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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - October 25, 2006

Hi! Henry is back and has some information about yard grass at “my” house to report to you. Last summer the Garden Committee decided to over-seed an area of the yard near the garden with buffalo grass. This was a new grass for them and they were very concerned about how it would grow when used as over-seed. Well, guess what? That buffalo grass loved this year's hot, dry summer and has been on a growing spree! It's done so well that it has succeeded in choking out a lot of the bad, weedy grass. Good decision gardeners! The next time you are at “my” house check out the buffalo grass near the garden. It is an old time grass from back in the 1800's doing quite well in 2006!

Ol' Henry does listen carefully to what you folks talk about. Just the other day Henry overheard some of the docents saying they were sure glad Henry was back from vacation and maybe now he would tell what Lucy wrote in her letter to Patty Canal. Remember, this is the original letter written by Lucy that was loaned to the Stephenson House.

Actually, Ol' Henry remembers telling about the letter when a copy of Lucy's letter was received. This old mouse knows that was long ago and it is probably time to tell you all about the letter again. OK, here is what Henry knows about the letter.

Lucy wrote to Patronella Josephine Canal on June 15, 1831, and she began with “Dear Patty”. The letter is full of news about Patty's friends in Edwardsville including news of Fanny Dillon's wedding, which is an example of how different life was in 1831. Lucy wrote “We were all at the wedding - not many others were there because the house is too small - they had an excellent dinner which we all sat down to immediately after the ceremony which was performed by Mr. Messenger - they have not commenced housekeeping.” She also wrote: “Betsey has been living with Elvira for sometime…” Elvira and William Starr were married and had two children at this time and Betsey must have been living with them. Lucy also mentioned Dr. Edwards, Ninian's brother, who had an office in town.

Lucy wrote “…there have been many tears shed in Edwardsville for some days in consequence of the men being called out to fight the Indians.” She then mentioned some of the men who went to fight the Indians in the Black Hawk War, including Volney, Buckmaster, Emerson, Ben, Winchester, Semple and Mr. Thomas. Mr. Starr was preparing to go “…but a crazy man who was in town struck him so severe a blow to his hip that it disabled him…” She then goes on to say that Starr will follow the others “…if he recovers in time.” She wrote that she thinks James, her oldest son who was living in Galena, would be there too. Lucy wrote Patty that a great many more of her acquaintances had gone to the Black Hawk War.

Lucy wrote that “Mary, her father & Wash, have gone to Ohio.” Sid and Karen think Wash must be Washing Will who was indentured in 1821 to Col. Ben. He would have been about 10 years old in 1831. Lucy mentioned mutual friends Mrs. Hull, Miss Emalina Judd and Eliz Fall and also told Patty there were three fine young ladies in town from the East. Lucy is truly catching Patty up on the news in her circle of friends in Edwardsville!

The second page of the letter is devoted to Patty and her concerns. Lucy wrote that she was pleased to hear Patty had lots of business and had improved her sewing skills”. Lucy gave Patty encouragement with her sewing and advised her to continue with it so she could “…obtain a genteel support by your needle which is be far the easiest way.” Lucy also advised Patty that she must learn to cut out and fit patterns. Lucy then asked Patty if she had thought about the motherly advice she had given her before parting, and “…if so how far have you followed it?” Now, that sentence makes Ol' Henry wonder what advice Lucy gave Patty.

Lucy's letter was chatty and full of news about recent happenings in Edwardsville. The following will bring a smile as you read this letter from one woman to another! Lucy wrote, “ I believe I have told you almost everything. O yes there is one more which will astonish you, Granny Leonard has joined the temperance society is not that almost a Maracle ?”

Lucy closed her letter with “Adieu Patty accept the best wishes of all of the family and especially your friend Lucy Stephenson.”

Ol' Henry loves reading Lucy's letter and knows the researchers were delighted to receive the letter. Lucy's letter tells a lot about life in 1831 in Edwardsville and gives the names of many people who were friends of the Stephenson's. All this information has helped the researchers as they piece together the life of Col. Ben and Lucy. The names Rofs and Ise and “the Celebrated Cabin” are mentioned by Lucy but so far the researchers cannot figure out much about them.

Ol' Henry likes the way Lucy writes and thinks she would have been a nice lady to know! Lucy's letter will be on display at the Stephenson House as soon as it is determined how to display it and keep it very safe from exposure to the light.

Henry here best get out to the garden and yard to gather whatever can be found for winter meals!! Winter is coming, you can just bet it will be on its way in no time.

See ya' later,

Henry

 


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