INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - May 10, 2006
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Ol' Henry knows for sure that spring is here ‘cause my gardener friends are back. Carol F. and Jim have a great group of volunteers and who have joined in to prepare the soil for planting and to tidy the plants in the yard. Ol' Henry knows that Frederick Wolf and Philip Fix would be real proud of the healthy grape vines that are going into their second year of growth! The Master Gardeners are a great addition to the Stephenson House gardeners and everyone is so glad to have them here. They enjoy working and they share their knowledge about plants and gardens.
There is one guy around here that Ol' Henry really enjoys and learns from and that is Bob J! For one thing, he can cook! He fries up the most absolute best fried potatoes this mouse has ever smelled! And they are extra good with Rudy's fried chicken. Ummmmmmm! When the school kids were here for a tour, Ol' Henry heard Bob J. telling the kids that in Col. Ben's days they would thread green beans on a string and hang them to dry for use in winter meals. Pretty clever, huh? Bob knows all about drying apples, corn, lima beans and storing carrots and other root vegetables for use in the winter. He told the kids about how potatoes and onions were stored in the cellar for the winter. And, the 1820's cabbage the folks grew was made in to sauerkraut. They made the kraut in big crocks that they stored in the cellar and used for winter meals. Now, sauerkraut is not on Ol' Henry's list of good food, but people sure do like it! The school kids loved Bob J.'s tour of the garden and all the stories he told!
Henry loves watching the school kids! They sure do enjoy their tour of Col. Ben's house and especially like playing the old games with RoxAnn and Erin. The sound of the kids laughing and joking when they make the big hoop roll while guiding it with a stick is wonderful! Elvira, Ben V. and the young servants must have laughed and played the same way in Col. Ben's front yard.
Henry figures you all knew that the construction folks, Keith, Jack and Karen, Keith's wife, would be leaving when the construction was completed. Well, they have been gone for about two weeks and are missed at the house. They were here for five years and were a big part of this place. Ol' Henry hopes they will come back to see and listen as the school kids enjoy the results of the work and dedication of Keith and Jack, the Whitener Brothers. Those guys put their hearts into their work at Col. Ben's house and the results are awesome!
You know, Ol' Henry has listened over the years to all the questions and conversations about the slaves or indentured servants owned by Col. Ben. It always seemed there were a lot of questions and little information to be found by our researchers. So, Henry was real glad when he heard that the researchers had hired a certified genealogist from St. Louis who specialized in African-American research to search for records of Col. Ben's slaves/indentured servants.
Well, the genealogist did not find any additional information about Col. Ben's eight slaves/indentured servants. It is difficult to find information on the early slaves/indentured servants for a multitude of reasons. For instance, a slave had the last name of his owner and when he gained his freedom he would have used that name unless his owner had been mean and abusive, then the slave would probably have taken a new name.
Also, if the slave/indentured servant were sold, he then took the name of his new owner. In 1827, Lucy sold Jesse Price to Hail Mason for $300. Jesse would then have taken the name of his new owner, Mason. But, there is the question as to why Jesse used the last name “Price” when he was owned by Lucy Stephenson. It does get confusing, that is for sure!
Henry understands how the records and identities of the eight Stephenson slaves/indentured servants could easily have disappeared. Of the eight slaves, three were male and five were females. The females, of course, would have lost the name of Stephenson when they were sold or if they married. No records have yet been found for two of the males, Hark and Barksley, after the death of Col. Ben. The third male, Washin Will, is mentioned in Lucy's 1831 letter to her friend Patty Canal. She tells that Washin Will had gone to Ohio with Mary and her father. But, since Mary's last name is unknown there is no way to follow up with Ohio records.
There just isn't much information available for searching for the slaves/indentured servants of the Stephenson family. Ol' Henry is glad the researchers called in the professional genealogist for help in the search. Even the professional could not locate further information in the search. Nothing was solved, but a big effort was made in the search. And, to be sure, the researchers will continue to follow up on any leads or information that they can find. Ol' Henry has learned a lot while listening from my hidey place and one thing I know is that there is always new information to be found! Someday the researchers may just find out more about Col. Ben's slaves/indentured servants.
This must be my lucky day! Ol' Henry found a bag of corn chips in the alley. I worked and worked and finally pulled that bag of my favorite food into my hidey place. Please do not disturb me as I plan to enjoy myself with the corn chips!!
See ya' later, Henry