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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - November 14, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. By golly, the Burgoo Day really made me happy. So many things I like were here including good people, good food, good music and fresh churned butter. What a day!

Since the Burgoo Day ole' Henry here has just been hangin' out. I know E.J. and the guys will soon be here to put in more windows and I heard a great rumor that volunteers might come here to paint those windows! One more rumor I heard was that a real, working furnace will be installed in "my" house before winter. I would sure like that! Hope these rumors come true.

OK. Lets talk some more about the trial of The People vs Winchester. We know Palemon Winchester was tried for the murder of Daniel D. Smith, Record of Pike County, and formerly from Edwardsville. James W. Stephenson and James D. Henry were charged with the murder and then released on bond

Well, Karen checked the trial records in the Madison County Court House and they are somewhat like Great grandpappy Samuel and Grandpappy Amos because they don't say too much. Reckon when you have to write with a quill pen you do not write a lot. She said the records available today give a brief daily record of the trial and few other details. Neither the court records nor the Spectator described a motive for the murder. The Spectator just reported that Daniel D. Smith had been "killed in an affray" here in Edwardsville. On March 22, 1825, the Spectator reported a jury had found Winchester "Not Guilty". The court records identified the following men as the jurors: Aaron Armstrong, Cyrus Gillham, William Bennet, Martin Jones, William Griffin, William Jasper, Westley Dugger, Joseph Howard, Washington Parkinson, Richard Long, James Tunnel and John Prickett. The presiding judge was the Honorable Samuel McRoberts.

But, what was the trial really about? Why did anyone, Winchester or anyone else, want to kill Daniel D. Smith? Well, Henry has heard that many thought Smith's murder was not about words spoken in an argument about General Jackson but about a caricature Smith had drawn and shown several years before when he lived in Edwardsville. The caricature implied intimacy between Lucy Stephenson and Gov. Ninian Edwards, which at that time was called 'criminal intimacy". Many thought Winchester had been angry about this matter for a long time.

Louise Travous, a lady historian of long ago Edwardsville, speculated Smith drew the caricature of Lucy and Ninian shortly before his murder. The Ninian Edwards family lived at Lucy's house after the Edwards home had been destroyed by fire. It has always been said that the Edwards home, located at the corner of Vandalia and Fillmore, burned in 1824. The murder happened in January 1825, which is at the time the Edwards family would have been living at the Stephenson House. An actual written record stating the date of the Edwards fire has not been located. But, the caricature, the fire, the Edwards family seeking a temporary home with Lucy Stephenson and the date of the murder all seem to makes Ms. Travous idea fit.

What happened to the men initially charged with the murder? Well, after the jury found Palemon Winchester not guilty, life went on for all involved. Within a short time all three men left Edwardsville. Ole' Henry checked around to get the facts about these men. James W. Stephenson left for Galena, Illinois, where he became a successful politician eventually running for governor. James died young, leaving a wife and two children. James D. Henry, when in Edwardsville, revealed a brutal, revengeful personality with great physical strength earning him a reputation as dangerous. That was the dark side of his character. He was also intense and longed for military fame. After the trial he moved to Springfield and was elected Sheriff of Sangamon County. The Black Hawk War gave him his opportunity for military fame and he became known as the most successful general of the war. But, James Henry was sometimes gloomy and melancholy and often indulged in long periods of intoxication. He died alone in New Orleans in 1834. He had not told anyone there that he was the General James D. Henry of the Black Hawk War.

Palemon Winchester, the husband of Julia Stephenson, was a talented young lawyer but he enjoyed socializing and imbibing. Several years after the trial Palemon and his family moved to Carlinville where he opened a store, became a Major in the Black Hawk War and a probate judge. Cousin Seth from Carlinville said that if Palemon had turned his attention to politics he might have been successful. Seth says there are stories that Palemon sank so low in intemperance he died in near poverty. Cousin Seth also says Palemon was known as a friend to everyone and generously served his friends as best he and his finances allowed.

Was Smith's murder over the merits of General Jackson or over a naughty caricature of Lucy and Ninian? Henry thinks each person will have to decide for himself. But then again, someday the original trial records may be found and then we will all know for sure what the real motive was.

The other day I overheard Mary and her Special Events Committee talking about decorated Christmas trees, a silent auction, the Specialty Shops and the Stephenson House. Sounds interesting and I am going to keep my ear to the ground for more information.

I sure am hungry for peanuts! Think I will check out the neighborhood to see what I can find.

See ya' later,
Henry


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