Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Johnny, Jonny or Journey?


Where to even begin...

As I have shown in my article Behind A Crows Ear, I have outlined the beginnings of corn here in New England as well as the Southern states. Out of the myriad of recipes that have graced our tables throughout the ages using this life-sustaining grass, one or two dishes hold up to our taste buds now as it did many generations ago. Be it the leavened "bread" or unleavened "cake", the prefix to both have been giving fits to all who seek the origin. That prefix is "Journey", "Jonny" or "Johnny". Not only is the correct attachment to both "bread" and "cake" sought, but the origins of this prefix is just as enticingly argumentative. But I will forward one solution! The Yankee Chef is here to tell you what I believe to be the answer, pure and simple.

The former Chairman of the Society for the Propagation of the Jonnycake, Mrs. James Herbert of Providence once said that Jonnycake is Rhode Island's native dish. I would like to start by saying that, although I am a Yankee(regardless of which state), the state of Rhode Island cannot be singled as the beginning of this New England staple. But at the same time, I cannot put the origins in any one particular state either. It belongs to all of us, but if Rhode Islander's want the glory, I am all too happy to give it to them, with no prejudice whatsoever.


Let's start our 'journey'(no pun.......actually, pun INTENDED)with the difference between Jonnycake and Jonnybread. Jonnycake has always, and still should be, considered a crepe-type flapjack/flat-bread, while the Jonnybread is the cornbread we all know and love today.

There are many variations on the theme, not the least being:

Indian Flapjack(or Slapjack). This is cornmeal, flour, eggs and milk that is mixed and cooked in a dry, iron pan that has been “rubbed with suet or lard”, as mentioned in a very old manuscript.

Southern Ash Cake. Simply cornmeal and boiling water, this batter was seasoned with salt if it was available and cooked on a hot hearth stone with hot ashes covering the top.

Batter Bread, ca. 1800. With the addition of white, milled flour, eggs and milk, it was a pale version of Indian Flapjacks as mentioned above but was cooked in metal molds directly in an oven.

Granted these dishes as old, but they pale in comparison to the beginnings of Jonnycakes, and thusly Jonnybreads.

If you have read my article on corn in Behind The Crows Ear, you will see the origins and beginnings of corn in New England. With that in mind, I can tell you that long before Europeans arrived on these shores, corn was dried and powdered, to be mixed with water and cooked. This was the start of Journeycake, so-called because, obviously, it was great to take with you on one's travels in the Puritan days of Yankee-land. During the 17th century, most traveling was done on foot or by boat. Horses were not to be used for traveling until the last decades of the 1600s, and then only by the affluent. So needless to say, it took all day just to get to the next town over. Native Americans and colonists alike often trod the old Bay Paths for days on end. What better food staple to take with them, than something that would last the entire traveling time, than a ready made “bread”?

A 1900 stereoscopic view of the original Old Bay Path in Massachusetts

It is said that the first decade of the 1700s, in the Middle Atlantic colonies, Johnny Cake was named in private correspondences. It was to be made with cornmeal, white flour, molasses and enough hot water to hold it together. It was then made into small, flat cakes and grilled "in a greased pan" until browned. This seems to be yet another handed-down story.

There have been explanations that Jonnycake is a derivation of Shawnee cake. Even one story that said it was so named after a certain Jonathan Trumbull. Also argued is that an 'H' should never be placed in the name.

As we reach the middle of the 1700s, Jonakin(or Jonikin) is mentioned as being the root word for Jonnycake. I would like to believe this, especially since many prominent Historians have concluded such, but I can find not one single reference that states the word Jonikin, Jonakin, Jonekin, Joneken or any variation of this as being the root of Jonnycake. These professionals go on to say that Jonikin is rooted from Jannock(another supposed Algonquin word say some authorities while others state it is English in origin from the 15th century). Sure, Jannock was around in England, but not until the late 18th, early 19th century. It meant 'straight-forward' and had nothing to do with food.
Courtesy of

I WILL concede, though, that Bannock has a spot in this controversy. Bannock is a very old flat bread that has been made and called as such well before the 12th century in England. But it was not made of cornmeal, rather oats or barley that had been dried and ground. There is no doubt that early colonists brought this "bread" over with them from England, but making it with corn here in New England. Some colonists may have held onto the name Bannock even when using corn, but following this avenue is both fruitless and not worth mention again. Sorry Bannock. Close, but no cigar!

A copy of a page from William Woods book

Jonikin is also said to mean, literally 'corn cake'. Let me show you why this is, in my opinion, totally false. Take for example the list below of known Indian words from the time period from the known "tribes" that were present at the colonization of New England in Massachusetts , which is where the Native Americans would have first shown the Europeans how to make this "cake".

For example, the Narragansett tribe, part of the Algonquins and the most numerous of the Native Americans in Rhode Island, called 'corn' Ewáchimine. It is widely believed that the word o nókehick meant 'dried corn mixed with water and cooked', but unproven.

One must remember that the Native Americans didn't write anything down during this time, so words were spelled by the Europeans as they sounded, phonetically.

