INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - November 27, 2002
Hi, Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Boy,
oh, boy, have there been some changes made at "my" house and
you know what, they are changing my life!! The house is gradually being
sealed up and all the little nooks and crannies I could slip into to escape
the neighborhood cat are going, going, gone! The windows are being tuckpointed
around the frames, and the cracks I use to get into the basement are being
tuckpointed and closed up. I really have to be on the alert for four-legged
Have you seen The Stephenson House in the last few days?
The "grand old lady" is absolutely glorious with Christmas decorations
that create a home-for-the holidays feeling and a warm, fuzzy for each
of us. The scaffolding on the front of the house has been removed. I know
how "my house feels, like someone has removed a tight belt from her
body! Seriously, the removal of the scaffolding is the signal that Phase
I, the stabilization of the house, is about complete. Col. Ben's house
is now as solid as it was in 1820 and with care should last another 182
years. With your help the Friends, HPC and the City have accomplished
their first goal in the restoration. Henry thinks that is a reason to
celebrate - would you please bring cheese and peanuts??!!
The falling leaves and the crisp fall air always make
me think of Oct. 10, 1822, the day Col. Ben died at the age of fifty-four
years. It was a very, very sad day. Many cried. A good friend and public
servant had passed. A devoted husband and father was gone, leaving a wife
and children. Two children were just barely 10 years old and now fatherless.
The cause of Col. Ben's death seems to have been lost over the years because
Henry here never heard any mouse stories about how he died. Sid and Karen
got busy searching, thinking and putting facts together. They found records
form Pogue's store that showed the purchase of medicinal herbs for the
treatment of malaria. This was a common cause of death in the 1820's.
Dr. John Todd's bills for medical attendance indicated something was wrong
at the Stephenson's. That is when the medical bills doubled in the two
years before Col. Ben's death.
Recently, Sid located the Edwardsville Receivers Letter
Book which includes many letters between Col. Ben of the Edwardsville
Land Grant and the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. The difference
in Col. Ben's handwriting in 1817 letters compared to a letters in 1819
tells us that his health was failing. His beautiful penmanship had deteriorated
to a scrawl. This could be attributed to his suffering from malaria and
in addition to malaria, the letters between Josiah Meigs and William Crawford
of the U.S. Treasury Department and Col. Ben (who was responsible for
the Edwardsville land grant monies) made it very clear that Col. Ben was
also under a lot of stress. The duties of the job, ever increasing, required
a number of copies of lengthy reports. And, the time it took for reports
to get to Washington, D.C., the changing demands of men who did not know
this territory and their constantly changing orders were stress makers
for sure. Col. Ben is always referred to as a "quiet, unassuming
man" and this correspondence definitely shows that quiet man. His
responses to the demanding and critical letters from Washington, D.C.
were quiet. He made his position clear without anger or upset. Henry here
wants to remind you that Col. Ben used a quill pen, writing by daylight
or candlelight as well as dealing with the purchasers of the land grants.
His was a most stressful job, which leads to another opinion that his
heart may have just failed.
Col. Ben died with his family at his side and his son-in-law-
Palemon Winchester was the official witness of death. Dr. John Todd apparently
was not present, perhaps Col. Ben's death was anticipated and the good
Dr. John Todd could do no more for Col. Ben. The next day James Watts
did the brick and walling of Col. Ben's grave and Samuel Thurston ridged
the top of the coffin. Col. Ben's gravesite was fenced with palings, later
called picket fence, that were put in place by Watts. Col. Benjamin Stephenson
had a burial befitting one of his stature in the community and State of
Illinois. Probate records show a cost of $3.00 for bricking and walling
the grave site, $10.00 for the coffin and $25.00 for the palings which
was very expensive in 1820. Great-great-grandfather Ezra told us about
his trip to Col. Ben's grave. Col. Ben was buried on Randle Street at
the first public burial ground in Edwardsville. Col. Ben was laid to rest
at the north end of this new cemetery at a quiet, peaceful place in the
shade of trees and near a brook. Years later this cemetery was named Lusk
Ole' Henry will be telling you more and more about Col.
Ben and his life because my mouse cousins from all over are coming up
with more information. Also, Sid located old papers that help us really
get to know Col. Ben. I will be here to tell you all I hear or learn about
Now, guys, on a lighter note. Henry received a letter
from Martha, a former teacher. Her letter made me feel mighty good. My
cousin Jake from here in town is really teasing me about my fan club.
He is really full of it, but let me tell you, the restoration of "my"
house really has changed my life!
Don't forget, the Christmas Trees for Charity Auction
at Col. Ben's house on Nov. 30-Dec 1 and Dec 7-8. This event is sponsored
by the Specialty Shops of Edwardsville-Glen Carbon. The Friends receive
proceeds from ticket sales and the auction proceeds go to the donor's
choice of GlenEd Pantry, Humane Society or Oasis Center. This is a new
idea, sounds fun and festive for the holidays and will help worthwhile
causes including the Stephenson House. I will be looking for you!
I am on my way outside to take a run around the beautiful,
clean lawn and enjoy "my" decorated house. The Friends put up
wonderful decorations and everything looks ready for the holidays!
See ya' later,