Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fall festival is child’s play

Denison House event features doll making and other craft

September 29. 2013 11:04PM
CAMILLE FIOTI Times Leader Correspondent

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FORTY FORT — It is believed that the behavior of a beautiful little Native American girl is the reason why corn husk dolls don’t have faces, Irene Moran, a volunteer at the Colonial Harvest Festival at the historic Nathan Denison House said Sunday.

“She was very beautiful,” Moran said. “So much so, that it went to her head. She became snotty and nasty, so to teach her a lesson, they started making dolls with no faces.” Dressed in period costumes, Moran and other volunteer showed a group of children how to make the dolls and other toys from the 18th century.

Emily James, 8, of Dallas, Claire Barlow, 9, of Luzerne, Skylar Belgio, 9, of Forty Fort, and Kolia Croop, 11, of Tunkhannock, eagerly demonstrated the toys they made.

Built in 1790, the Nathan Denison House is considered to be the oldest frame house in the Wyoming Valley. Local artisans displayed and demonstrated crafts such as wheat weaving, pottery, wood carving and Turkish marbled paper making on the grassy lawn.

Inside the restored residence, volunteers offered guided tours during which visitors watched demonstrations such as quilting and yarn spinning. An assortment of aromatic herbs perfumed the air as Sherry Emershaw described how Betsy Denison, Nathan’s wife, cared for her home and family with her herb and vegetable garden.

With no pharmacies and a shortage of doctors, colonial mothers turned to herbs for their medicinal use. “The medicine cabinet was your herb garden,” Emershaw said.

Mrs. Denison not only used herbs for cooking and treating ailments, but also for “strewing,” which means to “strew” dried herbs such as lavender and lemon balm across the floor to mask household odors.

The herbs served as a natural air freshener to mask aromas from the cooking of slaughtered animals in the fireplace, candle making and body odor (bathing wasn’t a daily routine).

When the herb’s sweet aroma passed, Mrs. Denison would sweep them out the door, Emershaw pointed out.

“This was a very odorous house,” Emershaw said.

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