William Wood, a chronicler of New England Indians, their manners, customs and language mentions that isattonaneise was the Indian word for 'bread' by the Pequots. William Wood was a great authority on words used by the Natives of the early colonies of New England, as evidenced by his book, published in England in 1639, called New England's Prospect: A True, Lively, and Experimental Description of That Part of America, commonly called New England . He states that appsuash weatchimmíneash was plural for 'roasted corn' and missunkquaminnémeash was plural for 'dried corn' by the Pequots.

Nausamp was also an Algonquin word for a' pottage' made from unparched corn, mixed with water and cooked. Nausamp literally means 'softened by water'. Nasasamp was the word used by the Narragansetts and Nasaump was, and is, a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from cornmeal, berries, groundnuts and boiled in water till thick.

Sowhawmen and bannock were also Indian words for the same preparation, although the particular tribe in which these words originated is lost.


The Wampanoag Tribe referred to a grilled bread made from dried corn as Petuckquinneg while Nhkik was their word for 'parched corn'.

So as you can see, the earliest name for Journeycake would've been a combination or derivation of one of these words. Or the Natives may have used either Nausamp(Samp as commonly and contemporarily referred to as) or o nókehick for this 'cake'. .

Cornmeal mixed with water and cooked in a thin "cake" on a flat, large stone before a fire is undoubtedly the first presentation of Journeycake. The name for this flat-bread at the beginning may be lost in history but it would not have been the Native Americans that would have named it Journey Bread. In fact, if one were to truly call it by it's 'Indian' name, it would have been completely different, as proven above.


There is one explanation given by an authority that I will keep nameless because it is the most ridiculous explanation I have ever heard. he says that Jonnycake is derived from Journeycake because New Englanders don't pronounce our 'R'. So if you were to take the 'R' out of Journeycake, what do you have? Just give me a second to stop laughing and we will continue........

By 1750, Hoe(or "Johnycake") Cake came into its' own. Amelia Simmons(in her 1796 cookbook) calls for Indian meal in her 'Hoe Cake', and it was to be baked before the fire(as the Native Americans had been doing for centuries) or spread on a hoe.

A 1776 diary entry of a certain Thos. Vernon mentions that he enjoyed "jonny cake" while in Rhode Island. This author believes that, although it is the same thing in principle, Hoe Cake was just a regional name for the same dish made since time immemorial.

Mary Randolph, of Virginia, mentions the name "Jonne Cake" in his 1824 diary and goes on to say that "it was an excellent article with which to fill the traveler's knapsack".

In 1840, a book entitled Two Years Before the Mast was published and it was a diary of a Richard Dana. My father once had this book and I remember reading it when I was in my mid-20s, but it has been long lost now. Anyway, the Maine born captain, by the name of Francis Thompson, set sail from Boston in the Pilgrim with the author of the book. Richard mentions "Johnnycake" was eaten by Captain Thompson, spelling it with the 'H'.

Now many of you have contacted me, already, with regards to my column on grits. Some of you are positive in your email exchanges while others are down-right maniacal about which is the better grind. I am sure I will receive just as many emails about this column as well. All I can say is that I am giving you the benefit of my knowledge when it comes to food, in particular-New England cuisine and the history thereof. Everyone has their opinion of which is better or what has been handed down in their family as authentic.

A perfect example would be a state Senator by the name of Benjamin Boyd, who related that he takes his cornmeal "as it comes off the stone." And after mixing in various ingredients, he never EVER washes the griddle after his Jonnycakes are cooked. While, on the other hand, another former Representative, this time of the Narragansetts, says to ALWAYS wash the griddle when making steel-ground grits. There is even debate, to this day, which type of granite is best for grinding cornmeal.

Although there have been many claims as to the authenticity, origination and nomenclature of Jonnycake, I will not pounce on any one authority by name that is still living, I must, however, state another false-hood with relation to Jonnycakes' original ingredients. Let me state unequivocally that cornmeal and water were the only two ingredients for many centuries until the Europeans arrived. At times, when abundant, freshly crushed berries were added for flavor often, but that is all. When a supposed authority on Rhode Island Jonnycakes says that her 10-generation-old recipe for Jonnycake is cornmeal, sugar, milk and salt(which has been claimed).............she is sorely mistaken. Sugar was not present for quite some time at the beginning of New England. Certainly molasses would have been used as time progressed, and it was used on occasion. Salt was unknown. And milk? Well, it just wasn't used in Jonnycakes, no matter where you lived for many generations. Sure, it is used today, but still not very often.

So in summation.

Journeycakes are the unleavened, flat-breads made with only dried corn that had been ground and moistened with water, and were made thusly for many centuries before Europeans arrived on the shores of New England. Although they weren't referred to as Journeycakes, I will use this name to keep everything simple.

When the colonists arrived and learned how to make this "cake" from the Native Americans(most likely the Pawtuxet band of the Wampanoags, it was taken across our land and enjoyed by everyone. Sure, the English immigrants had eaten Bannock for centuries before the 1600s, but it was made with oats and wheat, with it being cooked as a flat-bread very infrequently.

