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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - November 22, 2006

Hi! Henry the Stephenson house mouse is back again. Hey, there's been lots and lots of school kids visiting “my” house. They come from various schools in the area and groups of home-schooled children come too. They all seem to enjoy the tours and of course they are all looking for Henry. It sure keeps me moving all right! Ol' Henry is sure one little girl saw me the other day! I gave her a big wink of the eye and scampered away! The kids have fun and they learn so much about living in early Edwardsville.

Remember sometime ago Ol' Henry told you about locating Col. Ben's letter that he sent from Summerset to Daniel Cook in Kaskaskia? Col. Ben was returning from Washington with his family to Kaskaskia and in his letter asked Cook to find a house for his Stephenson family to rent. The letter was written April 15, 1815, and was the first time the researchers had any indication that Lucy and the children had accompanied delegate Col. Ben to Washington. Lucy probably spent the time visiting with relatives in the Martinsburg/Shepherdstown area, an easy distance for Col. Ben to travel and visit with everyone while he was in Congress.

The letter raised questions though. For example, just where was the town of Summerset that Col. Ben had referred to in his letter? And, he was going by water to Ferguson's Ferry. Where was Ferguson's Ferry?

Ol' Henry knew the researchers would be searching out the answers. Sure enough, in no time flat, they found Summerset in Pennsylvania. The town was on the route the settlers from the Virginia area took to reach Pittsburgh and the Ohio River. The settlers then traveled the Ohio River to the Illinois Territory.

Ol' Henry understands that it took the researchers longer to locate Ferguson's Ferry. The only answer they came up with for a long time was that a Thomas Ferguson was postmaster at Ferguson's Ferry around 1815, but no location was listed.

Some things are just meant to be!! Karen was searching on the Internet and found Ferguson's Ferry by accident. I am just a mouse, ya' know and have no clue what an “internet” is but it sure worked!

In 1815,Ferguson's Ferry was in today's town of Golconda, Illinois! There was a lot of information on the Internet and Mildred, a nice lady historian from Golconda, gave Karen some added facts to help complete the picture.

Ol' Henry overheard Karen telling Joe, Sid and RoxAnn about Ferguson's Ferry and here is the story. In 1798 a man named Major James Lusk built a ferry – Lusk's Ferry – that transported Illinois folks across the Ohio River to and from Kentucky. Many people who lived in Illinois owned property in Kentucky. Upon Lusk's death Sarah, his wife, became the first woman in the Illinois Territory to hold a ferry license. Later she married Thomas Ferguson and Lusk's Ferry then became Ferguson's Ferry.

When Col. Ben and his entourage stopped at Ferguson's Ferry the ferry was a trading post and a major stop on the Ohio River. In fact, it was the only stop between Pittsburgh and Kaskaskia. And, Kaskaskia was not too far from Ferguson's Ferry.

Why then did Col. Ben choose to stop when the family was so near Kaskaskia and home? It appeared he did not stop to use the ferry to cross over to Kentucky because he was on his way to Kaskaskia on the Illinois side. Ol' Henry thinks the folks probably wanted to get off the boat! Mildred, the historian from Golconda, said Hamlet Ferguson, brother of Thomas Ferguson of Ferguson's Ferry, and Samuel Omelventy were delegates from Pope County to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1818. And, we know Col. Ben was a delegate from Madison County at the Constitutional Convention. This has set the researchers to thinking politics and the future of the Illinois Territory may have been the reason for the stop. Ol' Henry bets Col. Ben knew these men and stopped to visit and talk politics as he passed by.

There is another story involving with Ferguson's Ferry. Major James Lusk built the original ferry in 1798. Ol' Henry's ears perked up on that name – did yours? John Lusk of Edwardsville was the son of Major James Lusk! Mildred of Golconda knew about our John Lusk who was among the first to come to Edwardsville in 1805, becoming the owner of our first hotel. And our first public cemetery, Lusk Cemetery on Randall Street, bears his name. Some story, huh?

The people who settled the Illinois Territory sure were brave. In 1805, John Lusk left his father's rather safe and sure ferry business and ventured further up the Mississippi and north to the wilderness that is now Edwardsville. He sure was full of spirit and adventure! Ol' Henry will find out more about John Lusk. He seems like an interesting fellow.

See ya' later,

Henry

 


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