Category Archives: Bennett family

Wyckoff-Bennett Wafers

Food will always be a mainstay of social media posts. Now, while we’re home isolating to stop the spread of Covid-19, it seems recipe sharing is even more popular (just behind those polls asking for your favorite record album covers. . .). I am not a chef, but I do love to binge on cooking shows. And I am intrigued by the longevity of some dishes: I estimate my family has been making a certain soup for the holidays since about 1910, and for who knows how many years before that back in Italy. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the old recipes passed down by the descendants of Brooklyn’s 17th-century settlers.

One I’ve long fantasized of tasting is that for Colonial Dutch wafers described by Gertrude Ryder Bennett (1901-1982). The longtime caretaker of her historic birthplace, the 1766 Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead (1669 East 22nd Street), Gertrude was a saver of everything. Among her treasures was a heavy iron with thirty-one-inch handles. Its weight suggests a crane would have held it over the fire. One of its discs bears the initials of Gertrude’s great-great-grandfather, Wynant Bennett (1740-1815). The other has the date 1780, commemorating some long-forgotten family event. A teaspoonful of batter was placed on one disc, the other disc clamped down, and the whole turned over once while cooking. The paper-thin wafers–embossed with “WB” and “1780” could be rolled before they cooled and crisped, or served flat.

Rubbing of Gertrude Ryder Bennett’s wafer iron published in Albert H. Sonn, Early American Wrought Iron (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1928), vol. 3, plate 307.

Unlike everyday waffles, wafers were a treat served on holidays and special occasions. Gertrude’s mother Nellie May made them often, but when she died in 1951, the recipe was presumed lost. Gertrude despaired of ever again savoring their delightful, “crisp, slightly browned sugar and nutmeg flavor.” As she describes in Living in a Landmark (1980), after scouring libraries and questioning fellow descendants of the Dutch–whose “faces brightened at the thought of the wafers they had enjoyed in their youth,” but who had no recipes–Gertrude happened upon an old book in her mother’s handwriting. It contained two recipes for the wafers that varied only slightly. After much experimentation with their vague measurements, and in consultation with dietitian friends, Gertrude hit upon the following method that recreates the same taste and texture of her mother’s wafers. She used a more manageable Norwegian krumkake iron to cook them, but I suppose an Italian pizzelle iron might work, too.


Cream together ½ C[up] butter (no substitutes) and 1 C[up] sugar. Then add 3 egg yolks, beaten. Add 1 ½ C[up] flour plus 6 T[ablespoons] flour, ¼ t[easpoon] salt, and ½ t[easpoon] nutmeg. Add 3 egg whites, beaten but not too stiff. Place one spoonful at a time in the center of the cooking disc and close handles. Hold over a gas burner for a few seconds, turning once, until both sides are slightly browned.

If you’re game to give them a try, please let me know if these wafers are as mouthwatering as I imagine. Or, better yet, send me some!


The Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead as it appeared around 1924. Image from Frederick Van Wyck, Keskachauge, or The First White Settlement on Long Island (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924).

Copyright © 2020 by Joseph Ditta (



Filed under Bennett family, Gertrude Ryder Bennett, Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead

Gravesend Characters Past: Ebenezer Waters, D.V.S. (1834-1908)

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, here is a profile of Gravesend veterinarian Ebenezer Waters transcribed from Peter Ross, A History of Long Island From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, vol. 3 (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1902), 324-325:


Ebenezer Waters (1834-1908)

Ebenezer Waters is a veteran veterinarian of Brooklyn and is one of the native residents of Long Island, his birth having occurred in Gravesend, Kings county, on the 2d of September, 1834. His parents were Dr. Robert and Doellinor (Lancaster) Waters, natives of London, England. The father, who was a veterinary surgeon of his native country, came to America in 1828, located at Flatlands, where he remained for two years. In 1830 he removed to Gravesend and twenty years later to New Utrecht, where he died in 1862, at the age of fifty-six years. His widow died in 1891, at the age of eighty-four years, and her mother was ninety-eight years and eleven months old at the time of her demise. In their family were nine children.

The father owned a farm of sixty acres, on what is known as Dyker Heights, and there his sons as young men were employed, but the Doctor’s time was chiefly given to assisting his father in the practice of veterinary surgery. He became his successor in business and for some time was the only veterinarian between Fort Hamilton and Jamaica. In 1871 he purchased a stable at No. 113 Ashland Place, where he has since conducted his veterinary hospital.

In 1855 Dr. Waters was united in marriage to Miss Gertrude Van Pelt of New Utrecht. By this union there were two children, who died in infancy, and the mother died in 1861. In 1864 the Doctor wedded Miss Jane Maria Van Sicklin [sic], of Coney Island, who died in 1869. They had three children, the two eldest being twins, one of whom died at the age of eight and the other at fourteen months. The surviving child is Roberta L. The Doctor was married a third time, in 1871, when Miss Mary Elizabeth Bennett, of New Utrecht, became his wife. She was a descendant of an old Long Island family, and died in September, 1896. The Doctor holds membership relations with Fortitude Lodge No. 19, F. & A. M. [Free & Accepted Masons]; Nassau Chapter, No. 109, R. A. M. [Royal Arch Masons]; and Clinton Commandery, No. 14, K. T. [Knights Templar]. He was formerly a member of the Prospect Driving Club and the Atlantic Yacht Club. In politics he has always been a stanch [sic] supporter of Democracy.

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (

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The Mud-Gutter Band

Post-1907 real photo postcard identified on back as “Ed Clark’s Band, Brooklyn, NY / X is Ed.” (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

Occasionally a small group of street musicians would find our community. On impressive brass horns which could be heard a long way off they played rollicking numbers, filling the children with excitement. Their serious, energetic approach and the loudness of their music on the quiet lanes amused the farmers who, to please their offspring, sent coins for these impromptu concerts, but among themselves, called the invaders, “The Mud-Gutter Band.” — Gertrude Ryder Bennett, Living in a Landmark (Francestown, New Hampshire: Marshall Jones Company, 1980), 65.

Copyright © 2014 by Joseph Ditta (


Filed under Bennett family, Gertrude Ryder Bennett, Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead

Dandelion Wine

Charles W. Bauhan (1861-1938), sketch of a dandelion gatherer, April 25, 1911. (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

Charles W. Bauhan (1861-1938), sketch of a dandelion gatherer, April 25, 1911. (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

In the early years of the twentieth century, after the Bennett family sold the bulk of the farmland surrounding their Gravesend homestead — the Wyckoff-Bennett House at 1669 East 22nd Street — the soil, no longer planted to crops, erupted in wildflowers. “The land, waiting to be developed, turned into meadows where as a child I gathered wild strawberries. Elderberries ripened for jelly, blackberries for pies.” So recalled Gertrude Ryder Bennett (1901-1982) in her memoir, Living in a Landmark (Francestown, New Hampshire: Marshall Jones Company, 1980). “In early spring each year, colorful dandelion gatherers came from the city with knives and worked in the meadows until almost sunset, filling huge bags and taking them away.” Gertrude’s mother, the poet Nellie May Bennett (1873-1951), penned a sonnet inspired by one of these women:


A hungry hawk could be no more intent
Than she with yellow kerchief, crimson shawl
And purple apron. Shabby, shapeless, bent
Above the field with eager blade, the call
Of mating robins fails to flush her seamed
And sallow cheek. Could she have been that gay
And blushing, dark eyed flower girl who dreamed
Of love and life in newer lands one day
In Italy? . . . With bold dexterity
She cuts the tender weeds, a silent thing
That moves from patch to patch inquiringly.
A leaf of autumn in a field of spring.
Upon her head she lifts her bulging load
And stately, proudly takes the dusty road.

Charles W. Bauhan (1861-1938), Dandelion gathering, April 25, 1911. (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

Charles W. Bauhan (1861-1938), Dandelion gathering, April 25, 1911. (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

Copyright © 2014 by Joseph Ditta (

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Filed under Bennett family, buildings, Charles William Bauhan, Gertrude Ryder Bennett, Gravesend artists, Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead