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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 17, 2007

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back and trying to stay warm! Some weather, huh? Looks like the Farmers Almanac made the right forecast and I am glad I added extra fluff to my bed! From my warm and cozy bed I've been thinking about the Friends of The Stephenson House and how they have accomplished what they set out to do. With tremendous support from the community they completed the house restoration. At the same time, a dedicated group of teachers and board members developed an educational program for school kids, now up and running. The kids, teachers and docents love it. It just seems that everyone is having fun as they learn about life on the frontier in the early 1800's. Teaching the young people about life on the frontier was a goal of the Friends and a successful program has been accomplished! Congratulations to the Friends and all those involved!!

It is time for Ol' Henry to finish the story of Benjamin V. and the Black Hawk War. I am just a mouse ya' know, but from all I have overheard about Black Hawk it seems this man was a very disgruntled person all his life. I have also heard that Black Hawk did not follow the advice of wiser fellow Indians and led his nation to war against the United States and in so doing, he led his nation to suicide. Ol' Henry thinks this war was not a welcome development in the development of the frontier. But, you should read about the Black Hawk War and form your own conclusion.

Henry always wanted to know more about this war. From what I've been told, the men from this area enlisted for a period of 60 days and after that Ol' Henry never knew where they went or if they really saw any fighting. Right now Ol' Henry has a story to tell that gives an idea of what the volunteers from the Edwardsville area encountered during the Black Hawk War. There were two campaigns, remember? One in 1831, with no fighting involved and a peace treaty signed. The second campaign began in spring of 1832 and had fighting and bloody battles. In 1832, the same men who had signed with Capt. Erastus Wheeler's company of mounted volunteers in 1831, reassembled in the Edwardsville area. They then traveled to Ottawa, Illinois, where they were to guard the frontier until U.S. troops arrived.

At Ottawa, a company made up volunteers from Madison and St. Clair counties was sent to Galena, including men from Capt. Wheelers Company. Remember Benjamin V. Stephenson, Bill Starr, Joseph Gillespie and others from Edwardsville were in Wheeler's company. Ol' Henry did learn about an encounter by Wheeler's men with the Indians through a story written by Pvt. Joseph Gillespie, and here it is: As the mounted volunteers crossed to Galena, they camped one night in a large barn at Kellogg's Grove, between Rock Island and Galena. During the night the Indians shot at one of the sentinels and stole a horse. In the morning a party of volunteers went out to overtake the Indians. They followed the Indian trail for about 15 or 20 miles when the Indians and volunteer party saw each other at the bottom of a long ridge. Joseph Gillespie wrote that the mounted volunteers continued following the Indians, thinking they would continue on toward the Mississippi River. After about one-half hour of tracking, the volunteer party realized that the Indians had actually backtracked when the volunteers had sighted them. Precious time had been lost and the volunteers started back in hot pursuit. In a couple hours they saw four Indians at least a mile ahead of them. Gillespie related that they overtook the Indians who were hiding in a deep, dry streambed. They surrounded the Indians and shot and killed them. One man from St. Clair County, Meckemson, was wounded. Gillespie wrote: “The Indians tried to surrender, but we, as some of us supposed, very unmercifully refused to accept their offer.” He also wrote that later they learned that both groups of Indians they had encountered were making for a large party of their people very near the volunteer's camp at Kellogg's Grove. The volunteers had been in much more danger than they had realized!

The volunteer group put Meckensom on a stretcher and headed for Kellogg's Grove. The men were scattered with no regard for order. The dying Meckemson begged for water and two squads were sent to either side of the ridge in search of water. One squad was ambushed and Dr. Jarrot was wounded. Gillespie wrote: “The men instantly retreated to where Meckemson lay, the Indians following with a yell, cut off his head with a tomahawk.” Mass confusion resulted. Finally there was a rally and some men went to the grove for help and there was gunfire between the volunteers and the Indians. Soon the Indians disappeared and the volunteers, fearing another ambush, did not follow but returned to Kellogg's Grove.

Gillespie wrote that they viewed the ambush site the next day and found there had been “…Indians enough there to whip us out of our boots…” The Indians apparently expected the volunteers to follow them into the thicket where they would have out numbered them and had them at their mercy.

Ol' Henry understands that it is not known for sure that Corporal Benjamin V. Stephenson was involved in the event Gillespie wrote about. However, there is a good chance he was there with Gillespie. Nevertheless, Gillespie's recollection of the Kellogg's Grove encounter gives us a better idea of what the men from Edwardsville experienced in the 1832 campaign of the Black Hawk War. Pvt. Joseph Gillespie, who told of the Kellogg's Grove encounter, was later Judge Joseph Gillespie of Edwardsville and friend of Abraham Lincoln.

Capt. Erastus Wheeler's Company of the Brigade, Mountain Volunteers, commanded by Gen. Samuel Whiteside had enlisted for 60 days. On May 28, 1832, they were mustered out at the mouth of Fox River in Illinois. They were 295 miles from the place of their enlistment. These men were later eligible for Bounty Lands in payment for their service in the Black Hawk War.

So much for that unfortunate war. I am getting hungry and must go find some of those goodies I stored away this fall!

See ya' later,

Henry

 


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