INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - April 12, 2006
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again! It seems to Ol' Henry that it was only a few days ago when the Friends of the Board asked Keith and Jack, the Whitener Brothers, to erect a sample split rail fence for the Board to check out. The fence obviously met with Board approval because in no time flat the Whitener Brothers located split rails and began building a fence for “my” house. The fence is in a zigzag pattern just like they built in the 1820's. There will be no danger of the fence posts rotting because each post was set on flat, creek bedrock. You know, Ol' Henry did hear something about the rails had to be off the ground for a weed-eater or goats to eat the weeds along the fence rails! The fence is coming along fine, adding a certain charm to Col. Ben's property.
Things are otherwise going real well at “my” house. Many nice people have been here for the tours and thru the Docents, they learn a lot about Col. Ben, his house, his family and the 1820's. And then there is that wonderful kitchen! Ol' Henry just knew there would be folks wanting to learn to cook over the open hearth. Sure enough, just the other day Rudy and Elizabeth appeared to cook for the first time. Rudy made fried chicken and Elizabeth cooked up some stewed chicken and noodles in the Dutch oven. Ol' Henry just laid back, enjoyed the wood fire, the cooking smells, and, as usual, waited for some tidbits to drop! You know, I'll just have to ask Cousin Jake to come by and join me in experiencing the good life around ‘my' kitchen!
The other day Henry here overheard Sid and the Tuesday Morning Group talking about the foundation of the original house and I figured they were talking about stuff I'd heard before. Then, Henry started to listen closer and a lot of things started falling into place about Col. Ben's house. Hey, I learned that Col. Ben and Lucy's 1820 house was built in an ell-shape, just like it is today! The original ell-shaped Stephenson house had an attached kitchen that was the exact same size today's 1845 or Wolf Addition. The original attached kitchen probably had two rooms, a kitchen and perhaps a washroom, just like the first level of the Wolf Addition. Golly, there is so much to learn and remember!
How do we know this for sure? Well, during the restoration it became clear that the bricks in the 1820 and 1845 parts of the house were different. Sid says the bottom four or five courses of brick in the 1845 or Wolf Addition, up to the floor level, are identical to the bricks in the 1820 house. They even include some bricks with glazed ends that resulted from where they had been placed in the kiln to bake. There are no glazed bricks in the Wolf addition above the floor level. Apparently the Wolf family tore down the original attached kitchen to the floor level and built the new two-story addition using the original foundation. Frederick Wolf's addition was a wonderful asset to Col. Ben and Lucy's 1820's house!
Later that day, Ol' Henry was lying back in the sun, thinking about that original brick wall or foundation. Just think! Col. Ben's entire house is still standing on the original foundation that is pretty close to 200 years old. Wow, what a firm foundation!
Although most projects are nearly finished, Ol' Henry can see that a lot of people around here are still very busy. From what this old mouse can tell, folks are busy with plans for the Dedication and Celebration Days in July and the education group is getting plans ready for the elementary school tours in May. The other day Henry saw Kathy working with some small trunks filled with all kinds of books, games and fun facts about Col. Ben's house. Kathy said that before the school kids come for a tour, one of the trunks would be delivered to their classroom. The teacher can then use the trunk's contents full of information to prepare the children for their visit to Col. Ben's house. Henry is really excited about all this because I know that when they come to “my” house, there will be fun educational projects for the kids that Ol' Henry will love seeing the kids enjoy and learn at the same time! May is going to be a fun month around “my” house.
Another mighty busy lady is Director RoxAnn! She and Erin, her assistant, cook, bake bread, guide tours and among many other duties they attend and direct workshops. The latest workshop is to demonstrate and teach sewing a man's frock coat. What's a frock coat you ask? Let me tell you, Ol' Henry found out that in the early days a man's waistcoat was called a frock. That sure had Henry rather puzzled for a while!
RoxAnn has another event planned that Henry sure wants to attend. Historian Roger Gaston, who is one interesting speaker, will come to Edwardsville from way out west to talk about the details of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. There will be a slide presentation, and a display of artifacts, clothing and reproduction weapons used at the battle. Gee, Henry thinks Sid will really like seeing those artifacts! Henry is just a mouse, ya' know, and had to do a lot of checking to find out about this Battle of the Little Bighorn. Well, this year is the 130 th Anniversary of a battle between the Indians and a man named Custer who led the United States troops in the battle. This battle is called an “infamous confrontation” and this mouse has figured out that means something was not too good about the battle. Henry heard RoxAnn say that the historian Gaston is really interesting so be sure and call 692-1818, “my” house, for reservations ‘ cause RoxAnn needs to know how many of you will be there on April 23!
Gosh, Ol' Henry just came scampering through the museum shop, looked up and saw a shirt with my picture on it! Sure took me by surprise and made me blush all over! Henry needs to get some fresh air after that surprise! Uh, do you think the gardeners will be planting soon?
See ya' later,