The Natives of New England may have had a word for this Journeycake, but it is lost in time. I tend to believe that the word Nausamp was the name used among the Natives however, but of course it will never be verified, unfortunately. Of course we needed to have a name for the "cake" that withstood the elements and conditions of travel so well, so it was called Journeycake. Over time, and not because we couldn't pronounce our "R's" either, it became Jonnycake. This is simple and elementary "word transgression", so often encountered in every facet of historical documentation.

There may be a hint of historical accuracy, however, in the name Shawnee Cake. I do think many colonists may have referred to Journeycakes as such because of the Shawnee's showing some colonists how to prepare this cake. But, as with Hoe Cake and the other attributions, I believe this to be a regional name instead of an original name.

Courtesy of

The origin of this cake is Massachusetts, only because(in all probability), the Natives showed the new settlers how to make them. But it truly does belong to all of New England.

Sometime during the 18th century, Jonny Bread(or Corn Bread) became popular when a leavening agent was added, along with a sweetener, such as sugar or molasses.

There, my friends, you have it. Until I am shown or I find other references, this is the most sound explanation of the name Jonnycake.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Behind A Crows Ear

I recently added a recipe for my version of a southern classic, which is grits. This was one of those ingredients that Southerner's are very protective of and swear by their own way of enjoying this corn product. And because of all the emails I received, it looks as though our protectiveness of New England chowder is just as fierce as grits are down South. Although I think my version is VERY tasty, I will not get into the emails that weren't quite so 'delicious'. Rather, I will forward to those of you who asked me the differences between grits and cornmeal, their beginnings and the many spinoffs of both fresh and dried corn, along with some history to boot.


There are many stories and myths regarding how corn came to New England, with one of them being retold more than others of a crow carrying a kernel of corn from Mexico in or behind its' ear. Although great reading, of course it is a fallacy. But having said that, every Food Historian of any note(with a true understanding that not everything can be known)will tell you it is unsure exactly how this happened. It is known, however, that corn made its way north with a little help. Understand that this grass is not something that grows on its own in nature. Humans need to plant it. So it needs not be said that our Native Americans, during the course of their travels north, brought this maize from the highlands of Mexico to the equally high, mountainous regions of the Eastern United States. Along the way, however, the white gourdseed corn dominated. This softer-kerneled corn took longer to grow and matured far later than the northern Flint, which was perfect for the warmer climates where the extra time was available for its full growth. This white corn is the beginning of the Southerners grits.

Along with corn, our native Americans revered squash(or pumpkin) and beans, making this trio known as the "Three Sisters". Western Europe had conception of the corn that had been growing on this soil. They actually referred to almost all grains as corn until Christopher Columbus introduced it. he proclaimed in his 1492 journal as "well tasted, baked and dried and made into flour."

By the time Europeans settled this land, the American Indians were growing a good variety of corn, including Dent, Flint, Sweet and Popcorn, but not as we know them today.


Dent corn, in particular Sweet Dent Corn, was said to have been developed by James Reid in the 19th century. While he may have cross pollinated Flint with Floury corns to produce this field corn with the distinctive 'dent' in each kernel, it is the Native Americans who first grew Dent corn. It was, and still is, the most popular form of corn to be dried and ground for use in all things requiring cornmeal because of its' very thick outer skin that truly doesn't soften when boiled. It is said that this was the type of corn that Josselyn was speaking of in his account of 1674 about the Native Americans using sacks to store, and travel with, their "powdered cornmeal":

"which they make use of when stormie weather or the like will not suffer them to look out for their food".

Roger Williams, of where else but Rhode Island continues in 1643:

"I have travelled with neere 200. of them at once, neere 100. miles through the woods, every man carrying a little Basket of this[cornmeal] at his back, and sometimes in a hollow Leather Girdle about his middle, sufficient for a man three or foure daies".

Flint corn(which is often referred to as Indian corn, is of the same species of Indian corn but has a lower water content and is very resistant to the freezing temperatures found in Northern New England. In fact, it is said that during the Year Without a Summer(1816) it was the ONLY crop not to have been completely decimated by the frigid conditions in Vermont. this episode is well worth reading about by the way because it was felt world-wide, but most devastated was northern New England where snow flee in June and freezing temperatures ruined crops throughout the East coast of the U.S..

Early Indian corn was one color per stalk, with all colors growing throughout New England. The Native Americans kept the colors separated. Today, because of cross pollination, we have multi-colored ears of Indian corn. And to set the record straight, ALL corn today is actually Indian corn because our Native Americans grew all types of corn, including Dent and Flour.

Want to know what the early corn looked like?


While today’s corn has roughly 30 rows of kernels, early corn had between 8-12 rows, with the circumference of each ear being half of what we propagate now.

Did you know that the decorative multi-colored Indian corn is indeed edible? Yup! As with any corn, it should be picked prematurely. That's right. We pick our super sweet corn prematurely even today. That is why it is sweet! Corn was meant to be aged past the sweet phase and into the starch phase. As corn ripens, the sugar content turns to starch and, thusly, becomes not only chewy but less sweet as well. Even though Indian corn may not be very sweet when picked before the conversion to starch, it does retain some sugar and completely edible.

