INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - July 8, 2002
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Hey,
another bit of excitement at "my" house last week. One evening
the whole gang was here cleaning and the next day Carol, Mary and Sally
were here with a microphone and stand, tablecloths, glasses, decorations
and, best of all, cookies! Henry had no idea what was going on and found
a place to hide. Well, that afternoon Senator Evelyn Bowles, Edwardsville
officials and all kinds of people started arriving. Then a lady came and
talked over the microphone and gave a big white piece of cardboard to
Carol. Joe gave the lady a tour of The Stephenson House and everyone had
cookies and lemonade. It was the end of the afternoon when I learned the
lady was the Illinois State Treasurer Judy Barr -Topinka and she had given
Carol a big pretend check. The check was for an Experience Illinois Loan
for $200,000. to be used purchase the Clark property. This is a low interest
loan. Now, you realize that all this is a little too much for a mouse
to understand, but I listened hard and I think I got it right. Everybody
was happy, I know that.
Keep watching "my" house! I have heard that
the E.J., Keith and the guys are ready to start tuckpointing any day now.
After that, they will hang the windows and shutters - talk about exciting!
OK guys, let's now learn about James William Stephenson,
son of Col. Ben and Lucy. Their second child, a son, was born in Virginia
in 1806 and named for the men in Ben's family. When James W. was ten years
old he came from Kaskaskia to Edwardsville with his parents in 1816 and
grew up in their house on North Main Street.
James left Edwardsville for Galena, Jo Daviess County,
when he was 22 years old. I heard Amanda say she had read that James W.
"was a strikingly handsome man, with a personality that quickly won
him many friends" and that within two years he was involved in Jo
Daviess County politics.
Karen and Amanda have found a lot written about James
W. Henry sure is glad because James W. seemed to be on the move and Henry
has never heard of any mouse relatives in his area. Guess they couldn't
keep up with him!! The girls learned that James participated in the Black
Hawk War and was captain of the Stephenson Company. This was a group of
mounted rangers that fought a lot of battles. The battle at Apple River
in northern Illinois is always connected with Capt. J. W. Stephenson.
He described the skirmish himself in a letter which appeared in a local
paper under the headline "ANOTHER BLOODY BATTLE CONDUCTED BY CAPT.
J. W. STEPHENSON!" By the end of the BHW he had attained the rank
James W. knew many important politicians. Amanda and Karen
learned of letters from various politicians including a quite chatty letter
in 1834 from Jefferson Davis. Stephenson was elected to the Illinois State
Senate in 1834 and very soon sought an appointment to the Land Office
In early December 1834 he made a trip to St. Louis and
married Ellen Kyle, a merchant's daughter. The couple evidently spent
time in Edwardsville and Vandalia and did not return to Galena until spring.
During his absence from Galena he received good-natured letters from friends
that mentioned drinking, card playing, ice sleighing on the river and
kidding James W. about why he didn't get back to Galena. Amanda and Karen
are really getting a kick out of these letters.
James was appointed Register of Lands at Galena and Chicago
and took office when he returned to Galena in April 1835. The Stephenson's
enjoyed an elegant lifestyle. When James and his bride arrived in Galena
they rented a home and purchased furniture, including mahogany dining
tables and sideboards, fine linen, and other furniture. James also purchased
a fine carriage for Ellen to use when she went calling. They drank champagne
and the finest brandy at their parties and Ellen kept up on the literary
topics of the day, and read such best sellers as Byron's poems. She was
dancing through her kid slippers every few nights and would have to buy
new ones. Although James W. joined her with vigor in the social life,
he never rested from his political duties.
At the Democratic Convention in Vandalia in December 1837,
Stephenson was nominated for governor. The campaign was just underway
when the opposition accused Stephenson of defaulting to the Federal Government
on his accounts as Receiver of Lands at Galena. The charges had something
to do with Stephenson having to accept payment for land in paper which
was discounted by the time the payment was sent to the Secretary of the
Treasury. The newspapers were full of the accusations against Stephenson.
However, personal slander was so much a part of every political campaign
in those days that many listened with half an ear.
I heard Karen tell Amanda that Lucy wrote her son encouraging
him to fight the battle. She reminded him to attend to his health and
remember that all Great Men have enemies. Henry thinks this is another
instance that Miss Lucy was the strong matriarch of the Stephenson family.
James was not a well man and his friends repeatedly encouraged
him to withdraw and rest from his strenuous life. Finally his strength
was not equal to fight the newspaper campaign. In the spring he withdrew
from the contest for governor and Thomas Carlin was named in his place.
James W. died less than one week after Carlin was elected governor in
August 1838. He died of tuberculosis at his home in Galena at the age
of 32 years. He was buried the same day with military honors.
James left his widow, Ellen Kyle Stephenson with two small
children, Kyle and Lucy. Did you notice the names of the children? Their
son Kyle was given his mothers maiden name and the little girl was named
for her grandmother Stephenson. They kept the names in the family during
those years! One year old Lucy died in 1838, the same year as her father.
Ellen soon moved to Freeport with her three year old son Kyle and lived
with her sister Jane Clark and her husband. Ellen married again in 1843
to Colonel William Mitchell of Freeport. She died of tuberculosis nine
months after her second marriage, when she was only twenty-nine years
Jane Clark took Kyle into her own family and when her husband was appointed
surveyor general of New Mexico, Kyle moved west with the family. He died
in Arkansas in 1864. Before Kyle's death he had his father's remains moved
to the cemetery in Freeport where his mother and little sister were buried
and he erected a monument to their memory.
Well, I have talked enough and I am out of here. It is
a very warm day and I am heading for Annie's Custard. I just know some
little boy or girl will drop ice cream on their way home and I will be
See ya' later,