The Robbins House Advisor Denise Dennis Shares Her Family History
By Jim Callahan, Robbins House Board Member
A rare Revolutionary War powder horn now rests quietly in a Philadelphia, Pa., museum, but if it could talk it would tell an amazing tale dating back before the Revolutionary War and linking Concord’s rich history to African American descendants living today.
One of those descendants is Denise Dennis, who has traced her roots back to the owner of that powder horn, Gershon Prince, and a young Abel Benson, who, at the age of 9, rode throughout the Massachusetts countryside on that fateful night: April 18, 1775.
Benson, along with more than 30 other “freedom riders,” has been largely ignored by history. Of course, Paul Revere, immortalized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, has not.
Denise Dennis, whose fourth great grandparents, Frank and Rosanna Lewis Benson, were married in Concord by Reverend Joseph Penniman in 1777, also heads the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Click here for the rest of the story.
Of a recent visit to Concord, Denise said, “When I visited the Robbins House, I immediately noticed how similar it is to our farm house. Both . . . originally featured a center fireplace. The four-bedroom Dennis house was restored and modernized in 1939, however, and the fireplace was replaced in a central staircase and separate kitchen. We spent time at the farm each summer when I was a child.”
With the availability of farmable land diminishing in eastern Massachusetts in the 17th-18th centuries, it was not uncommon for many people to move westward and seek opportunities elsewhere, and that is what Denise’s ancestors did, moving from Massachusetts to Vermont and then onto Connecticut before finally settling in Pennsylvania.
One of those ancestors was Gershon Prince, fighting for the colonials during the Revolutionary War. He was killed in the Battle of Wyoming in 1778 (now a part of Pennsylvania, but then a part of Connecticut). Prince was buried in a common grave at the battle site, but his powder horn was recovered and later returned to his family.
Another ancestor, Abel Benson, raised the alarm that the British were advancing toward Concord, riding through areas of Natick and Needham to rouse colonials in those towns. Abel was the grandson of Nero Benson, who was also the grandfather of Hannah Benson Dennis, Denise’s great-great-great grandmother.
Nero Benson, by the way, had served in the French & Indian Wars as a trumpeter in the Muster Roll of Captain Isaac Clark’s Company.