BY STACI WILSON
The story of the Dennis family is the quintessential American story – predating and encompassing the Revolutionary War and continuing to the present.
But it is also a personal story, Denise Dennis told the crowd at the third annual Dennis Farm Symposium on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
“It is a belief in the American dream,” Dennis said, “at a time when the American dream was not designed with African Americans in mind.”
Dennis told her family’s story, beginning in New England and the family’s path to Susquehanna County and to the Perkins-Dennis farm on Creek Road in Brooklyn Township where a historical marker was unveiled last week.
Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commissioner Bill Lewis said the perpetual permanent marker will forever tell the story of the Dennis family.
The Dennis Farm was settled in 1793 by Prince Perkins, a free African-American Revolutionary War veteran. The property has remained in the family for over 200 years. Prince Perkins’ daughter, Angeline, and her husband, Henry Dennis, expanded the farm acreage.
Wade Catts, of John Milner Associates, said the family farm located in rural northeastern Pennsylvania created a powerful and nuanced story complete with documentation, photographs and oral histories, as well as artifacts and architecture on the property.
There are plans to renovate the house at the site, which was originally built on the second quarter of the 19th century, Catts said. Family photos will be used to help with the renovation project.
Over 10,000 artifacts, including the ruins of outbuildings, were unearthed on the property in 2008-09 by Binghamton University archeologists who worked at the site.
There are also 40-50 burials in the African American cemetery on the property. Catts said he believed it was the only African American cemetery in the county.
In September 2014, the Dennis Farm was lists on the National Register of Historic Places, re cognized as being nationally significant.
At the dedication of the historical marker, neighbor and Brooklyn Historical Society member Richard Zick said, “What a great day!. I’ve probably traveled every inch of this property.”
The Zick property has shared a boundary with the Dennis Farm for the past 95 years, he said, admitting he has known the family for the past 70. The first meeting of the Dennis Family Land Trust was held at the Zick’s home in 2006.
Zick said the Dennis family had been a vibrant part of the community while he was growing up. “We didn’t know prejudice,” he said. “We considered (the Dennis’s) family.”
For more information about the Dennis Farm, visit the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust at thedennisfarm.org