married quite late for that period–29, 39, 29, and 30.

2nd Marriage and More Children

That made for quite a houseful of people! Particularly since Captain John Morgan quickly took another wife and had more children. He married the widow Elizabeth Jones Williams very soon after Rachel died, because their first child, who died in infancy, was born in 1690. Since Elizabeth is not in my direct line, I will not write about her separately, but would like to mention here that she was the daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. Her grandfather had been the Governor of Connecticut.

In 1692, the family moved to Preston, Connecticut. The town of Preston, like Groton, lies in New London County, but is north of Preston and inland.

With his wife Elizabeth, Captain John had seven more children after the death of infant Elizabeth.

  • 1690: Elizabeth (Died in infancy)
  • 1693: William (Died at 36 years old) (Named for his grandfather William Jones).
  • 1697: Rachel (I find it interesting that ancestors in this period frequently named a child in the second marriage for the spouse from the first marriage.)
  • 1697: Rachel’s twin, Andrea.
  • 1699: Margery (Named for her paternal grandmother)
  • 1700/1701: Joseph
  • 1703: Theophilus (Named for his maternal grandfather Theophilus Eaton, former Governor)
  • 1705: Mary

Captain John Morgan’s Life

Besides rising through the ranks of the Militia, he held important offices in his communities. He followed in his father’s footsteps and those of his brother James in both the military service and civic service. He was an Indian Commissioner and Advisor. He also was chosen as a deputy to the General Court from New London in 1690 and from Preston in 1693 and 1694.

Being an Indian commissioner must have been very serious business. In 1637, a vicious battle had virtually destroyed the Pequot people, and for the first time the English settlers felt safe in New London. Serious settlement began in the 1650s, so John’s family were among the first settlers in New London County when they arrived in 1650. The English turned from fighting to trading with the Pequots and purchasing land from them, working as later settlers in the Western United States would do to “civilize” the “savages.”

What the Records Show (Or Don’t)

My biggest frustration in researching these Morgans is that I have not found clues as to their livelihood. I have to assume that most were farmers. In John Morgan’s case, he moved away from the Bay of Groton, but stayed along the river. This could have to do with sea trade, but also could be because of fertile land in a river valley. Unfortunately, his will does not give me any clues.

I have only second-hand information from the book called History of James Morgan of New London, Connecticut and his Descendants. That book relates part of the will, written on 23 August 1711. Probate date 12 February, 1712, so although I do not have proof of a death date, he had to have died between those two dates.

It took some time for a new community to set up their government. After all, they had land to clear, houses to build, and Indians to fight or try to pacify. So although the Puritans kept excellent records in their established villages, the best we have to go on with these earliest settlers often is an index of old records that have never been photographed or digitized, or references to old records that no longer exist.

Captain John Morgan’s Will

In John Morgan’s will, according to the book, he mentions his wife Elizabeth and 12 of his 13 children, so we also know that Elizabeth died AFTER 23 August 1711. However, secondary records seem to all list her death date as 23 August, 1711, instead of AFT. 12 August, 1711 as they should. And as for John’s date of demise, we only know that it happened some time between the date he wrote his will and the probate date. That will is one of those missing pieces that I long to get my hands on.

A curiosity of the will, mentioned in the History of James Morgan, lies in the omission of his son Joseph. Joseph brought some genealogical fame to the family by marrying the daughter of William Brewster, Deacon of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. However, the author of the “History” includes this maddening teaser:

The record shows that the probate of this will was appealed from, and in the litigation that followed, this Joseph is mentioned as one of the parties. I had a reference to the case and intended to examine it, but lost or mislaid the reference.

Nathaniel H. Morgan, author of The History of James Morgan (etc.)

Gee, thanks a lot Nathaniel!

Next time we will talk about John’s father James, my 7th great-grandfather, thought of as the founder of this branch of the Morgans of America.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan, who is the son of
  • Samuel Morgan.
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Crooked Election or Puritan Paranoia?

A History of the Descendents of James Morgan of Groton, Connecticut includes an interesting story about John Morgan (1700) and his appointment  to Ensign.
(pages 38 and 39) His father, John Morgan ( 1667) joined a Puritan committee objecting to the appointment of his son.

Men in the militia company chose officers by election.  In October 1736, the N. East Company of Groton chose John as Ensign and Thomas Munford as Captain and William Williams as Lieutenant. The latter two were higher offices than Ensign.

Painting by Henry Mosier, Pilgrim’s Grace, 1897


The Complaint

The objections, by a committee of eight, including John’s father Capt. John listed “1st the two chief officers are young men of the Church of England, 2nd illegal votes were cast, 3rd the young men of the company were deluded with liquor. 4th Many dissatisfied will enlist in the troop. 5th the society is in difficulty on account of the church of England and they are about to settle a minister.”

Two things seem clear to me. John Morgan, appointed Ensign, was NOT a member of the Church of England. And while the committee worried about propriety, the main concern of the involved maintaining the control of their local Puritan church above all else.

The book goes on to explain how “settle a minister” has anything to do with the appointment of officers in a militia. The complex tale started when their former Puritan minister decided to join the “church of England” (the Episcopal church), and therefore was tossed out of the local Puritan church and community.  The replacement minister preached for five years and then he, too, decided to join the Episcopal church. For two years the community had no minister at all.  The community was about to install a new Puritan minister, but were still fearful that Episcopalians lurking in their midst might join with the military to execute a kind of coup overthrowing the status quo Puritan rule.

Conclusion

The General Court debated for several days and heard several witnesses before declining to accept the complaint, and confirming the appointments of the three young men.  The new minister proved satisfactory, and everybody lived happily, puritanically ever after.

One can only wonder about the conversations that must have taken place in the many Morgan households about this event!

Young John Morgan, proceeded to advance through the ranks of the militia, just as his father and grandfather had done. On 26 Sept 1738 his company made him a Lieutenant, and on 27 of September in 1844, the same company, now known as the 4th Company of Groton, named him Captain.

This Capt. John Morgan (1700) was my 1st cousin 6 times removed. His father Capt. John (1667) my 6th great uncle was the brother of my 5th great grandfather Samuel Morgan.

Next: Another Capt. John Morgan

A slight pause here, while I gather my strength from wading through all the John Morgans and the James Morgans to get to my 6th Great grand-father, Capt. John Morgan (1645)

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