FORTY FORT – The Nathan Denison House opened its doors for its 2018 season on Sunday providing an opportunity for area residents to gain a better understanding of the history of the Wyoming Valley.
Sherry Emershaw, chairwoman of the Denison House Advocates, was on hand to provide an oral history of Nathan Denison, one of the first forty shareholders to settle five new towns in the Wyoming Valley in 1769.
Emershaw and other volunteers, dressed in period costumes, lead participants through the house detailing life during the period of the Revolutionary War and how it changed over time.
For example, Nathan and Betsy Denison were married in 1772, the first marriage in the area.
The couple, like many families at the time, first built a rudimentary log cabin before moving to their permanent home.
Nathan Denison, Emershaw said, rose to prominence, becoming a judge toward the end of his career, not because of any educational degree or family money, but because of his character and confidence.
“This was an agrarian area, people were either farmers or tradesmen,” she said. “Nathan was a farmer.”
The Denisons had seven children, all who lived to adulthood, a rarity during that time period, according to Emershaw.
“The only record is of seven children born and seven surviving to adulthood,” she said.
Records, she said, were kept in the family Bible, telling a group of young attendees, “They didn’t use the internet to store information. They wrote it down.”
Mike Adonizio and his twin sons, Andrew and Jacob, 11, were happy they made the trip from Avoca to learn a bit about the area’s history.
“I’ve lived in this area all my life, and I’ve never been here before,” said Adonizio. “It would be a great thing for our Boy Scout troop to do.”
When asked what his favorite room in the house was, Jacob Adonizio, said, “the kitchen, especially the oven.”
“He likes cooking,” said Mike Adonizio. “It was interesting that they used to have to build a fire to cook, and not simply turn the oven on.”
Volunteer Mike Kahn lead groups through the historical site.
Emershaw was quick to contrast the difference in daily living between that late 1700s and now.
Explaining why the Denisons didn’t have closets, she said, “They had only several items of clothing kept on hooks or in a set of drawers.”
Much like other farmers of that time period, Denison owned a narrow parcel of land that went from the river to the mountains.
“Property near the river provided good soil for farming,” she said. “Property near the mountains provided lumber.”
The Nathan Denison House at 35 Denison Street is open for tours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday through September.
For more information about the historic site, the public can go to luzernehistory.org/museums-historical-sites/denison-house.
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