America250PA Board Dedicates First Semiquincentennial Bell at Dennis Farm

Celebrating the unveiling of the first Semiquincentennial Liberty Bell to be presented in Pennsylvania are (from left) George Stark of Coterra Energy, Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust board member Darryl Gore, America250PA chairman Patrick Burns, America250PA executive director Cassandra Coleman, DFCLT president Denise Dennis, DFCLT board member Lonnie Moore III, PA state treasurer Stacy Garrity, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, and PA auditor general Tim DeFoor.

Story and photo by Rick Hiduk

(originally published in the Susquehanna County Independent)

The story of the Dennis Farm is Pennsylvania’s story and, therefore, America’s story, say those officially in charge of the marking of the nation’s 250th birthday, which will celebrated through 2026. That’s why they chose the historic site near Kingsley in Susquehanna County as the first location for a permanent installation of a replica Liberty Bell. Members of the America250PA committee, elected officials, Dennis Family descendants, and board members of the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust (DFCLT) were among approximately 150 supporters in attendance for the event held June 28.

Prince Perkins, an African-American Revolutionary War veteran, arrived in the area from Connecticut in 1793 among scores of other veterans seeking land and new lives, helping to tame the wild lands that would become Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties that were once part of Cennecticut. After first buying land near Tunkhannock, Perkins eventually settled on acreage in Brooklyn Township and was first mentioned as a landowner there in the U.S. Census of 1800. As unique as it was for Perkins to find his success in a predominantly white region, the fact that his land was handed down through six subsequent generations, married early on into the Dennis family of Dimock and thereby adopting that name, makes their story particularly unparalleled. At a time when 90 percent of black people were enslaved, less than 10 percent of free African-Americans owned land.

The Perkins-Dennis Cemetery holds the remains of African-American veterans from the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War, as well as those of African Americans who escaped slavery in the South as part of the Underground Railroad. The family’s heritage of perseverance and determination against probable odds is the first of many to be acknowledged as part of the state’s Semiquincentennial project, the impetus behind the selection of sites for seven Liberty Bells to be installed across the Commonwealth.

The American Dream was realized through their ancestors,” said America250PA executive director Cassandra Coleman. “This bell will lock in the Perkins-Dennis story as a permanent part of Pennsylvania’s history.”

Welcome to our ancestral home,” DFCLT co-founder and president Denise Dennis proudly proclaimed to the dignitaries present at the event. “We are honored, and my ancestors are honored that you are here. I have a feeling that they are celebrating with us today.”

This is not the first time that the family has played a role in Independence Day celebrations, Denise noted. On July 4, 1800, Prince Perkins played his fiddle at a community celebration and was recorded in the History of Susquehanna County history as “the soul of early dance parties in the early 19th century.”

This is sacred ground, and we are honored to be here today,” Sen. Bob Casey remarked. “We’re celebrating the Dennis Family and all that black families in America have endured, including those who were free but who knew that others were not. We celebrate that struggle, all those ancestors, all those generations, and their achievements.”

Additional speakers included state treasurer Stacy Garrity, America250PA chairman Patrick Burns, PA auditor general Tim DeFoor, and George Stark of Coterra Energy, the Presenting Sponsor of the bell.

Coterra takes great pride in its contribution to showcasing the historical significance of the Dennis Farm, highlighting America’s remarkable 250th celebration, emphasizing Pennsylvania’s important role, and commemorating the long-lasting legacy we are forging through the installation of this first Semiquincentennial Bell,” Stark stated.

DeFoor was visibly moved by the moment, one of many in attendance to admit that the Dennis Farm story came as a bit of a shock to him. “To me, black history is always personal,” he stated. “People like Prince Perkins had to not only survive, but they had to thrive. Through America250PA, we are sharing, sometimes for the first time, our personal histories and celebrating our cultural experiences. We are teaching our children that learning happens inside and outside the classroom. And there is so much to learn about Pennsylvania and our contribution to history.”

Prior to the official unveiling of the bell, delayed in part due to a persistent drizzle, Coleman prepared Dennis for two surprises: the first a proclamation for the Dennis Farm penned and sent to the event by vice president Kamala Harris and, secondly, a contribution to the Dennis Farm from America250PA in the amount of $25,000 toward which Stark and Coterra immediately offered matching funds. “And, as you know,” Stark explained, in reference to a grant match challenge by the National Endowment for the Humanities, “This now equals $100,000!”

Wednesday’s on-site event was preceded by a meet-and-greet gathering at Keystone College on June 27 at which Endless Mountains Heritage Region executive director Cain Chamberlin was the keynote speaker. AG DeFoor, in turn, served as master of ceremonies for a luncheon at Keystone College that followed the bell unveiling. Both the College and the EMHR are among long-standing partners of the DFCLT, coordinating related programming and procuring funding for ongoing improvements at the site. According to Denise Dennis, the former farmhouse in which she spent so many summers, should be opened as a museum by 2026.



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