No part of the corn was wasted back then, nor is it today. The corn could be eaten green, or dried for storage and grinding. Surplus(including the stalks), cattle and poultry, with any remainder after that to be distilled into alcohol. As with the other parts of the corn, dried cobs were made into pipes, jug stoppers and tool handles while the husks were great, dried, to start fires with and to fill mattresses. The Native Americans even made a type of moccasin from the dried leaves. The husks were also used by many of our fore-mothers, when they were children, to make corn-husk dolls up until well into the 20th century. Bartering, as cash, for items needed in the home was commonplace as well, even for furs and meat well into the 19th century.

Today’s super sweet corn has been genetically modified so that the conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel has been slowed, thereby making it last longer from the field to the table. It used to be that once you picked corn, the sweetness was declining to the taste about 20 minutes after picking. Now, days can go buy without a noticeable difference in taste.

Papoon, the Iroquois name for what we now know as sweet corn, was first introduced by the Indians to the European settlers here in New England around 1780. Country Gentleman(a white kerneled sweet corn) and Stowell's Evergreen are two varieties still around that our forefathers enjoyed. It is also known that during this same period, it is widely believed that Lt. Bagnal, a member of Sullivan's Expedition again the Iroquois, brought sweet corn seeds from the Susquahana Valley in New York to Massachusetts while Thomas Jefferson also mentions growing "shriveled corn" in his 1810 Garden Book.



Now that we have touched on the beginnings of all corn products, let's decipher individual products that is the basis for many recipes we taste today.(Finally, huh?)

Picture of Thomas Jefferson's garden, courtesy of

Let's start with grits. Literally meaning coarse meal, from the Old English grytt, it originally meant any porridge made of wheat and other grains. More commonly called groats in England because, as I mentioned earlier in the article, all porridge consumed was made of grains such as wheat and oats, but not the corn we know of today.

Grits come in both yellow(the whole kernel) and the predominant white(hulled kernels of corn). The corn used for grits? Southern Flint or white gourdseed corn, as mentioned above.

Modern grits are now generally made of hominy, which is result of corn having the hull and germ removed through a process called nixtamalization. Nixtamalization is simply the soaking and cooking of corn in an alkaline solution of lye/lime and ash. I know how we all hate the fact that everything we put in our body is so chemically altered in some way now, and nixtamalization being another, but pallagra(a niacin deficiency) is negated by this process.


Killing the corn's germ also prevents the corn from sprouting while in storage, as our ancestors found at least as far back as 2000 B.C, when the Mexican population began slagging their corn in lye and ash.

If you have ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Little House in the Big Woods, you will find a passage on how hominy was made more than a century ago(also telling the reader how to make the extremely popular New England favorite, Maple Candy, which was boiling maple syrup "thrown" on snow and always enjoyed with a sour pickle by the adults).

"The first day, Ma cleaned and brushed the ashes out of the cookstove. Then she burned some clean bright hardwood, and saved its ashes. She put the hardwood ashes in a little cloth bag. . . .

Early the next day Ma put the shelled corn and the bag of ashes into the big iron kettle. She filled the kettle with water, and kept it boiling a long time. At last the kernels of corn began to swell, and they swelled and swelled until their skins split open and began to peel off. . . .

With her hands she rubbed and scrubbed the corn until the hulls came off and floated on top of the water. . . .She never splashed a drop of water on her pretty dress.

When all the corn was done, Ma put the white kernels in a big jar in the pantry. Then, at last, they had hulled corn and milk for supper.

Hominy hominy hominy!"

There have been many myths and handed-down stories of grits in the South, with my favorite being that grits make ones bowel move, but cornmeal doesn't. That being said, grits are found in supermarkets everywhere, even up here in New England where we find three types of grinds, fine, medium and coarse. True Southerner’s will tell you that the only true grits are the old-fashioned stone ground while others say steel-ground are the best. But I do believe there are times when you will find even them purchasing quick grits. These are very finely ground hominy that is pre-steamed for a 5-minute cook. I find this a great alternative, although regular grits can be made in about 10 minutes.

Now about the taste! I have absolutely no problem telling you that grits is bland dish, just like I will exhort that cornmeal mush is just as bland tasting, that's why we add so many different types of flavorings. Even Bill Neal and David Perry, authors of one of the best cookbooks about this Southern staple entitled Good Old Grits Cookbook, say that grits are bland. Suffice it to say, almost everyone adds some type of flavoring, butter, salt and pepper chief among them. That is also why, when you see selections at restaurants or talk to families who grew up on grits, they will tell you that "grits-and-gravy", "grits-and-ham" and "grits-and-eggs" are the dishes most often associated with this bland "cornmeal". I actually adore grits with red-eye gravy(a reduction of pan juices from cooking ham, adding coffee and pepper). But I also enjoy grits made with a New England element in the way of Cheddar cheese, which is almost consecration in the eyes of the ardent grits lover wayyyy down South, although more and more grits-lovers are coming around.

Not to be outdone, us Northerners enjoy, and always have, our yellow cornmeal. This is simply ground, dried corn which also comes in various grinds as does grits. The finest is referred to, most often, as cornflour. Cornflour, by the way, denotes cornstarch in England, as cornmeal is known as polenta. (Don't make me explain)

We also have our "hell-bent" cornmeal lovers here in New England. Some stick with the steel ground yellow cornmeal, with the husk and germ of the kernel removed. The purists here in the North say that stone-ground cornmeal is the best. This cornmeal still retains some of the hull and germ, thereby giving it slightly more flavor. It is interesting to note that while grits have only one use, while yellow cornmeal has many. As my children would say, "just sayin' ".


