INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 8, 2006
Hi! Henry is back again and here to tell you how busy it was at “ my” house the first weekend in December! First of all, “my” house was on the Junior Service House Tour! Ol' Henry was so proud to have “my” house help the ladies raise funds for their good projects for the kids in Edwardsville.
But now Ol' Henry has more to tell you about the Lusk family, just as promised! Major James Lusk, wife Sarah and family came to Illinois from the Broad River in Union District, South Carolina where their son John Thomas Lusk was born on November 7, 1784.
You will remember that last time I mentioned Maj. James Lusk, the man who built Lusk's Ferry on the Ohio River at today's town of Golconda, Illinois. This ferry later became Ferguson's Ferry when James Lusk's widow married Thomas Ferguson. John Lusk helped his father operate the Lusk Ferry for some time and then came to Goshen country in 1804 at the age of twenty. The next year John Lusk settled on public land two and one-half miles southwest of Edwardsville. Ol' Henry thinks this would be in today's Poag Road area. Lusk was unmarried and his aunt, Mrs. Sally Sams, helped him keep house.
In 1809 John T. Lusk and Lucretia Gillham were married. Lucretia, born in Georgia in 1793, was the daughter of Charles Gillham who in 1803 settled with his family two miles south of Edwardsville. Right after the marriage John and Lucretia moved to a tract of land that later was included in the Fair Grounds near Edwardsville. Hey, Ol' Henry is pretty certain that this is today's Woodlawn Gardens area at the west end of St. Louis Street. The Lusks lived in a tent until John completed the sturdy log cabin where their son Alfred Lusk was born. It is said that he was the first white child born in the Illinois Territory.
Ol' Henry got real busy asking questions of Cousin Jake and his Lower Town buddies. And, there were some good answers! Jake said Lusk was a merchant for a short period of time in 1815 when he was granted a merchants license. In 1817 John Lusk built the first hotel in Edwardsville near the public square. This new hotel was built of heavy hewn logs and was a story and half high with three rooms on the ground floor. In November he had customers at his newly erected hotel, referred to as a public house. The new log hotel was not quite finished with some clinking left to be done. The cracks between the logs were wide! During the night a big storm came up and the winds blew the bedcovers off the people trying to sleep! Lusk was a busy man working his farm and operating his hotel.
Lusk had the first hotel and along with that he got an additional job. He became manager of a road district a mile in diameter around the courthouse. This included the location of his hotel that he operated for a number of years.
The guys in Lower Town told Henry that John Lusk was a man who was active in local politics and the interests of Edwardsville. For many years after John built Edwardsville's first hotel he had many positions. He was postmaster, Madison County treasurer, assessor and commissioner of census. He was Edwardsville City Clerk and Madison County Recorder.
John Lusk was also an activist against slavery in the State of Illinois.
Lusk was a stockholder in the first Edwardsville library and in 1820 the Spectator reported the library stockholders met at his home. On May 1, 1820, Edwardsville ladies and gentlemen were invited to musical performances by the St. Louis Theatrical Corp at the home of John T. Lusk on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. He was a busy, energetic man accomplishing much for the community and its people.
In 1821 Lusk was in favor of the courthouse and jail donation proposition that gave Edwardsville the Donation Courthouse. Lusk and Abraham Prickett were the top donors with donations of three hundred dollars each for the courthouse. Ol' Henry thinks it was 1835 before that pitiful courthouse was completed with its dirt floor and a rickety ladder to the jury seats!
Henry overheard an HPC member say that in 1831 there was a real estate brokers office in Edwardsville operated by Lusk and son. A real estate office in 1831!!
John Lusk served as a ranger in the War of 1812. He also served in the Black Hawk War as a 1 st Lt. in Capt. Erastus Wheeler's Company of the Brigade, Mountain Volunteers, commanded by Gen. Samuel Whiteside. He enlisted for sixty days service and was mustered out in May 1832 at the mouth of the Fox River, Illinois, and 295 miles from Edwardsville the place of his enlistment. Here is something else Ol' Henry learned - Benjamin V. Stephenson was a 3 rd Sergeant in this same company!
John's wife, Lucretia, was a brave and capable woman. While the men were away during the War of 1812 the women sought refuge in the fort or blockhouse, Fort Russell. Lucretia, who was an excellent marksman with her rifle, was named the captain of the women. The women of early Edwardsville were real frontiersmen!
Cousin Jake and the guys in Lower Town also had knowledge about Lusk Cemetery on Randle Street and told Ol' Henry all about it. In the 1820's this cemetery was known as the “Public Burial Ground” and is where Col. Benjamin Stephenson was buried in 1822. It was known as Lusk Cemetery after 1840 when more than 160 feet of land facing Randle Street was added to the old burial site. This land was platted by John T. Lusk before 1840 and by his son George C. Lusk after 1840, and the cemetery is named in honor of John T. Lusk. John T. Lusk died in Edwardsville in 1857 and Lucretia died two years later and both were buried in Lusk Cemetery.
John T. Lusk served his community all of his life. It was the good fortune of Edwardsville when Lusk came here from Golconda!
Gotta go and find some more food for the winter!
See ya' later,