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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 16, 2002

Hi! Henry, the Stephenson House Mouse, is back. Things are really moving around my house! E.J., Keith, and Greg, the guys who do the restoration work from St. Louis Tuckpointing and Painting are doing a lot with bricks!! I'll tell you about that in a minute.


The other day I was out in front and found a big piece of hotdog bun that somebody at Dairy Queen dropped - it sure was good! As I sat there eating and looking at the house I got to remembering some of the old stories about Ben's family. James Stephenson, Ben's dad, came from Ulster, Ireland, in 1740 and married Mary Reed in Pennsylvania in 1763. Ben and his brothers and sisters were born in York County, which is now the Gettysburg area. Ben's dad was a private in the Pennsylvania Militia in the Revolutionary War, serving as a Wagoner. After the war, the Stephenson family moved to Martinsburg, Va. The mouse stories that have come down through the years tell that Ben was about 20 years old when they moved. This is where Benjamin met Lucy Swearingen, fell in love and they got married. Col. Ben and Lucy lived at Harpers Ferry when their daughter, Julia, was born in 1803, and probably were there when son James W. was born in 1806. Then they moved on to Kentucky and finally came to Kaskaskia in 1809. Great-great-great-grandfather Samuel Mouse used to tell how he hid in different places in the wagon during the moves. Those were exciting trips for him!!


We mice are small and we have to be careful, but I do listen to Joe, Jack and Laura when I can. Remember I told you about those people that came and did all the tearing up around here - took out the bathrooms, radiators and all that. I heard they were people from the Madison County SWAP program who help out when they are needed. Way it sounded to me, the folks at HPC went to Norm at the SWAP program for help, Jack the architect decided what had to be removed and the Sheriff's SWAP program got it done. I overheard Joe, Jack and Laura say it was removing all the "stuff" like the plaster that allowed them to see what the house really looked like in 1820. They discovered a lot about how the house was built, even a second stairway, and then they found the records of Col. Ben and Lucy's household goods. Everybody was excited! There was so much information around that HP{C, Jack and Laura just knew they had to take this house back to like it was in the 1820's.


The more I listen, the more I learn and with that talk about the 1820's, ole' Henry here knew something big was up. This restoration thing that is being done to my house is really something. From what I hear, it is rare that an old, old house is restored back exactly the way it was. I peeked at a book the other day that has the information about the restoration in it. Joe calls it a Historic Structures Report. I call it big!!! The book must be six inches thick!!! You folks should watch what goes on around here with this restoration. From all I hear, this is a once in a lifetime event for Edwardsville. Don't miss it!


Now, let's get back to the work going on now. The frames and doors were tagged and put in storage where they are safe during the heavy construction work. Next, E.J. had the guys put scaffolding up to stabilize the house. Then he changed big iron beams around, opened up windows that had been bricked up and fixed floor joists. My mouse family has told a lot of stories about the size of those termites that ate on those floor joists back in the middle of the 1800's!! They were really some big dudes with mighty big teeth to do all the damage they did! E.J. is pretty smart when it comes to this restoring, been doing it for over 20 years. He left the old floor joists in and put new boards around the old. Got a lot of extra strength in the floor, save the old joists from the original house, and saved the old floor on the second floor. Good going, E.J.! This old mouse is learning some new words about restoration and construction and it sure keeps my mind alert!
Then the brick work started. E.J. and his guys took out the four old fireplaces and chimneys and made new ones. Now that was a job I really watched. The bricks in those old fireplaces had to be removed one brick at a time so that there wasn't damage to the bricks or the house. I heard the guys say it sure was lucky the place didn't burn down long ago - those chimneys and fireplaces were not built for safety. Made me think of Col. Ben's friend, Ninian Edwards, the fellow for whom our town is named. Maybe the fireplaces were the reason Ninian's house burned down - it was built the same time as the Stephenson's house and I would bet the houses were built very much alike.


When you come here, take a good look. You can see where the guys have opened up windows that had been closed with brick. And, you will see where they filled in a door on the north side of the house that had been made some years ago. The big event was when they took down the south entrance way that had been added. Keith used a mixture of old and new brick to fill in the area and now the shape of the house is like it was after the addition in 1845. There is so much to tell - that new brick came from Richards Brick in Edwardsville, and it looks so much like the original brick that it is incredible!!! And, 1845 - well, I will tell you all abut that addition at another time, on my mouse honor, I will.


Anyway, Keith is one good brick layer - and he doesn't even get dirty! He and Greg have really done a lot of beautiful work with these bricks. Talking about bricks made me remember the stories I heard about the bricks that are in this house. I will save that for next time - I hear hammering from inside, got to go see what is going on now!!

See ya,
Henry


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