Not to be outdone, the Mid-West also have cornmeal that is seldom seen, let alone used, here in New England. Blue and Red Cornmeal. Yup, there is a red corn. Although we generally see chefs with an affinity to Southwestern cuisine(such as Bobby Flay) prepare many dishes using blue cornmeal, red corn is just as flavorful. Blue corn, which contains about 20 % more protein than either yellow or white corn, is commonly used in tortilla chips while red is all but forgotten. Both have a much more intense corn flavor than yellow or white cornmeal, but with that extra flavor, it loses the sweetness of yellow corn. Both of these can be eaten in a raw or boiled state, but I think the sight of either blue or red corn on the cob has people thinking otherwise.

For many centuries, us Yankees have enjoyed(well we enjoyed it 'way back when' anyway) a dish called Cornmeal Mush. This was simply dried, ground yellow corn that has been boiled in water. In Italy, this is called Polenta. Why? My elemental theory is that if you see Cornmeal Mush on a menu, you would not be willing to pay more than a buck for it, if anything. While a menu that stated Polenta would easily herald oohs and ahhs while commanding a price of $10-$12 easily. BUT THEY ARE BOTH THE SAME THING!

When our fore-"mothers" made this dish, it was usually a ratio of four parts water to one part cornmeal, boiled for about 20 minutes with butter or drippings added. During the 19th century, jam, maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, diced fruit and other seasonings were added to make a more palatable breakfast.

Now what I have not touched on in this article is the most famous dishes made with yellow cornmeal, and those are Jonnycakes and Jonnybreads. Find this "essay" under Johnny, Jonny or Journey?  very soon both here on my blog or on my website, at Hope I didn't bore you with too much.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wicked Words

Being a New England Food Historian, I have been blessed with not only having a huge library of everything New England, be it food related or not, but I often come across books that are centuries old and I have no choice to purchase them. Yeah, I have often said how boring I am when it comes to down-time, and I might well be. But I do love reading, as my Dad did, and especially what life was like many generations ago. There truly is something to be said for the old days, simplicity chief among them. Below find a partial word list(of which I will continue posting) from a dictionary published in 1816. This dictionary was a correction of an essay on American words that was written even many years before that. It is called A Vocabulary or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Ha Been Supposed To Be Peculiar to the United Staes of America.

I am writing every word, mark and puncuation as it is written, so bear that in mind as you read. This may not be very good reading to many of you, but I found it fascinating to see what others around our country thought about us here in New England, and to also see when certain words became vogue, or written off as vulgar or burlesque(our forefathers way of saying swearing).



To Admire. To like very much; to be very fond of. This verb is much used in New England in expressions like the following: I should admire to go to such a place; I should admire to have such a tiding. &c. It is never thus used by the English; and amoung us it is confined to the language of conversation.


To Allot. I allot upon going to such a place. This verb is used only in conversation, and that, chiefly in the interior of New England. But is is never heard among people of education. Some use the verb to count upon in the same manner.


Awful, disagreeable, ugly. New England. In New England many people would call a disagreeable medicine, awful; an ugly woman, an awful looking woman; a perverse, ill-natured child, that disobeys his parents, would be said to behave awfully; &c. This word, however, is never used except in conversation, and is far from being so common in the sea-ports now, as it was some years ago. Every thing that creates surprise is awful with them; 'what an awful wind! awful hole! awful hill! awful mouth! awful nose!' "&c. A late English traveller has the following remarks upon this, among other words:

"I found in several instances that the country-people of Vermont and other New England states make use of many curious phrases and quaint expressions in their conversation, which are rendered more remarkable by a sort of nasal twang which they have in speaking.. This nasal twang, as Mr. Lambert observes, is ever common in New England, among the "country-people". In the sea-port towns also, people of all classes undoubtedly have a slower and more deliberate manner of speaking than the English; and, in some instances, they fall into a drawling pronunciaton. An American, however, is not likely to be sensible of this, unless he has been absent from his country for some time, and his ear has been familiarized to the pronounciation of Englishmen."


Be. This was formerly much used in New England instead of am and are, in phrases of this kind: Be you ready? Be you going? I be, &c. It was also common in New Enngalnd, as long ago as when our ancestor left that country; and is often used in the Bible. The use of be is not so common in New Engalnd at the present day, as it was some years ago. It is seldom heard now, except in the interior towns or among the vulgar.


Beaker. A tumbler. Not many years ago, this word was in common use in New England, and, I believe, in some other parts of the United States; but is is now seldom heard except among old people. It is in the dictionaries, but I never heard in England. Bailey(a lexographer)defines it simply "a drinking-cup".


Brash. Brittle. This term is used in some parts of New England, in speaking of wood, or timber, that is brittle. Ex. This piece of timber is very brash. I do not find brash in any of the dictionaries or glossaries.


Breachy. This is a common word among the farmers of New England, in speaking of oxen; &c. that are unruly, and apt to break through their enclosures. I do not find this vulgarism in any dictionary or glossary.


