INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - June 7, 2006
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. The
hot weather sure hasn't slowed the gardeners down! While Ol' Henry was
hanging around at the garden I heard that broomcorn was being planted.
Well, what in the world is that, Henry wondered? Finally, I heard Jim
explain it to Dr. Bob. Broomcorn grows up in stalks with a broom-like
end on each stalk. Several stalks are lashed together and guess what?
You have a broom! Ol' Henry will watch this stuff grow for sure!
Hey, on another matter, the researchers have found some more news about
Palemon H. Winchester! You all remember him! He married Julia Stephenson
and also was involved in a murder trial in 1825. Rose Marie and Karen
learned about Palemon and his family through e-mails with Mechelle from
Tennessee. Henry doesn't know about this thing called e-mail, I am just
a mouse ya' know, but whatever it is, Mechelle and Karen used it to get
information to each other.
Through Mechelle, a Winchester descendant who lives in the Winchester
area near Gallatin, TN, a lot was learned that gives insight to Palemon's
life. Palemon was the son of Stephen Winchester who was the brother of
James Winchester. James had a tremendous amount of money and when Palemon
was 14, his family moved very near his Uncle James and he spent his teenage
years enjoying what James Winchester could provide and apparently Palemon's
father could not. Palemon desired this grand lifestyle too and at 24 years
of age, he came to Edwardsville to practice law and seek his fortune.
Palemon met with a lot of disappointments in Edwardsville, however. Soon
after he came here, he sought financial support from his Uncle James for
a business venture in Edwardsville but James rejected him. Then Palemon
failed in his attempt to get the appointment as Receiver of Moneys at
the Land Office after the death of Col. Stephenson. Then there was the
matter of his murder trial in 1825. Things were not going well for Palemon
to say the least!
Here is some of what was learned about Palemon and his family. Palemon
was the second child and first son born to Stephen and Sarah Howard Winchester
on February 11, 1794, in Baltimore County, Maryland. Now Ol' Henry knows
that Palemon's middle initial "H" is for Howard!
The Winchester family had its American beginnings in Frederick County,
Maryland. Palemon's grandfather, William, bought land there in 1754, after
his assigned five years as an indentured servant from England were completed.
William was an intelligent man with a fine education and soon became a
wealthy farmer. In 1760 he built his home, which still stands, founded
the town of Westminster in what is today's Carroll County, Maryland and
took an active part in affairs leading to the Revolution. William and
his wife Lydia had ten children, including James and Stephen. It is these
two Winchester brothers that Mechelle, the email friend, knew about.
Stephen Winchester, son of William and Lydia Winchester, and Palemon's
father, was born in Frederick County, Maryland in 1761. He married Sarah
Howard and they had 13 children. The occupation of Stephen is not clear
but he was apparently involved in land buying and trading.
James Winchester, Tennessee Pioneer by Walter T. Durham provides a look
at the lifestyle of James, the elder brother and, at the same time, gives
a glimpse of Palemon H. Winchester's life before he came to Edwardsville.
James Winchester was an explorer, surveyor, businessman and politician
who brought cultural refinement to the Tennessee frontier. He fought Indians
in Tennessee, was a brigadier general in the War of 1812 when he was captured
at the Battle of the Raisin. Hey, did Henry ever tell you that Edwardsville's
Dr. John Todd also fought in the Battle of the Raisin? Who knows, Todd
and Winchester may have known each other!
Now, let Ol' Henry tell you about Brigadier General James Winchester's
business ventures! The long list includes, among other ventures, a millstone
quarry, a cotton gin, a large distillery, a flourmill, a tannery, a cotton
factory, a mercantile business and a shoe shop. He owned flatboats, keelboats
and a steamboat. And, he was a founder of Memphis!
James Winchester felt that living in the remote frontier was not an excuse
for failing to appreciate literature and the arts. As early as the 1790's
he bought books for resale so his neighbors and his family could have
books. His children were tutored and the boys and the girls were sent
to Gallatin, Nashville and New Orleans when it came time for further education.
In 1802, after four years of construction, General James Winchester's
stone mansion, Cragfont, was completed. It was the finest mansion on the
Tennessee frontier and seldom a day passed without visitors enjoying the
generosity and hospitality of Winchester. They often stayed for days or
What an incredible lifestyle Palemon encountered at the age of 14 when
his family moved to Sumner County, Tennessee and lived near Cragfont!
Palemon surely spent a lot of time with his ten cousins at Uncle James's
beautiful plantation with its lake, formal gardens, stream of visitors,
tutors and the many books to read. It is probably where Palemon received
his education in literature and the arts.
Cragfont and all it offered was a new experience for Palemon. Life was
also different for the family of Stephen Winchester because Palemon's
father seemed to be always in financial trouble. Brother James took over
some of his debts in 1811 and again, three years later, shortly before
Stephen's death. Stephen died at age 46, leaving a wife and 13 children
and debts. Palemon was 21 at the time of his father's death.
James Winchester took an interest in his deceased brother's children,
providing for their education and arranged for at least one boy to go
to Baltimore for his schooling. Palemon, however, found the interest of
his uncle more restrictive than useful. In 1819, shortly after Palemon
began to practice law in Edwardsville, he asked his uncle for support
in a business venture here, probably the Todd and Other's Addition. James
rejected his appeal. Palemon, obviously sour over his uncle's refusal,
wrote to him saying, " I am sorry that you are so very cautious and
jealous of me."
In 1825, Uncle James did come to Palemon's rescue at the time of his trial
for the murder of Daniel Smith. Felix Grundy, the famous Tennessee lawyer
who defended Palemon, was a friend of General James Winchester. It is
very likely that Uncle James retained the services of his friend Grundy
for Palemon's defense. Palemon was found not guilty.
Sometimes life takes unfortunate turns. Palemon's Day Book includes a
daily record of expenses that included a lot of money spent on alcohol
early in his life in Edwardsville. Soon after his trial and acquittal
for the murder of Smith in 1825, Palemon moved to Carlinville with his
wife, Julia Stephenson and their children. He died in 1860 and his obituary
indicates that Palemon was capable of so much in life and, knowing of
his early drinking habits, it implies that drink was his downfall. Palemon
and Julia's children were outstanding citizens who produced today's fine
The Taste of Downtown is June 17th! This is always a lovely evening that
Ol' Henry and others enjoy. Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time
and spend the evening at the Madison County Transit Center.
See ya' later,