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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 12, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. The last few weeks have been a fun and busy time at "my" house. There was a lot of activity with the Christmas Trees for Charity Auction. There were about 25 beautifully decorated trees that really made "my" house feel homey. All the money from the silent auction of the trees was donated to charities selected by The Specialty Shop owners and I sure hope it was a lot!

The Friends took turns working on the weekends at the Christmas tree auction and they found out just how cold it is in Col. Ben's house without heat. Now they know why ole' Henry is always looking for ways to improve my bed. It is cold in here! I'm always looking for more fluff and newspapers for my bed.

Yesterday, I was sitting back eating an apple I had saved for these cold days and I got to thinking about Col. Ben and what I know about him.
Who really was this man who is buried at Lusk Cemetery? What did he look like, how did his friends judge him as a man, and what role did he play as a politician and as a husband and father? Over the 180 years since Col. Ben died, stories of his life have gradually become forgotten memories. But, let Henry tell you that with Sid and Karen on the search for information on Col. Ben's political and family life, they won't quit 'til they find the information the is available. This all takes time, though, and slowly but surely a picture of Col. Ben will emerge.

Speaking of pictures, have you noticed the two pictures that are on the mantel at "my" house? Dave, a great-great-great grandson of Col. Ben and Lucy sent these pictures of the restored original portraits of Ben and Lucy. Dave remembers that his mother, a very active preservationist in Versailles, Kentucky, had the portraits restored. Thank goodness for people who care about the past! The Friends also have a large picture of the young Benjamin Stephenson. It is a reproduction of a large portrait of Ben that hangs in the Stephenson County Court House in Freeport, Illinois. Stephenson County authorities allowed The Friends to have it reproduced. This picture is usually displayed in the dining room of Col. Ben's house. As you can see, The Friends do have pictures of Col. Ben, but they would like to know more about what he was like as a person.

Mr. Brink, the author of a respected history of Madison County, described Ben as quiet, unpretentious and agreeable in his manners. He was a man who attended to his duties as receiver of the land office very faithfully. Brink wrote this in 1882 when there were folks around who had personal and reliable memories of Col. Ben.

Col. Ben served as a delegate from Illinois in the U.S. Congress. He replaced Shadrack Bond in November 1814 as the Delegate from Illinois to the 13th U.S. Congress and he continued to serve as Delegate until April 30, 1816, the end of the first session of the 14th U.S. Congress.

In June 1816, Col. Ben returned to Kaskaskia from his last session as a delegate to Congress. The last session of Congress had lasted from December 1815 through April 1816, and after a long trip home, he was finally returning to his family and to his social friends in Kaskaskia. Daniel Cook, editor of the Western Intelligencer in Kaskaskia wrote about Col. Ben's role in Congress. Henry does not usually quote but you folks must read what Editor Cook wrote about Col. Ben:
"He has promised to use his best exertions to serve his constituents, but he made no display of what he was going to do - But what he has done shows his devotion of the people he represents. He made no parade of extravagant promises, but he has shown emphatically "his faith by his works"-We will not say that his success has been unexampled, but we may safely say that it has been very great, indeed unexpected-It shows that his vigilance never slept and that he must have obtained a character at Washington that enabled him to serve his constituents. We may indeed say that he deserves well of his country."
Henry thinks these were mighty fine words of praise for Col. Ben. He must have been a quiet man who surprised his colleagues with his political abilities. Editor Daniel Cook's view of Col. Ben is one as his friends saw him as a man and a politician. It make's Henry happy to hear good things about Col. Ben.

In the same month of the newspaper article, Col. Ben wrote to a friend in Kaskaskia to tell of the good news that he had succeeded in getting all bills passed relating to Illinois. And, as expected, he gave credit to friends who helped with the success. Among those bills passed was a bill making the Wabash River a line of division between Illinois and Indiana; a bill to appoint a surveyor of the public lands of Illinois and Missouri; a bill to open a road from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia, for which $8,000 are appropriated; and a bill to establish a land office at the Madison county court house, (now Edwardsville). The letter concludes with a short paragraph by Col. Ben. and Henry is going to quote again.
"The foregoing bills passed in the same shape in which they were reported by the committees. I flatter myself that the result of my labors will convince my constituents that I have been zealously engaged in the promotion of their interests." (Signed) "B. Stephenson"

Well it sure appears to this mouse that Col. Ben accomplished a lot in his two terms as a delegate to Congress. The bills mentioned above are just some of the bills that Col. Ben succeeded passing in the U.S. Congress. And, remember Illinois was still a territory.

Henry has more to tell you about Col. Ben, his days in Congress and the bills he got passed. But, right now I am heading outside to search for more seeds and nuts to stash away for the winter. I just have a feeling that E. J. and his guys will be here soon. I gotta' get my work done so I can hang out with them when they get back.

See ya' later,

Henry





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