Brief. Prevalent, common, rife. This is much used in New England by the illiterate, in speaking of a rumour or report, as well as of epidemical diseases. But as a friend observes, "rife is oftener used than brief in the case of diseases." And I think, brief is not so common in the sea-port towns, as it is in the country. I have not found brief in any of the dictionaries except Bailey's;l in which it is defined, "common or rife;" and is not noted as either an anitiquated or a provincial word.


To Calculate. To expect; suppose; think. Ex. I calculate he will do such a thing; I calculate to leave town tomorrow. The use of this, and some other words, in the country towns of New England is thus ridiculed by a late English traveller: "The crops are progressing, says Nathan, though I calculate as how this is propitious".


Chirk, adj. "In a comfortable state, cheerful. New England. Mr. Webster says "By a similar change of the last consonant, chirk is used for chirp, to make a cheerful noise. This word is wholly lost except in New England. It is there used for comfortably, bravely, cheerful; as when one inquires about a sick person, it is said, he is chirk. It should be remarked that the adjective chirk is used only in the interior of New England; and even there, I think, only by the illiterate. It is never heard in the sea-port towns.


Church. This word in Johnson's third signification(that is, a place of worship) is generally used in New-England, to denote the places of worship of the Episcapalians, as they are here called. The places of worship of the other denominations of Christians are called Meeting-houses.


Clever. This word is in constant use throughout New England, in a sense very different from the English. The following remarks of Dr. Witherspoon will explanin the American and the English significations:

"It is frequently applied where there is an acknowledged simplicity or mediocrity of capacity."

It is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation, and applied to anything a man likes, without a settled meaning.


Cleverly. This is much used in some parts of New England instead of well or very well. In answer to the common salutation, How do you do, we often hear, I am cleverly. It is also applies to other things, as well as to health. and "means either adroitly or exactly; according to the case.


Clitchy. Clammy, sticky, glutinous. I have heard this word used in a few instances by old people in New England, but it is very rarely heard.


To Convene. This is used in some parts of New England in a very strange sense; that is, to be convenient., fit, or suitable. Ex. This road will convene the public; i.e. will be convenient for the public. The word, however, is used only by the illiterate.


Coppers. The common name in New England for British half-pence; which, until the coinage of our Cents, constituted the copper currency of this country. We used to say a copper's worth of any thing, as in England they would say a penny worth. The name is already nearly extinct.


Corn. This word, in New England signifies exclusively Indian corn, or maize, which has been the principal sort of corn cultivated in those parts of the country. Wheat, rye, and the other sorts of corn are generally called grain, and frequently English grain.


Corn-Stalks. The farmers of New England use this term, and more frequently the simple term, stalks, to denote the upper part of the stalks of Indian corn which is cut off while green, and then dried to make fodder for their cattle.


Creature. Pronounced creatar, is used in New England, in regard to men, in all the senses of the word. In the plural number, it is in very common use among farmers as a general term for horses, oxen, &c.


Curious. This word is always heard among the common farmers of New England in the sense of excellent, or peculiarly excellent; as in these expressions: "These are curious apples; this is curious cider,"&c. In the Diary of one of our country clergy men(written nearly a century ago) where this remark was made against one of the days of the month; "Curious hay-weather[early 1700s, jjb]

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Great Talent

I have always forwarded the message of family knowledge throughout my life. I plead with people to get to know their older relatives before it is too late to know them. Over the past year, I have lived up to this principle in the way of my long lost cousin Wendell "Sonny" Austin. Although up until last week I referred to him as my uncle(with him NEVER correcting me), it showed me that relativity didn't need to be exact, as long as our hearts connected.

Wendell was born April 29th. 1935 in Maine. We had(and still have) a great loving family so when news came of his death, I was awestruck. Here is a man who always joked about his age on one hand but told me he needed to get back to work on the other. I am still awestruck at his talent over the years and especially his patriotism. He worked with Wreaths Across America with his music, never faltering in his duty not only as an American, but as a proud American. Although his music career started as Wendell Austin and The Country Swings, his life was devoted to the work of his Lord and Savior, and is known universally for his songs "Bring Bowie Home" and "The Wall".

Thank you to my cousin Maria for this photo of Wendell, Jr. in his cap and gown along with other family members, including his Dad, Wendell, Sr. in the middle.

Here is a link to two of his earlier songs, "
Two Beers To Go" and "The Battle of Viet-Nam"


The parenthesis are quotes from various emails he had sent me over our time together.


"A group from Nashville, TN will sing my "BRING ME HOME" song at this event. Hopefully the 5 or 6 film producers, who will be shooting video for use on TV, will want to use my music video DVDs on their shows....or at a later date in a special."

He was invited to a June event in Hailey, Idaho to sing "BRING BOWIE HOME" (Bowie has been a POW in Afghanistan for 4 years) but was unable to attend because

".... I am booked on that day, June 22 here in Sherman, sing at THE MOVING WALL, a Nam War memorial that travels nationwide. On June 22 I will sing two is a busy program, speakers, etc...Last week I wrote a new song to sing at this event, titled, "THE MOVING WALL".

