A Beekman family cookbook

Recipes for Indian pudding, suet pudding, and carrot pudding from the Beekman cookbook.

A surprising find in my box of Steward family papers is a combination cookbook–book of home remedies. It is a surprise not as a document – the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections at NEHGS holds many such hybrids – but as a lone example of something from my paternal grandmother’s family in a collection of Steward, White, and Beeckman papers.

To be specific, the cookbook section’s front end paper reads The Misses Beekman. My grandmother was named for her maternal great-great-grandmother, Anne Beekman (1784–1842), who married John Finlay of Montreal in 1809, and the Misses Beekman were Mrs. Finlay’s unmarried sisters, Aletta Beekman (1787–1851) and Cornelia Beekman (1790–1826).[1]

A muffin recipe, and directions for making corn soup and boiling rice.

When the handwriting changes, another recipe is attributed to “Mrs. James”: Anne, Aletta, and Cornelia’s older sister, Sarah Beekman (1782–1857), who was married to Richard James 1810–23. I will hazard a guess at the second compiler: my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lawrance Fowler (1824–1865), wife of John Beekman Finlay 1842–65, who would have addressed her husband’s aunt, at least as a young bride, as “Mrs. James.” Her handwriting, by the way, is eminently legible with its spiky flow.

Turning the volume over, one finds New-York November 15th 1819/Broadway on the end paper; on the facing page there are obscure references to dates in 1823 and 1825, all during the lifetime of Cornelia Beekman. The remedies range from “Syrup for Coughs and Spitting of Blood” to “Cure for Worms”; the book includes an “Antidote against Poison”:

A Decent spoonful of made mustard, mixed in a Tumbler of Warm Water, and drank immediately it acts as an instantaneous Emetic.

Elizabeth Lawrance Finlay, if hers is the second hand, is partial to recipes for “Eau de Cologne” and “Tincture of Roses”:

Take the leaves of the common rose plant[;] place them, without pressing them, in a bottle[.] [Pour] some good spirits of wine upon them, close the bottle, & let it stand until it is required for use. This tincture will keep for years, & yield a perfume little inferior to [attar] of roses; a few drops of it will impregnate the atmosphere of a room with a delicious odour. [Common] vinegar is greatly improved by a very small quantity being added to it.

Continued here.


Aletta Beekman clipping[1] Pasted into the cookbook facing the first recipes, for pea soup and calves’ head stew, is a clipping on preserving tomatoes from the Genesee Farmer of 1848, signed with the initials A.B.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

4 thoughts on “A Beekman family cookbook

  1. I have nothing going back this far, but in the 1980s my father’s family put together a cookbook in honor of my great grandmother. I never knew her, as she died in 1945, the year after I was born. She was much beloved, and I’d heard a great deal about her from my father. Many family members contributed recipes that came down in the family from her, or that were personal favorites. I didn’t live in the area at the time, but my father contributed a cookie recipe he’d begged my mother to get from me. One of the best parts was that the compilers had solicited “Grandma McGrew'” sayings. This taught me a lot about this great grandma I’d never known, including the source of many sayings my parents used long after the date of the cookbook. There were also stories about her, and about how the recipes had come down in the family. Many of them were old-time recipes. Also many were strong on Cool-Whip and Jello. My grandmother had also died before my birth, from eating a coconut cake she knew she was allergic to, and THAT recipe was included too, with the story, and the warning.

    1. Re your comment `My grandmother was named for her maternal great-great-grandmother, Anne Beekman (1784–1842), who married John Finlay of Montreal in 1809, and the Misses Beekman were Mrs. Finlay’s unmarried sisters, Aletta Beekman (1787–1851) and Cornelia Beekman (1790–1826).[1]“

      I have a painting of Ann Beekman and can send you a photo of it, I visited her family grave in Poughkeepsie NY where Ann and a lot of her family are buried looking out over the Hudson


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