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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 27, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Did you all notice that E.J. and the guys came back just like I said they would? I was glad to see them! The cellar walls have now been tuck pointed and that was a necessity that the old mouse did not realize 'til I saw it. I hope you all understand how necessary it is to spend this money. It is an important part of the project for sure. I believe real people say spending money on this kind of project is like spending money on a new hot water heater- necessary but not real pretty!

They have installed windows, including the awesome ones at the top of the stairs. Now I understand great-great-grandpappy Ezra's stories about the gentle breezes that would blow through these windows at the top of the stairs. These windows also create light over the stairs that is incredible.

The last time we talked I was telling you about Col. Ben during his two terms as delegate to the U.S. Congress and the bills he succeeded in having passed. One of the bills provided for a new road from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia. Now, I heard all the old timers talk about the roads. Great-great-great-grandpappy Samuel told how the roads were poor, muddy in the rainy season, dangerous when raging rivers caused flooding and dangerous when night came. Ole' Samuel said he was always afraid that Col. Ben would have to seek shelter in a cabin that might be the home of a bandit. He said if Col. Ben were lucky he might find an inn at nightfall, but Ole' Samuel said they were shoddy, unclean inns and discourteous hosts. He was always glad when Col. Ben got home from a trek on these "roads".

The overland trail that George Rogers Clark almost lost his way on in 1778, was still used to reach Kaskaskia from the south in 1816. This was an overland trail that had been cut by the hooves of buffalo. Can you imagine what kind of "road" that must have been! The mouse stories I heard told that folks started using other routes from Shawneetown and Golconda to get to Kaskaskia. It was Col. Ben who got a bill passed to open a road from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia. The bill, funded for $8,000.00 called for cutting the road thirty-three feet wide, with very low stumps. This was the first federally funded road in Illinois!

Henry also has heard that Col. Ben was responsible for the bill establishing the Land Grant Office at the Madison County Courthouse. The land office sure did bring a lot of men to Edwardsville who were instrumental in developing the State of Illinois. Many of them lived here at one time or another and included men such as Daniel Cook, Edward Coles, Ninian Edwards, James Mason, Jesse Thomas, Joseph Conway and Abraham Prickett.

Great-great-grandpappy Ezra used to tell about folks who lived or worked in Edwardsville and even about those who just came through Edwardsville. Those stories were often repeated to all the young Stephenson House mouse kids and that's how I learned about those stories. Ole' Ezra told how Col. Ben and Lucy would talk about the many types of men who ended up in Edwardsville. There were the big land speculators who came here to buy all the land they could for $2 per acres; there were the scallywags who came with their get rich quick schemes, and then there were the settlers who were able to buy cheap land and build a good home for their families in the Illinois Territory. And, there were the men Col. Ben included among his personal and social friends. These men were educated and came here to make a home for their families, men who worked for and with the people for the establishment of a new state.

Col. Ben got the bill passed by Congress for the Land Office in Edwardsville and soon after he was appointed the first Register of Monies of the Land Office. Henry here thinks that the men in Washington, D.C. had a lot of respect for Col. Ben. And, it would not surprise me a bit if letters between Col. Ben and President Madison are found someday. Yep, Col. Ben brought the Land Office to Edwardsville and with it came many important men in the history of the State of Illinois.

Now Henry is just a mouse and it kinda' took me a long time of listening to the researchers talk about politics before I understood some stuff. All bills for legislature have to be brought up by someone. Then that person needs others to agree with him and vote for his bill so it passes. Looks to me that Col. Ben had the ability to see what was needed and he also listened to the people in the Illinois Territory to hear what they wanted. Col. Ben had the right personality to gather friends in Washington to ensure his bills would be passed. Henry here thinks Col. Ben's character and personality emerged to that of a man who worked hard and long and was truly a man who cared abut the needs for all the people of Illinois.

Folks, another year is about to come to a close. It has been a good year for "my" house. The folks from HPC and The Friends of the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House have completed the first phase of the restoration of Col. Ben's house and it looks wonderful!!! I heard Carol, the leader of The Friends talking the other day about how happy everyone is with the progress and how it would never have happened without the help of the people in this great community. Ole' Henry has been watching too. Carol is right, the people of Edwardsville are a fantastic group with a true sense of community spirit. It takes a lot of interested people from all walks of life to get a restoration of this magnitude completed. The Friends and HPC thanks you a thousand times over for your help.

Happy New Year's to all!
See ya' later,
Henry






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