. He did however give "them two big boxes of my audio CDs and music video DVDs to make avl to those who attend the event....somewhere around 5,000 people."


Another mention of his patriotism....."I have designed an audio CD front cover scene of his memorial...the CD label offers his contact info...and mine. and a Rock production of my song titled "VETERANS OF AMERICA" ! sung by Harry King, a well known musician and record producer.

Harry (born and raised in Maine) marred a Texas gal, now living in Texas."


Wendell kindly gave me permission to forward the lyrics as I saw fit of his "The Moving Wall".



We are gathered here today to honor the names on THE MOVING WALL

fallen heroes died for us they answered our Country's call

they have touched the hearts of millions of people including us here today

let us raise our voices upward let is sing let us say

God bless you our fallen heroes you stood proud you stood tall

we'll always remember & honor you whose names are written on


We still love you and will always miss you

you died that we might be free no one can ever take your place

you will always live in our memories


Instrumental interlude.....


You were one in a million you made us happy you made us smile

we thank God that you were with us even for just a little while

the photos of you remind us in life you always had a ball

we are sad that your name is written on THE MOVING WALL

God bless you our fallen heroes you stood proud and you stood tall

we'll always remember all of you whose names are written on


We still love you and we will always miss you

you died that we might be free no one can ever take your place

you will always live in our memories

no one will ever take your place

you will always live in our memories.


Copyright 2013 Protected 2013

Written by BMI songwriter: Wendell Austin

Peace & Freedom Music

This is just a small portion of his life and I am so excited to have had the opportunity to know him, and to love him. One of the last emails I received from him was.....

"Jim, for lunch today here is what we had:

(my own recipe)....


Oyster/Corn Chowdah

1 small can of oysters

1 can of cream corn

1 can of evaporated milk

1/2 can of water *

1/2 can of 1 % milk *

1/4 stick of butter

salt and pepper to taste

first mash the oysters into small particles

add butter (or margarine)...add heat...

add rest of ingredients

slowly heat the pot until almost too warm to eat....

do not boil !!!!!

Remove from heat.

Let set for 1/2 hour


Wendell died January 14, 2014.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Be VERY Thankful........

.....that you didn't live in the day of unknown cures and quack medicine. Although I don't do much research anymore with regards to New England history, I read alot! Yes, I am one of the most boring people you will meet. I only read nonfiction, and nonfiction on New England subjects. I find this a great way to relax and learn at the same time. However, there are still times that I am stumped when a particular word pops up that has me taking precious reading time to find out what the heck it means. This is especially true when it comes to researching, or reading about, deaths, maladies and everyday colonial lives of us Yankees.

So what do I do so that others won't have the same problem? Below find a most complete list of maladies, sicknesses and health problems that plagued our ancestors for centuries. Now remember that not only were our forefathers oblivious to many dieseases and ailments, but their knowledge of how to treat these afflictions were even sparcer.

Many of these tewrms were still around at the beginning of the 20th century, such as impetigo(which this author had to be humiliated with as a young teen).

Ablepsy Generally meant blindness

Ague A fever most of the time

Anasarca Edema of substantive size

Aphonia Laryngitis

Aphtha What we now know as the thrush

Courtesy of

Apoplexy Partial or overall paralysis due to stroke

Asphycsia/Asphicsia Oxygen depletion for any reason

Atrophy Muscle wasting away or diminishing in size.

Bad Blood A sexual disease such as syphilis

Bilious fever Typhoid, malaria, hepatitis or elevated temperature

Biliousness Usually jaundice from the effects of liver disease

Black vomit Vomiting old black blood, usually due to ulcers due to ulcers

Bladder in throat Diphtheria

Blood poisoning Bacterial infection; sepsus

Bloody flux Blood in the stool

Brain fever Meningitis

Bright’s disease Chronic inflammatory disease of kidneys

Bule Boil, tumor or swelling

Cachexy Suffering from malnutrition

Cacogastric Just an upset stomach

Cacospysy Fast, slow or irregular pulse

Caduceus Epilepsy or "the falling sickness"

Canine madness Rabies

Canker A mouth ulcer or herpes

Catalepsy a seizure

Catarrhal/Catarrh Simply a nose and/or throat phlem from a cold or allergy

Cerebritis Lead poising mostly, or brain Inflammation

Chilblain Swelling of extremities caused by exposure to cold

Child bed fever Mother's infection following birth of a child

Chin cough Whooping cough

Chlorosis Anemia

Cholera Severe, contagious diarrhea

Cholera morbus Nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever generally related to appendicitis

Cholecystitus Inflammation of the gall bladder

Cholelithiasis Gall stones

Chorea Disease characterized by convulsions, contortions and dancing

Colic Abdominal pain and cramping

Consumption Tuberculosis

Corruption Infection

Coryza A simple cold

Costiveness Constipation

Cramp colic Appendicitis

Croup Laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat

Cynanche Throat diseases

Cystitis Bladder Inflammation

                                             Getting a rabies vaccination in the 19th century
                                                        Courtesy of

