INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - August 29, 2002
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. The
hot, hot weather this week made me think of the old ice plant on S. Kansas.
Bet some of you remember that place. As a young mouse I sure enjoyed being
there on hot days! Now, that was a cool place to be in hot weather! Hey,
have you been watching "my" house? It looks to me like the tuckpointing
is about finished and then the replacement windows will be installed and
painted. Folks, this means the exterior work on the house is pretty well
I heard Joe say The Friends are looking forward to moving
into Phase II which is the restoration of the interior of Col. Ben's house.
With the help of you folks, the City and the State of Illinois, The Friends
and HPC are doing a restoration of the house. That word "restoration"
means a whole, whole lot. Col. Ben's house is old and on the National
Register of Historic Places and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
requires very specific kinds of materials and methods of workmanship in
the restoration of a house as special as Col. Ben's. The Friends are in
the process of searching for additional resources needed for the interior
restoration through grants, in-kind donations, donations and various fundraisers.
The interior work includes electrical, heating, air conditioning and plumbing;
repair of floors, woodwork and staircase. Even the new plaster will be
done very much like the original which will include three layers of special
types of plaster.
Henry can easily see that this restoration work is a challenge
for everyone. Henry can also see that the Friends and HPC are excited
about the interior work and are determined to make this a place much like
it was in the 1820's so that people will come from far and wide to experience
life in the 1820's. Do The Friends ever rest?
The other day as I sprawled out in the grass trying to
keep cool, I thought about the folks who have lived in Col. Ben's house.
Of course, we know Col. Ben was the first, and now it appears that we
know the date he and his family moved in! Sid found in the Stephenson
probate records a bill for $5.00 from Jacques Mette for moving household
furniture on Dec 15, 1821! Lucy and the younger children stayed there
for over 10 years after Ben's death in 1822, but five of those years,
Lucy's son-in-law William Starr owned the 182 acres of property. Her son
James was the next owner who bought the property from Starr; and, then
in year 1834, James sold the Stephenson Homestead to Elvira L. Edwards,
widow of Gov. Ninian Edwards. There isn't a mouse out there that can tell
me if Elvira Edwards ever lived in the house when she owned it.
Ole' Henry does recollect Uncle Thomas telling about Judge
H.K. Eaton renting from Elvira when he came to town in 1836. Uncle Thomas
said he remembered a baby girl, Amanda Eaton, being born in the house
in 1836. He also said Judge Eaton retired to farming in Hamel and Uncle
thought there were a lot of Eaton descendants around the area.
Elvira Edwards owned the 182 acres for three years and
in 1837 she sold it to Thomas and Elizabeth Birks. The Birks lived there
six years and in 1845 they sold 160 acres to Philip Fix. He was referred
to as "the valiant Napoleonic warrior" and led an interesting
life. Fix deeded the 160 acres plus an additional 170 acres he had purchased
to his only daughter Caroline for $1.00. One reservation in the deed was
that he would occupy the second floor of the house until his death. He
died 23 years later.
The day Fix deeded the property to his daughter, she deeded
it to her husband Frederick A. Wolf. It sure did not take Henry very long
to understand why Mr. Wolf built the addition to the house so quick. Caroline
and Frederick had five children, her father occupied the second floor
and that all says to me that they needed a lot more room for their family.
In 1880 Frederick A. Wolf, now a widower, sold the property
plus additional adjacent land to his sons Adolphus and Frederick W. Wolf.
Ten years later Adolphus sold his share of the property to his brother
Frederick W. Wolf.
J. Frank Dickmann bought the Wolf property in 1902 and
the house remained in the Dickmann family for thirty-nine years which
was the longest any family had ever owned the house. In 1941 Elmer and
Hallie Waltrip purchased the property. By this time most of the land had
been sold off and Waltrip's purchased just the home at 409 S. Buchanan.
They lived there for two years and then the Berry sisters, Stella and
Ione, purchased the home which provided the space needed for them to raise
the orphaned children of their sister. The Berry sisters loved the house
very much and lived there for almost twenty years. In 1975 the home was
sold to Rev. Stephen Weissman and his wife Jacqueline. The Weissmans were
a family who, like so many previous owners, loved and cared for the house.
Rev. Weissman did the research that led to the Stephenson House being
placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Some of you may recall when the Weissman's sold the Stephenson
House to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity of SIUE in 1982. The fraternity
owned the house until 1999 when the City purchased the home with Illinois
State grant funds. Since then, Henry has seen progress, progress and more
progress in the restoration of Col. Ben's house.
Someday Ole' Henry will tell you mouse stories about the
various folks who lived in Col. Ben's house. I want you to "know"
these folks like I do!
Well, I heard the Friends talking and Saturday, Sept 7
is going to be a big day at "my" house. It will be Fall Clean
-Up Day starting at 9 AM!! Sid has a pickup truck, Tom does bathrooms
and George wields a mighty mop and that is just some of the men. The women
will arrive with tools for indoor and outdoor work. There is a lot of
brick dust inside as a result of the tuckpointing. There is hedge to be
trimmed and just general "stuff" to deal with that has accumulated.
Sure wish I could write, I could make a list of things to be done around
here to help The Friends, but I can't write! Henry says this clean up
day is for anyone who would like to be a part of cleaning up around "my"
house. All you have to do is appear on Saturday morning, Sept. 7 after
9 AM and be ready to work. I am sure there will be something for you to
do. Mark your calendars to come by that day of you can!
Well folks, I am on my way to hang out around Keith and
the guys. They talk and laugh and they have food! What will I do if they
ever leave for a long time???