It was the week before school and a stiff rain fell at my grandparents’ farmhouse. My brother, sister and I were playing on the front porch and would occasionally look out the window as the grounds became saturated. As we watched, a sparrow flew down from the spruce tree that adorned the front yard. Her tiny feathers looked as though a coat had been made for her and as she hopped about, she would grab a worm or two that were slithering in the wet grass and then fly back to the tree. Other than the sparrow, wildlife was sparse as the wet tended to keep most animals in the protection of the thicket or heavy brush.
Back in the kitchen, my grandmother was sifting flour into a large clay mixing bowl. I could see her working out of the corner of my eye and decided to join her. Most of the time she would let me help, and so I knew I would be welcomed while she baked.
“Hi Michael,” she said. “Go wash your hands and then you can help me with this tea bread.” She continued to forage through cabinets looking for baking soda. When I came back from the mud sink, I saw my grandfather was now in the kitchen. When I saw him, he slapped his hands together with a smile and said, “It’s cold and rainy outside, young man.” I laughed at him as I went over to my grandmother. I watched him all the while as he proceeded to fill a lime green tea kettle with water, then watched as he set the burner on the stove to high and rested the kettle on the coiled burner. “I am making some tea. Do you guys want a cup?” he asked as he reached for the mugs in the cabinet. I nodded my head in agreement, but my grandmother shook her head with an emphatic gesture of “no.” My grandfather laughed under his breath as my grandmother looked at me and smiled and soon after, she began a story.
William Donbridge, known only by name, was the founder of Donbridge, but more importantly, he was the founder of the town only after his death. For you see, he never really had the chance to name Donbridge itself as he perished before any of the folks of the town truly met him or knew him. It was known that he was an English lord by right and the land that Donbridge was founded upon was gifted to William by the King of England when he first arrived in the New World. It was upon his death that the land was later populated by passersby and colonists and they were only sent to the area to develop the lands. In any case, the naming of the town came some years after William passed, nearly 75 years later to be exact, and by that time, the English were in full control of the 13 colonies.
What many of the people of the town never knew of their English lord was the man was a Knight Templar. He was a protectorate of the church, but he was also a protectorate of the people. He was in the New World not just to lend his loyalty to the king, but also to seek out a new start for his brothers and sisters and establish a world free of the governments and empires that had ruled them all for hundreds of years before the Templars’ time and before the Romans.
For those who had researched the history of William Donbridge, some claimed the man never died and that he had changed his identity time and time again and with these changes, help had come in the form which none would ever expect.
As May arrived in 1773, the British government put into place a tax upon tea which most people could not afford. For the people of Donbridge, tea was an important staple which was widely sought after in Sharp’s General Store. Now as it was, when the tea tax went into place, the town was fervently calling upon Mrs. Sharp to make sure she would still be able to afford the tea, let alone find any.
Months passed and Mrs. Sharp had tirelessly searched the valley and north states and to no avail. She was unable to find tea for the Town of Donbridge. Moreover, the neighboring towns of Halls Mills and Sleepy Hollow were also dry of tea. As bleak as the matter seemed, a strange occurrence happened some months later that, to this day, baffled some and remained as not only an event but a turning point in history.
It was mid-December and a group of frustrated northerners had finally had it with the king of England. Dressed in Native American attire, they boarded ships in Boston Harbor and dumped several shipments of tea into the harbor, or so it was thought.
The next morning, The Sonnet, Donbridge’s only newspaper, printed the story of the Boston Tea Party and the notions of revolution seemed to ring out across the land and the quiet people of Donbridge watched on in surprise. Unknown to the people of Donbridge, their part of the largest event in modern history was about to surprise them. Every farmer in Donbridge awoke to their barns loaded with chests of tea covered in a white film of salt. In their midst, a note was pinned to one of the chests and upon it the words, “Free to the people Regards WD.”
When my grandmother finished her tale, the tea kettle began to sing. My grandfather got up from his chair and removed it from the burner and began to pour hot water into my mug and his mug. He then went to the back room and opened a small wooden chest that appeared to have a white film upon its top. From inside the box, he pulled a small tin labeled “Earl Grey.”
“You sure you don’t want any tea, Jules?” my grandfather asked. “I said no, Raymond. Besides, you know how much tea really costs people in the long run. I know that tea there cost a king a fortune, and I frankly do not like salt in my tea,” my grandmother said as she winked at me and then placed her tea bread in the oven, grinning all the while.
Grandma’s Tea Bread
1 1/2 cups cranberries
1 1/2 cups honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan. Mix cranberries, honey, sea salt, boiling water and shortening together and let cool, then mix in egg. Next, add all other ingredients and stir well with a mixing spoon. Finally, pour the contents into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes and then serve. Bread can be frozen for later use.