Day fever(Diary Fever) A fever lasting but one day

Debility Immobile while in bed

Decrepitude Old age feebleness

Delirium tremens Alcoholic hallucinations

Dentition Cutting teeth, usually as an infant

Diptheria Contagious disease of the throat

Distemper Usually an animal disease

Dropsy Swelling caused by kidney or heart disease

Dropsy of the Brain Encephalitis

Dry Bellyache Lead poisoning

Dyscrasy Anything abnormal about the body

Dysentery Colon inflammation with passage of mucous and/or blood

Dysorexy Loss of appetite

Dyspepsia Indigestion, heartburn or any sign of a heart attack

Dysury Difficulty urinating

Eclampsy Usually symptoms of epilepsy or labor convulsions

Edema of lungs Congestive heart failure, a form of dropsy

Encephalitis Sleeping sickness because of brain inflammation

Enterocolitis Intestinal inflammation

Enteritis Bowel inflammation

Epitaxis A simple nose bleed

Extravasted blood Blood vessel rupture

Falling sickness Epilepsy

Fatty Liver Cirrhosis of the liver

Flux Excessive diarrhea or Hemorrhaging

Flux of "humour" – Circulatory problems

French pox Syphilis

Gathering Puss accumulation

                                                                                                     Courtesy of


Glandular fever The kissing disease, mononucleosis

Great pox Syphilis

Green fever / sickness Anemia

Grippe/grip Influenza-like symptoms

Grocer’s itch Skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour barrels

Heart sickness Deprivation of salt in the body

Hectical complaint A recurring fever

Hematemesis Vomiting blood

Hematuria Bloody urine

Hemiplegy Paralysis on just one side of the body

Horrors Delirium tremors or actions

Hydrocephalus Water on the brain

Hydrothroax Dropsy in the chest

Hypertrophic Organ enlargement such as the liver or heart

                                                  courtesy of

Female Hysteria - Usually hallucinations caused by prolonged fever or mental illness

Impetigo Contagious skin disease characterized by pustules

Inanition Result of not eating enough

Infantile paralysis Polio

Intestinal colic Abdominal pain due to an improper diet

King’s evil Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands

Kruchhusten Otherwise known as the whooping cough

Lagrippe Influenza

Lockjaw Tetanus affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. Untreated, it was and is fatal

Long sickness Tuberculosis

Lues disease Syphilis

Lues venera Venereal disease

Lumbago Back pain

Lung fever Pneumonia

Lung sickness Tuberculosis

Lying in When a child is expected to be born

Membranous Croup Diphtheria

Miasma Poisonous vapors thought to infect the air

Milk(Undulant) fever/Brucellosis Disease from drinking contaminated milk

Milk leg Post partum thrombophlebitis

Milk sickness Disease from milk of cattle that had eaten poisonous grass

Mormal Gangrene

Morphew Blisters on the body from scurvy

Myelitis Inflammation of the spine

Myocarditis Inflammation of the muscles of the heart

Nephrosis A degenerative kidney

Nepritis Kidney inflammation

                                       A depiction of conditions at Bellevue Hospital in the 19th century

Nervous prostration Extreme and paralyzing exhaustion

Neuralgia in the Head Headache or head discomfort

Nostalgia Homesick

Palsy Paralysis or uncontrolled movement of muscles. Commonly found on death certificates.

Paroxysm Convulsions

Pemphigus Skin disease of watery blisters

Pericarditis Heart inflammation

Peripneumonia Lung inflammation

Peritonotis Abdominal inflammation

Petechial Fever Fever with spotting of the skin

Puerperal exhaustion Death due to child birth

Phthiriasis Lice infestation

Phthisis Chronic wasting away or tuberculosis

Pleurisy Breathing pain in the chest

                                               Courtesy of
Podagra Gout

Pott’s disease Tuberculosis of the spine

Puerperal exhaustion Death due to childbirth

Puerperal fever Elevated temperature after giving birth to an infant

Puking fever Milk sickness

Putrid fever Diphtheria.

Quinsy Tonsillitis.

Rickets Disease of skeletal system

Rose cold Hay fever or allergies

Sanguineous crust A scab

Sciatica Rheumatism of the hips

Scirrhus Cancerous tumors

Scotomy Dizziness, nausea and dimness of sight

Scrivener’s palsy Writer’s cramp

Screws Rheumatism

Scrumpox Skin disease, impetigo

Scurvy Lack of vitamin C

Septicemia Blood poisoning

Shakes Delirium tremens

Ship fever Typhus

Siriasis Brain inflammation due to overexposure of the sun

Sloes Milk sickness

Small pox Contagious disease with fever and blisters

Softening of brain Result of stroke or hemorrhage in the brain

Sore throat distemper Diphtheria or quinsy

Spanish influenza Epidemic influenza

Stomatitis Inflammation of the mouth

Strangery A rupture

Sudor anglicus Sweating sickness

Summer complaint Infant diarrhea from drinking spoiled

Toxemia of pregnancy Eclampsia

Trench mouth Painful ulcers found on the gum line, caused by poor nutrition, hygiene

Tussis convulsiva Whooping cough

Variola Smallpox

Venesection Bleeding

Water on brain Enlarged head

Winter fever Pneumonia

Womb fever Uterus infection.

Worm fit Convulsions commonly with teething, worms, elevated temperature or diarrhea

Courtesy of