To restore from stroke of lightning

The first photograph taken of lightning in 1882 by William Jennings, from the collections of   The Franklin Institute

The first photograph taken of lightning in 1882 by William Jennings, from the collections of The Franklin Institute

Found in:
The Home Cook Book
Toronto, 1877

TO RESTORE FROM STROKE OF LIGHTNING. - Shower with cold water for two hours; if the patient does not show signs of life, put salt in the water, and continue to shower an hour longer.

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Cookbooks used to not only be a resource for learning how to prepare food, but would also contain medicinal recipes and household tips. I’ve been wanting to explore other facets of cookbooks, so to start with, I chose my favourite remedy, To Restore from Stroke of Lightning. This “cure” is my favourite because it makes me chuckle every single time, no matter how many times I read it.

This helpful tip is found in the Medicinal Receipts chapter in The Home Cookbook, published in 1877. This cookbook was "Compiled by recipes contributed by ladies of Toronto and other cities and towns: Published for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children", and was Canada's first fund-raising community cookbook. It became the best selling Canadian cookbook in the 19th-century, selling over 100, 000 copies by 1885. Most of the recipes & suggestions bear the name of its contributor, but somehow this suggestion remains unclaimed.

This would have been a very short blog post, because I don't have much else to say about this technique for reviving someone after being hit by lightning other than "don't try this at home" and to wonder how much adding salt to the water would improve the situation. The blog post would end here, except that I had this vague thought:

Don't I have an ancestor who was killed by a lightning strike?

It turns out that I do! I did a little bit of digging and would like to introduce you to my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, John Yake Sr.

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Since John Yake Sr. died in the year 1840, I don't have any photographs of him to show you, but I can show you this photograph of his last home on Tenth Line near Main Street in Stouffville, Ontario. It was in this home that he may or may not have been hit by lightning.

The story of his death varies according to the account. In all cases, John was with his fifteenth & youngest child, Anna, who was about 5 years old at the time. John and Anna may have been walking in a field when the lightning hit. Some stories specify that they were walking in a corn field. John also may have been comforting Anna on his knee in their home, potentially in the second room on their house's main floor, and Anna may have been knocked under a bed by the lightning. In all the stories, Anna survives the lightning strike and her father was killed.

This would have been the end of this blog post, but...

...then I had a closer look at his fifteen children, born between 1808 and 1835. The first extraordinary fact is that all fifteen children made it to adulthood! The second slightly unsettling fact is that four of the fifteen (including my Great-Great-Great Grandfather John Yake Jr.) married members of the Kester family. Then I had a closer look at the years of their births and deaths. Rachel Yake, #10, was the sibling who passed away at the youngest age: 58 years old, which is remarkable for that time period. Jacob (#1) and Catherine (#14) lived to be 94 and 90 years old. The second-born Adam Yake lived to be 105, his brother David (#3) lived until he was 107 and amazingly the thirteenth child, Elizabeth Yake, lived to see her 110th birthday.

This blog post could have ended on this impressive note, but I continued to research...

...and found out that John Yake Sr. and his son Hiram Yake were Innkeepers. John Yake Sr. operated a hotel next to his home on the southeast corner of Main Street and Tenth Line in Stouffville. After his death, his son Hiram took over the enterprise. Hiram was a go-getter, let's just say. He was a tanner by trade, a farmer, a landlord, an innkeeper and also owned a shoemaking shop.

In 1854, Hiram purchased the building across the street on the southwest corner of Main Street and Tenth Line and turned that building into the second Yake Hotel. His father's hotel building was turned into a tinsmith's shop on the main floor with Hiram Yake's shoemaking shop on the second floor, where he employed twelve men to cobble shoes from the leather treated at his tannery. After the tinsmith & shoemaking shops, the first Yake hotel building housed general & dry goods stores and was used for storage before it was demolished in 1938.

Here we have an undated photograph of the second Yake Hotel, along with a screen capture from Google maps of the same building today. It looks like the building is used as an apartment building these days.

I found some rose-coloured stories about Hiram Yake nestled in the family histories. These Yake histories recount that Hiram went by the nickname Old King Barney and that he claimed that everything he touched turned to gold. Hiram is reputed to not have smoked or drank himself, and only sold these vices to others as a part of his livelihood. The words 'determined', 'naturally generous' and 'ruled the roost' are used to describe him. It is also claimed that Hiram always had a second dinner table ready in his home to feed anyone who was hungry, and that he always gave $20 in church collections.

With two hotels and plenty of family living nearby, it's not a surprise that the corner of Main Street and Tenth Line in Stouffville became known as Yake's Corners. But it also had another nickname: Brimstone Point.

In 1895, the Stouffville Free Press ran an article about the good ol' days earlier in the nineteenth century: "Yake's corner became known by the somewhat suggestive, yet euphonious name of Brimstone Point. Cock-fighting and horse-racing were familiar village sports. It was not unusual to close the week with a 'sport' and settle the accounts at the taverns. The Justice of the Peace generally gave a final settlement by disposing of several cases in his 'court' on Monday morning."

This article doesn't articulate that it was specifically the Yake family who ran the cock fights, horse races and the gambling that went along with it. We could assume that it might have been other unsavoury residents of Yake's Corners/Brimstone Point who were responsible. Or it could have been another business opportunity seized by Hiram to find his gold at the end of the rainbow. If you know the answer, I'd be curious to find out!

The hotel business was booming until the 1870s, when the hotel closed and Hiram's son Calvin turned the hotel building into a family home. In total, the Yake hotel building was in the family for 114 years before it moved on to other hands.

This blog post could have also ended here...

...but I thought there was a loose end that needed some tidying up. What happened to 5 year old Anna Yake, who was with her father when he was killed by lightning?

Looking into Anna Yake's life was complicated by the fact that there's a Japanese skincare, make-up and perfume line called ANNAYAKE. Anna seems to have gone by Annie at least part of the time, and she married Abraham Lehman who is described as being a Labourer, Carpenter and a Mennonite German Butcher in directories and census records.

Annie and Abraham lived in Altona, Ontario, which is very close to Yake's Corners and they had 12 children together. Alice and Charles passed away at 4 and 1 years old, and twins were stillborn. Willis Lehman never married & lived to be 93 years old, but his 7 brothers and sisters who married produced 31 grandchildren for Anna and Abraham.

In 1877, the family moved north to Manitoulin Island on Lake Superior. In the 1881 census, Abraham is listed as a Baptist Farmer of American Dutch origin, and all 8 children are living with them at that time, from the ages of 4 to 24. Abraham died in 1890 when he was 57 years old. A year later, Annie, her 23 year old son Willis, and her two youngest children Jesse and Nancy are living together on the family farm. Anna passed away a few week's shy of her 74th birthday in 1909 and she is buried with her husband in Mindemoya, Ontario on Manitoulin Island.

I do believe that this blog post has reached its end...

...but if you are a distant Yake relative and have anything you'd like to add, please comment below!

Read the Cookbook: