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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - November 1, 2002

Hi! Henry is back again. Hey, did we have a great time at the Stephenson House when Wilma Jene and chef's Malench, Gilman, Denny, Hudgens and Ladd served Burgoo. It was something else! There were weavers, yarn dyeing, basket making, adult spinners and eight and ten year old girls spinning and weaving, and children singing to the wonderful dulcimer music by Harrison and Heider. Each artisan made part of the 1820's lifestyle come alive.

Henry here found a safe spot and I could see all that was going on. I be there were over 500 people who visited Col. Ben's house that day. I hope everyone noticed the awesome new "old windows that E.J. and the guys installed. It was a real flurry of activity and lots and lots of fun on a beautiful fall day. From my spot I spied visitors Coach Harry and Bev, Alderman Rich Rezabek, Jim and Vi, the brick man Bob, Ginger, Carol and Herb, Eunice, George and Sandy, Mayor Nieber and many, many more people we all know. Wilma Jene and her big team of cooks had cut and chopped, cut and chopped and then cut and chopped some more and guess what - they ran out of Burgoo by 1:30. Who would ever have thought that would happen!!! I heard Lois say we might need three copper kettles next year!! Sid and some young helpers churned butter all day so many settled for bread and wonderful fresh churned butter to fill their empty stomachs. Even ole' Henry got some bread and butter and I do think it was Mary who took care of me again. One thing I heard for sure - there will be lots and lots of Burgoo next year! Ya' all come back now!

The other day I was sitting in the sun, munching on some of that good bread and butter and I decided it was time to tell you a kinda' hush, hush story about a happening at Col. Ben's house.

A murder happened at Col. Ben's house. Daniel D. Smith was stabbed and killed there in 1825. Palemon Winchester, James W. Stephenson and James D. Henry were indicted for the murder. Smith had lived in Edwardsville for about four years and then moved to Pike County in 1821. On the 29th of January he had stopped at a gathering at Stephenson's house on his way home from Vandalia. I heard tell that Winchester and Smith argued about General Jackson. Out of it, Smith was stabbed and as he lay dying, he accused Winchester. Grandpappy Samuel and Grandpappy Amos said there was a big crowd there but no one saw the stabbing. They just said Smith died, nothing more. Winchester was jailed and his trial began in March of 1825. According to Ole' Samuel and Amos, James Stephenson and James D. Henry were released on $2000. bond posted by John Todd, Robert Pogue, Joseph Pogue and Richard T. McKinney, but Stephenson and Henry still had to report to court each day. That is about all my grandpappy's ever said about Palemon Winchester and the murder of Daniel D. Smith. They just did not talk about it.

Let Henry tell you what he knows about these men. Smith, who was killed, was called "rarefied Smith" because in 1817 he had built a tower in Cincinnati thinking that if he built a fire in the bottom of the tower the air current would be enough to propel machinery. Henry thinks this must have been a lot of hot air because the next year he held himself out as a land agent in Edwardsville. Next, Smith appeared as the maker of a map of Illinois, four by six feet in size, which he offered for sale. Men such as Gov. Shadrach Bon, Ninian Edwards, Col. Ben, and Gov. Edward Coles must have thought it was really good because they certified the map as "very correct". In 1821 Gov. Bond appointed Smith as Recorder of the new Pike County, which was considered a lucrative position. It must have really been a lucrative position because after his death four years later his estate advertised 7,120 acres of land for sale.

The three men charged with the murder were Palemon Winchester, a talented young lawyer, who was Lucy's son-in-law, James W. Stephenson Lucy's twenty-one year old son and James D. Henry who had arrived in Edwardsville in 1822 and worked as a shoemaker.

The trial of The People vs Palemon Winchester, which lasted four days, began on March 19, 1825. Henry here thinks that Palemon had to spend at least six weeks in the county jail. That was the county's first jail and it was not a place where anyone would want to spend even a day! Ten years later a lawyer complained that the new court house built in 1835 was only fit for a hog pen. Imagine what the jail was like in 1825.

The People vs Winchester case was just the second murder case to be held in Madison County. Benjamin Mills, a Greenville lawyer who was thought to be one of the most witty and brilliant orators ever known in this part of the State, and Attorney General Alfred Cowles were the prosecuting attorneys at the trial. Attorneys for Palemon Winchester were Henry Starr, considered a profound lawyer from Edwardsville, and the famous Felix Grundy of Nashville, Tennessee, a former Chief Justice of Kentucky. Grundy has since been described as one of the most successful criminal lawyers of his time. He had defended one hundred and sixty-five persons for capital offenses and only one was condemned and executed. The People vs Winchester trail was a battle of legal giants.

Grandpappys Samuel and Amos did tell us that excitement was high about the trial and the roads were jammed as large numbers attended the trial and heard Grundy's argument. Grundy's argument was that Smith had a habit of striking with his tongue and that if he had held his tongue he might still have been among the living. Grundy argued that verbal abuse constituted as assault which was rightfully punished in the death of the assailant. On that argument the jury found Winchester "Not Guilt" on March 22, 1825.

There was a great deal of speculation about what was the real motive behind the murder and Henry will tell you more about that next time. Right now I must go find some warm fluffy stuff for my bed. Have you also noticed that it is getting rather cool?


See Ya' Later,

Henry


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