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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 critters now!

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 Cemetery.

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 Col. Ben.

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,

Henry



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