It was love at first sight when I visited the Hill for the first time in April 1999 after having been accepted to Denison. Spring was in full bloom, and I immediately felt welcomed by Denison students and staff. I decided right then to become a member of the class of 2003. Interestingly enough, I knew I had some New England ancestors with the last name of “Denison”— a discovery I had made during an 8th-grade family history project — but I figured there was probably more than one Denison family who immigrated to America, and I left it at that.
But in April 2009, 10 years after first stepping on campus, I started working to make a dream come true — I began writing my first book, The Forgotten Chapters: My Journey into the Past. The project quickly evolved into a colorful chronicle about the search for my maternal early colonial American roots and the unexpected discoveries I found along the way.
One of those discoveries came when I was researching 17th-century ancestors who had settled in Connecticut and learned of my ancestral connections to my alma mater. William S. Denison, the benefactor of Denison University, was also a descendant of Captain George Denison, my own ancestor. I was astonished. I never expected to be a Denison who attended Denison University.
Equally as exciting was the discovery that there was another Denison Homestead. The “homestead” I knew during my time at Denison University was the community and house on campus where a small group of students maintained a sustainable lifestyle, but in August 2009, I visited a far older Denison Homestead in Mystic, Conn., with its own strong connections to the land and to fostering conservation and awareness.
This Connecticut homestead was built in 1717 by Captain George Denison, who was named in honor of his paternal grandfather, Captain George, and the land has been owned by the Denison family since the 17th century.
Beholding this original Denison Homestead for the first time was breathtaking. The homestead, the antique barn across the street, and the rolling meadow had all the makings of a classic New England scene. The meadow below the homestead was once a training ground for Captain George and his fellow soldiers as they prepared to fight during King Philip’s War (1675-1676).
This original Denison Homestead, also known as “Pequotsepos Manor,” is now a house museum open to the public. Touring its rooms offered perspectives into Denison family history during different eras of America’s history. The homestead sits in the midst of 160 acres, which was originally owned by Captain George, who settled there in 1654. If Captain George returned to his former haunts, he would be pleased to see how the Denison legacy has endured. Now the homestead is creating new opportunities to educate both Denison descendants and the public about colonial New England history by hosting historic reenactments, lectures, and other community events.
I have been asked during the course of writing my book why I wanted to write it. My answer is always two-fold. On the one hand, I am sharing stories of my courageous ancestors and the contributions to the New England communities and colonies they lived in. My other goal is to get people excited to go out and visit sites associated with New England’s rich colonial history and to start researching their own family roots.
You never know what you might find.
Katherine Dimancescu ’03 is proud to be “a Denison who attended Denison.” She received a B.A. in history and was awarded master’s degrees in international relations from the University of Westminster, London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is an author living in Massachusetts, and her first book, The Forgotten Chapters: My Journey into the Past, will be available on Amazon.com later this fall.