FORTY FORT — The large brass skeleton key hanging from a cord around Nancy Lychos’ neck could have passed as a fashionable statement pendant against her cherry red sweater.
“It’s the original key to the door to the original lock,” said Lychos, protectively placing her hand over the large, tarnished key to the Forty Fort Meeting House on Sunday.
Lychos, president of the Forty Fort Meeting House Preservation Committee, greeted visitors and offered tours of the Meeting House, a structure that was built in 1807.
“What’s so special about the Forty Fort Meeting House is that what you see is basically what was here in 1807, with very little exceptions,” she said.
Built in 1807 by Congregationalists/Presbyterians and Methodists, who maintained separate services, the church was the first completed church in the area, said Lychos. The second church, The Old Ship Zion, was under construction at the time and opened its doors on Public Square in 1812.
The population of the valley from the borders of Wyoming to mid-Edwardsville was about 400 to 500 people, said Lychos.
“These were the only two formal buildings at that time, but that’s not to say people weren’t worshiping on a regular basis. Anyone with a large barn or cabin large to assemble a group could hold services.”
By the early 1840s, members of the congregation became tired of sharing space at the Meeting House and went their separate ways, building their own churches.
The Forty Fort Meeting House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is on the grounds of the Forty Fort Cemetery.
Among the artifacts on display at the Meeting House is a receipt for payment of the final work completed by Master Carpenter Gideon Underwood. The receipt is dated June 27, 1808 in the amount of $35.
Underwood and the members of the Meeting House’s original building committee — Lazarus Dennison, Luke Swetland, Elijah Shoemaker Jr., Daniel Hoyt and Benjamin Dorrance — are buried in the Forty Fort Cemetery.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that you can manage to keep this a historical site for your residents,” said Bob Morrissette, 66, of Soddy Daisy, Tenn. Morrissette and his brother Mike Morrissette, 64, of Dunning Loring, Va., were visiting their cousin Richard Mitarnowski, 67, of Forty Fort, over the weekend.
The three men enjoyed the sunny day walking along the dike and touring the cemetery and Meeting House. “We’re always looking for a piece of history, and there are plenty of them here in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Mike Morrissette.
The Meeting House continues to be used as a setting for weddings, religious services of all denominations and other community events.
Matthew Schooley, president of the Forty Fort Cemetery Committee, and a member of the Forty Fort Meeting House Preservation Committee, said he and other volunteers are working to put together a map of the cemetery to be used for self-guided walking tours.
“We want to put together a tour for people wondering who’s buried where.”