"The tattered, starving, and shoeless Americans never gave up"

Trenton, Princeton, Philadelphia, New York, Valley Forge

How Can Tea Cause Such A Stir?

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Colonial Articles, Historical Articles | 7 comments

During the French and Indian War (1756-1763) and Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763-1766), England’s national debt skyrocketed—in part, from the high cost of supplying its military to the American colonies to fight these two wars. After these wars ended, England recognized a need for the continued defense of its colony and kept an army on American soil.

Red-coated British soldiers

Red-coated British soldiers


Faced with paying for an astronomical national debt as well as the cost of keeping an army in America, Parliament needed to raise income. Because the British government believed the colonists should shoulder a considerable amount of the cost of their defense, Parliament created revenue-raising taxes for the American colonies. Lacking representation, the American colonists had no say in the taxes that Britain forced on them.


In June 1767, the British imposed the Townshend Revenue Acts on the colonies. These Acts imposed taxes for necessities such as glass, lead (used in bullet-making), paper, and tea. Unfortunately, the colonies were experiencing economic hardships as a result of the two recent wars, and these new taxes did not sit well with the Americans.


Provoked colonists began purchasing imported tea from sources other than England’s East India Company. The ripple effect was that East India Company’s tea sales plummeted, and the company asked the British government for help.

Loose black tea

Loose black tea


The British government’s response was the establishment of the Tea Act of 1773.  This Act did not raise taxes on the colonists, but gave the East India Company a monopoly to trade tea in the American colonies and prevented other tea importers from doing business in the colonies. It also allowed East India Company agents to sell directly to the American colonies which meant that tea sales bypassed Colonial merchants and caused them severe financial distress.


The colonists saw this Act as yet another means of England trying to control the American colonies. The result was that colonists refused to unload tea from East India Company ships in the harbors of New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.


Colonists in Boston took things one step further. On December 16, 1773, Patriots boarded the East India Company’s ships anchored in Boston Harbor and threw thousands of pounds of tea—costing about $1,000,000 in today’s money—into the water.  We know this action as “The Boston Tea Party.”


Outraged at The Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774 which were specifically designed to punish the citizens of Massachusetts for their role in ruining the tea in Boston Harbor. Incensed, the Americans renamed these “The Intolerable Acts.” These Intolerable Coercive Acts removed Massachusetts’ self-governing rights, prompting the start of a colony-wide revolt that began the American Revolutionary War.

Men of all ages fought for their American independence

Men of all ages fought for their American independence


After refreshing my memory with the role tea played in our country’s history, I’ll never again be able to enjoy this beverage without acknowledging its part in my American citizenship. What about you?




Cynthia Howerter is a descendant of Colonel John Kelly, an American Patriot. Kelly fought in a Pennsylvania militia unit at the 1776 and 1777 Battles of Trenton and the 1777 Battle of Princeton. Promoted from Major to Colonel after the Princeton battle, Kelly returned home to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania where he led a Militia in the defense of Pennsylvania’s frontier.

Photographs ©Cynthia Howerter 


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My Favorite Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookie Recipe

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Colonial Articles, Historical Articles | 4 comments


I recently attended a Christmas tea party at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg. One of the dining room decorations used gingerbread men, and these sweet little cookies reminded me of the gingerbread men that I’ve made with my son and daughter ever since they were toddlers. I’d love to share my recipe with you!



Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup solid shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup molasses (I use either Grandma’s or Brer Rabbit mild flavor molasses)

Combine flour, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream shortening, sugar, and egg until fluffy. Add molasses; beat well. Stir in half of flour mixture, mixing until smooth. Add remainder of flour mixture, mixing with wooden spoon or hands until dough is all one color. Shape into two balls, wrap each in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Remove one package of dough from the refrigerator. Allow dough to stand until the dough is easy to work with – about 10 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out dough about 1/4-inch thick. Use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out the men. Place on prepared cookie sheets about 2-inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown. Cool on a wire rack.

After gingerbread men have cooled completely, ice and decorate. You can use either buttercream or royal icing and cinnamon candies, raisins, gumdrops, and thin licorice for edible decorations.


A wall shelf with gingerbread men at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg

Photographs ©Cynthia Howerter

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern is an historic tavern located in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Thanksgiving Lessons from My Grandparents’ Farm

Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Historical Articles, My Grandparents' Farm | 5 comments

115824008Through the lace curtains at my kitchen window, I watch the first snowflakes—as big as goose feathers—fall from the gray November sky. Scents of cinnamon and pumpkin waft through the room when I open the oven, and when my eyes catch sight of the oil lamp on the cherry farmhouse table, my thoughts follow the curving lane to the old farmhouse where Alice and Ed, my maternal grandparents, raised their children during the Great Depression.


Although my parents moved hundreds of miles away after their marriage, my mother’s thoughts frequently traveled to her childhood home. She loved nothing better than to gather my siblings and me next to her as she told us about her childhood on the farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania—stories I treasured and passed on to my own little ones.


Mother spoke of a life filled with an abundance of indoor and outdoor chores and of nearby relatives who frequently stopped by on Sunday afternoons to visit.


When harsh winds rattled the shuttered windows and blew swirling snow across the barren fields, it was the kitchen that was the center of Mother’s family’s life, mostly because it was the only room in the house that was heated. Family and guests gathered there, the old single-pane windows covered with condensation as much from conversation as from the heat of the wood burning cook stove where a chicken roasted in the oven.


The old farmhouse, which originally belonged to Ed’s parents, had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat. Bathtubs, toilets, and even a kitchen sink were non-existent. Things weren’t any better outside. Three Belgian work horses—Fred, Maude, and Prince—pulled the plow and heavy wagons. Faith and a person’s own strength and determination kept the farm going when the economy and adverse weather interfered. Although parents and children worked hard from early morning to evening, my mother’s stories were never ones of complaining.


The day before Thanksgiving, Grandma Alice bundled up against the raw wind, then killed and dressed well-fed turkeys for customers from town who had given their orders weeks in advance. Once the poultry orders were filled, Alice killed the turkey she would cook for her own family. After Grandpa Ed finished the outdoor chores, he opened the old dovetailed chest in the guest bedroom and pulled out his hunting clothes. After dinner, he sharpened his knife on a stone and cleaned his gun. The days immediately after Thanksgiving were hunting days and Ed needed to hunt game to help supplement his family’s food supply.


The Great Depression was in full force and money was scarce for my mother’s family. Mother often said that while she and her siblings were growing up, they never realized how primitively they lived on the farm. A person can’t miss what they don’t know, she explained.


Something inside my heart was soothed when Mother spoke of the contentment that was felt at the end of each day when the family gathered at the dinner table and her father thanked the Lord for His generous provisions. Grandpa Ed and Grandma Alice made it clear to their children that, but for the Lord’s benevolence, their harvests would be small and their needs large.



My grandparents have long since gone to be with the Lord, and their farm has changed hands several times since they sold it. But my mother’s stories taught me that when a family realizes that they’re dependent upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs—as well as their blessings—every day is thanksgiving day.


May your Thanksgiving Day be joyous, may you be surrounded by your loved ones, and may you give thanks and praise to the One who provides for your every need.


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