INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 21, 2006
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again to say: Life at “my” house continues to be good even in an ice storm! Ol' Henry had his food stored and a nice warm, fluffy nest where I could eat and sleep. By golly, I really got to thinking about life in the 1800s and maybe some of you did too. The only light Col. Ben and Lucy had was candles and the fireplace, which made the only heat in the house. What about food? Bob the gardener tells the school kids how the early pioneers buried carrots, beets and other vegetables in shallow trenches where they were frozen, like in today's freezers so I've heard.
How did the folks in early Edwardsville survive in the severe cold? These people were strong, determined and survivors! Ol' Henry thinks a lot of time could surely be spent on learning and teaching how these early settlers survived the heat, the drought and the severe cold.
The other day Cousin Jake gave Ol' Henry some additional information on John Lusk. Jake said Lusk was postmaster for a number of years and also built a second hotel in town. I think if Henry keeps listening we all will learn even more about John Lusk! Lusk was plainly an energetic man!
Henry is learning lots of interesting new names from Cousin Jake and his Lower Town buddies. The stories I had learned over the years were from tales the great-great-grandpappys told and were mostly about Col. Ben, his family and friendships formed through business and politics. Now Ol' Henry is learning lots of interesting new names from Cousin Jake and his Lower Town buddies. Some of those I heard mentioned are Robinson, Pruitt, Paddock, Tiffin, Lippincott, Allen and Coventry. Looks like Ol' Henry will be hanging out more in Lower Town gathering stories about the men in town who were friends of Col Ben and played a vital role in very early Edwardsville.
Finally Ol' Henry learned about the Scots-Irish people! Recently the Tuesday Morning Crew was talking about them. George referred to an article about the Scots –Irish he had read. It was written by Peter Gilmore who is now working on a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University on the Scots – Irish Immigration into Pittsburgh. Ol' Henry listened and learned a whole lot about the Scots-Irish since the Stephenson family was referred to as Scots-Irish from time to time and Henry always wondered why. Did you wonder too? James Stephenson, Col. Ben's father, who settled in Pennsylvania, was born in Ulster, Ireland. Henry thought he was Irish, but when the family was referred to as Scots-Irish I was really confused.
OK, here we go! First of all, the Scots-Irish were Scottish families who settled in northern Ireland in the 1600s and 1700s. A number of English noblemen encouraged Scottish lowlanders to emigrate and farm plantations in Ulster in northern Ireland. Now, please remember that in 1740 James Stephenson was born in Ulster, Ireland.
The Scottish settlers in Ireland were Protestants and they had some problems in Ireland. In the early 1700s, Presbyterian ministers were not allowed to perform weddings or baptisms in Ulster. These religious restrictions plus periodic famines and rent increases caused many Scotch-Irish to come as early as 1718 to the colonies in America where they could find cheap land and independence.
The first big wave of Irish settlers was before the Revolutionary War when about 250,000 Scotch-Irish came to the colonies. The majority settled in Pennsylvania and thousands went to Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. You will recall that James Stephenson settled in York County Pennsylvania, and all his children were born there.
Many Scots-Irish settled near Philadelphia, a major port in the linen trade. Flax was shipped to northern Ireland where the Scotch-Irish made extra money producing linen cloth. When the ships returned to America they often carried settlers with them.
By the 1840s, millions of Irish Catholics emigrated to the United States because of the potato famine. The Scotch-Irish who came to the colonies in the 1700s had lived in northern Ireland for generations and thought of themselves as Irish and were Protestant. It was after the arrival of the Irish Catholics in the 1840s when the Irish settlers from the early 1700s began calling themselves Scots-Irish.
There were two reasons for this: One was an attempt to show that they were equal to the Boston Brahmins or the Virginia Cavaliers and that they too were of hardy Anglo-Saxon Protestant stock. And, they had come to America very early.
The second reason was they wanted to distinguish their forebearers from the recent Irish immigrates who were Catholic, poor or doing potentially incorrect things like voting Democratic or joining unions. Ol' Henry thinks it is clear these Scotch-Irish wanted to be sure folks knew they came to American first, were Protestant and did the right things.
Now we know the story of the term Scotch-Irish and it fits the Stephenson family perfectly. James was born in Ulster, settled in Pennsylvania and he and his family were Presbyterian!
Ol' Henry sure is sorry the ice storm ended the plans for Father Christmas to visit “my” house. We will see him next year! For now, boys and girls, be sure and get your stockings hung. Henry has his hung up in the children's bedroom and I can't wait to see what Father Christmas brings me!
Merry Christmas to all you of you dear folks!
See ya' later,