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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - April 26, 2006

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Ol' Henry knows many of you have been checking out the split rail fence ‘ cause I see your cars slow down as you take a good look! It sure is one good-looking fence adding charm to “my” house, don't you think?

Ol' Henry has some sad news that I must tell you about. Our friend EJ passed away last week as a result of a heart attack. A lot of folks around here worked with EJ from the beginning of the restoration and they are very saddened by his passing. Only recently EJ had built the well cover as a gift to the Stephenson House. Ol' Henry sees the well cover as a friendly wave good-bye and will think of him often. EJ will be missed by all the Stephenson House folks.

Henry spotted my friend Jeff, the surveyor, in “my” yard the other day. Turns out he was setting corner stones along the front property line. Well, Ol' Henry inched up close to hear what Jeff was telling Joe. He told Joe he had set a large creek stone at the corner along Linden Street, and at the corner to the north, he used an old section stone that had been ripped out by farm machinery on a farm in Pin Oak Township. Jeff the surveyor found it laying on the surface of the ground, a little scratched up but in good condition.

Jeff explained to Joe that before, and at the time Col. Ben built his house, the corners were marked with wood posts that had dirt piled around them making a mound three feet wide. Later, county surveyors would find the post fallen over but the mound was still there. And, charcoal had been thrown in around the post so when the surveyor dug into the mound he was able to see where the post was located because of the charcoal. The stones used in the corners that Jeff set are large and go way down into the ground. They should last for a very, very long time!

By the time Col. Ben built his house stones were just beginning to be used for corners. In his day many of the stones were found in the creek bed of Indian and Cahokia Creeks west of Edwardsville. Jeff, thanks for thinking about corners for Col. Ben's property and setting them. Your good work surely has added more historic authenticity to Col. Ben's house.

Karen stopped by yesterday to tell RoxAnn about new information found about the Presbyterian Church in Edwardsville and the Stephensons. The researchers knew Lucy was secretary of the Female Sunday School Society, because in 1821 the minutes were published in the Spectator and Lucy was shown as secretary. But, that was about all they knew, so Karen looked in the HPC files and there she found a history of the First Presbyterian Church in Edwardsville that was organized on March 17, 1819, by Rev. Salmon Giddings and fifteen other persons! The original records were lost but it is believed that most of the original members were Scotch-Irish, like the Stephensons. Two of the first elders were Thomas Lippincott and Hail Mason. Mr. Lippincott later became a Presbyterian minister.

Well, the Stephensons fit right into the history of the First Presbyterian Church of Edwardsville. They were Scotch-Irish and in 1827, one of the church's first elders, Rev. Thomas Lippincott, presided over the marriage of Elvira Stephenson and William E. Starr. We also know that when Lucy moved to Carlinville she was an original member of two Presbyterian churches that started there. Looks like the Stephensons were Presbyterians!

Here is more information that helps bring all these facts together to make a nice neat story about the First Presbyterian Church in 1821 Edwardsville. Karen learned that in 1817, Mrs. John Blair Smith came to Edwardsville to live. She was the widow of one of the most prominent Presbyterian ministers of the day who had also been a president of Hampden Sidney College, Prince Edwards County, Virginia. Years later, Mrs. Smith said when she came to Edwardsville she could find no professor of religion, and for eighteen months no sermon was preached here. She said she lived to see an Edwardsville church of nine members increase to thirty.

The church history notes that Mrs. Smith was a longstanding Presbyterian who was interested in an educated ministry and was a very religious woman. The church history also notes it would be logical to assume that in 1819 she was one of the original members of the First Presbyterian Church.

Who was Mrs. John Blair Smith? Ol' Henry has it all figured out! She was Elizabeth F. Smith, president of the Female Sunday School Society in 1821 when Lucy was secretary! She was the widow of a prominent Presbyterian minister and the church history tells of her “cultural accomplishments” and her “piety”. The Female Sunday School Society was a year old in 1821 when Elizabeth Smith was the president. She most likely organized the society.

It sounds to Ol' Henry that Lucy joined Elizabeth F. Smith as one of the early members of the Presbyterian Church and was an active member. There are few records available but what has been found has told a lot!

Ol' Henry sat back awhile and thought about Elizabeth Smith and Lucy. They had to have been friends and apparently worked well together in church matters that were extremely important to them both. Lucy and Elizabeth Smith were both educated, well-informed women who enjoyed each other's company.

The research done by the First Presbyterian Church has helped in understanding more about Col. Ben, his family and life in1820's Edwardsville. Thank you so much!

It is time to take a break and Ol' Henry knows exactly what he is going to do. There is a nice sized piece of bread that RoxAnn baked tucked away in my hidey place, just waiting for me!

See ya' later,

Henry


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