Re-enactors offer history in the flesh at Denison House

By Marcella Kester - For Times Leader
Mark Kahn, portraying Lt. Col. Nathan Denison, holds his head during a re-enactment of the patriots’ surrender following the 1778 Battle of Wyoming. Matthew Lyons (Maj. John Butler), center, reads the letter of capitulation at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday, as Justin Swan, right, stands witness. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Peter Janner of Knoxville, Tenn. talks with Sherry Emershaw, dressed in colonial clothes at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader

FORTY FORT — The prospect of some stormy weather didn’t stop a reenactment at the Nathan Denison House Wednesday, but it did force the event to go on ahead of schedule.

Still, many attendees opted to tour the inside of the house and admire historic artifacts that were being donated to the house by members of the Denison family tree.

“We decided when we heard thunder and the clouds started rolling in to avoid the downpour,” explained Luzerne County Historial Society member and Chairwoman of the Denison Advocates Sherry Emershaw.

While some attendees were still able to watch the reenactment in time, others opted to tour the inside of the Denision House, overlooking the historic capitulation table from 1778.

Mark Kahn, a member of the 24th Connecticut Militia and the Denison Advocates, explained the historic significance of July 3rd and 4th and why the reenactments are so important to continuing education on local history.

“Today was July Fourth, which was the anniversary of the capitulation of the surrender of all of the fences of the valley after the Battle of Wyoming, which happened on July 3, 1778,” he said. “We did reenactments of the capitulation with the Rangers, and those are the people that we capitulated to and surrendered to.”

“So we come out here and its a chance to educate people of what happened her because so many people don’t know what happened in their own backyards,” he said.

Denison kin visits

Attendees of the event got a special treat, thanks to Knoxville, Tenn. resident and Denison family member Peter Janney.

Janney’s father is the son of Sarah Denison Riley, and Janney is the fourth times great-grandson of Col. Nathan Denison.

Janney made the trip from Tennessee to take part in the holiday ceremonies and hand-deliver a Denison artifact to the house: A knife similarly shaped to a utensil that was clad in what appeared to be a mother of pearl handle. On the blade of the knife, a Denison signature was inscribed.

“We discovered it in some of my father’s possessions, which he inherited from his mother,” he said. “We didn’t really put too much emphasis on it until all my brothers started doing a lot of research on the Janney/Denison/Riley family.”

Janney first visited the house last year, with this trip marking his second commute. He admitted that he’s amazed every time he comes to the area, learning more about his ancestry.

“We’re just amazed at what Pearl Denison did, and the fact that my grandmother lived in this house,” Janney added about his latest history lesson.

Emershaw added that with modern technology that links ancestry, more people are finding out their heritage, causing a few Denison ancestors to reach out.

Tours of the Denision house will be available to the public every Sunday until Labor Day.

Mark Kahn, portraying Lt. Col. Nathan Denison, holds his head during a re-enactment of the patriots’ surrender following the 1778 Battle of Wyoming. Matthew Lyons (Maj. John Butler), center, reads the letter of capitulation at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday, as Justin Swan, right, stands witness.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_surrender1_faa.jpgMark Kahn, portraying Lt. Col. Nathan Denison, holds his head during a re-enactment of the patriots’ surrender following the 1778 Battle of Wyoming. Matthew Lyons (Maj. John Butler), center, reads the letter of capitulation at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday, as Justin Swan, right, stands witness. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Peter Janner of Knoxville, Tenn. talks with Sherry Emershaw, dressed in colonial clothes at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_surrender5_faa.jpgPeter Janner of Knoxville, Tenn. talks with Sherry Emershaw, dressed in colonial clothes at the Denison House in Forty Fort on Wednesday. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

By Marcella Kester

For Times Leader