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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - September 11, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Thought about taking off to visit some relatives this week, but golly, there is never a dull moment around here and I do not like to miss anything. The Friends were here for the big clean on Saturday and it does look good. You know the Chamber of Commerce After-Hours was held here on Tuesday and again good food was served. I really like that and I know it was Carol who left me a little extra. Looked to me like everyone had a good time and enjoyed Col. Ben's house.

The big excitement was our resident skunks. We had a Momma and her two babies living here. Henry knew they had moved in and those babies were cute but I did not want to get too near. Rich of R&M Wildlife came and took them to a home far from town. It sure was an experience to see how they catch those guys. They use something a lot bigger than those mouse traps I have heard about!

Henry is going try to start telling you some of the Stephenson House mouse stories that have come down "through the ages" about the folks who lived in Col. Ben's house.

First Henry would like to tell you why Lucy's house was for sale in 1828. When Col. Ben died all the folks that owed him money had to settle up and Col. Ben's estate had to settle up with the people he owed. When these numbers were all figured Col. Ben's estate was short on the money he owed. Now, this does not mean that Col. Ben did not pay his bills. At that time there wasn't a lot of real money around so barter and credit was a way of life on the frontier. You know, the doctor delivered the baby and was paid with a chicken. So, to get real money to pay the estates debts they auctioned the Stephenson's household goods. It took years and many dollars to get this all accomplished and in 1828 it was determined that the house and 182 acres must also be sold. My Cousin Maggie from Lexington tells me in her Southern drawl that "honey, this being short of money thing happened all the time in Kentucky! There would be a sale of the family goods and the family would buy it all back." Looks like this is exactly what happened to Lucy. There is a lot of information in the probate records including what bills were collected and paid by Col. Ben's estate. Joe, Sid and Karen all agree that we are extremely lucky to have all this information because it tells so much about the Stephenson's style of living.

So, in 1828, Lucy's house and 182 acres were sold to William Starr, her son-in-law, and for the next six years either Starr, son James or son-in-law Winchester owned the house. Karen says it appears from the 1830 census that Lucy, Ben V., the Starr and Winchester families all lived there in 1830. About that time the Winchester family went to Carlinville, Ben V. went to the Black Hawk War and then joined his brother James in Galena. The few mouse stories lead Henry to think that Lucy and William Starr were left with 182 acres and a big house to maintain and it was too much for them.

In 1834 Lucy moved to Carlinville, remember that was when Granddaddy Amos went with her. The Starr family remained in Edwardsville and that same year Elvira L. Edwards bought the house and 182 acres from James Stephenson for $2000. The mouse story tells that Elvira, widow of Ninian Edwards, bought the house to help out her friend Lucy. Elvira also bought property in Alton and two printing presses at this same time. Maybe there is a mouse out there that can explain her purchase of the printing presses!

Ole' Henry realizes it was a different world back then, but read this quote that Marion found from the will of Ninian Edwards. "Being desirous of providing for my family a residence that will please my beloved wife, Elvira L. Edwards, and the means of supporting them with economy, it is my will and desire that my said wife Elvira shall, if she thinks proper, exchange or sell any part of my estate that may be necessary to procure a farm for her wherever she may choose one, provided the trace of land so to be exchanged for, or purchased, shall not exceed four hundred acres, nor the improvement thereon be unreasonably costly or extravagant." Elizabeth joked that ole" Ninian took care of Elvira, but true to the times, he sent orders from the grave!

Elvira Edwards owned the property from 1834 to 1837 but we do not know if she ever lived there. It was Uncle Thomas who told us that Judge Henry K. Eaton rented the house when he came to Edwardsville in 1836, and that his daughter Amanda was born there that year. So, we do know the property was rented part of the time. Uncle told that Judge Eaton was a cabinet maker by trade for many years and through his reputable business dealings he gained the confidence of the people. Soon he was known as one to trust with public matters and he was selected as County Commissioner and then appointed probate judge for many years before he retired to farming in Hamel. His daughter Amanda said when she was a child she saw the charred wood and brick debris where the home of Ninian Edwards had burned. Uncle Thomas used to mention Eaton descendants. That's why Henry here knows for sure that the Judge's granddaughter Abigail married a Stevenson from Lebanon, and his great-great-great-grandson Kevin lives in Hamel today. The names may change but the descendants of many of these first settlers remain in the area. How do we know? Just ask a mouse!

Thomas P. and Elizabeth Birks bought the Stephenson property from Elvira in 1837. Uncle Thomas was the only one who could ever remember their name. He said the Birks only lived in Col. Ben's house for two years and the only thing he could remember about them was their name.

Philip Fix bought the property from Birks in 1839 for $4750. Shortly after Fix purchased an adjacent 170 acres, so now he owned a lot of land. Henry here believes Fix bought land in the area around today's Benton Street which included land up Tanyard Hill and out to the Ebenezer Campground. Uncle Thomas also said the land included a steam mill.

Now, Philip Fix was born in Alsace Lorraine in ..............Oh, Oh, ...oh no, I see a big grey cat.....does he see me.........no....maybe..........I gotta go...........


See ya later,
Henry


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