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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 9,2003

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Hey, have any of you seen that big yellow "thing" that has been on my playground, the Clark lot? Do you have any idea of the kind of fear this ole' mouse felt when he first saw that monster with its long neck and huge mouth??? Here I was sleeping and then I heard lots of noise and I saw the yellow "thing"! Well, I soon realized it was a machine and it was removing all the old concrete, asphalt and other debris from the lot. And, the red and white building is now gone too! I used to be able to pick up a lot of food over there, but those days are gone.

The other day I overheard Carol talking about how Gary who owns the yellow "thing" has helped The Friends. He's the man who has cleared the Clark lot of all that awful debris, taken down the building and will soon bring in fill dirt. This is great news because even a mouse knew that the lot was kinda' ugly. Thank you, Gary!!!

There is more good news to add about the lot. The rear of the lot will provide space for parking, and the garden and grounds committee will plant on the front of the lot. I overheard Carol F. and Jim talking about planting a small fruit orchard, an herb garden and creating some paths, for starters. They also were saying that the plants would be of the same variety that Ben and Lucy planted. It will be an old-fashioned garden for sure! Now that Jim is working on "my" yard, he needs help to fill the low spots, clear out old stumps and maybe even plant some dogwood trees. After all this is done, I can sure see that "my" house is going to be a beautiful sight on South Buchanan Street.

Henry is so full of news he can hardly stand it! "My" windows are all installed and looking great. Did you notice the 1820's windows are smaller and have more panes than the 1845 windows? Glass was really, really expensive in 1820 and the bigger the piece of glass the more it cost. By 1845 a larger sheet was a little less expensive, so larger window panes.

The Friends have awesome plans that will begin soon. Believe it or not, a furnace and air conditioner will soon be installed. No more icy cold nights for Henry! To do this, the ground floors will have to be removed so the duct work can be installed. E.J.'s crew will have to dig out dirt from under the house to make space for the ducts because there is almost no crawl space. In case you wondered, I want you to know for sure that the floors to be removed are not historic. You know The Friends would not get rid of anything with historic value. All the utility lines for the furnace and air conditioner will be hidden in a smokehouse. You got it, there will be a smokehouse constructed near the rear of the Stephenson House. The smokehouse will even have a spire just like the probate records show was on Ben and Lucy's smokehouse.

I am still not finished with my news! As soon as Spring is near, E.J. and crew will build a porch that wraps around the south and west side of the 1845 addition. While the guys were doing all the work around here, they found the brick foundation of the old porch, so they know exactly where to place the replacement porch. It will really be a super place for Ole' Henry to have some sun!

I told you I had lots of news! Henry here could hardly believe all he heard and couldn't wait to tell you all. I will always do my best to keep you posted.

There is more news about Lucy and Ben. You all must understand that without a family Bible it is difficult to find a date of birth or a marriage date before 1850. It often happens that the way a marriage date is guessed is by the date of birth of the first child. Well, Julia Stephenson Winchester consistently gave her year of birth as 1803, so a genealogist figures the marriage date as 1802 or 1801. Well, Henry has heard that Karen has been in contact with Dan, a professor at Shepherd College in West Virginia, who has done a wonderful book on Lucy's family, the Swearingens. He pointed Karen in the direction of the 1799 Virginia Circuit Court that had a judgment record showing, quote: "...Benjamin Stephenson and wife Lucy, late Swearingen". So, we now have a legal record that states the Stephensons were married as early as 1799. Folks, that means Lucy was 13 when she married 30 year old Benjamin Stephenson. It sure was a different world back then! We know Lucy was well educated and one wonders how she achieved such an education when married that young.

Speaking about another world, here is a little tidbit of information from a book about early Illinois. "Horse stealing was so prevalent in Madison County in the first years of statehood that Mrs. Ninian Edwards was compelled to lead the family horses through the house into the yard every night." Think about that for a minute!! There is always some interesting news around here and Henry is really having a good time.

Remember the Annual Meeting of The Friends of the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House on Thursday, January 16. Be sure to make your reservations with Sally at 656-9491 or mail your reservation to The Friends at P.O. Box 754, Edwardsville for a dinner buffet for $20. per person. Joe will have slides running during the evening showing the highlights of this once in a lifetime restoration and Sid is going to talk about life in the 1820's. I just know it is going to be very interesting and fun. I sure wish I could be there to hear Sid's stories about the life in Edwardsville when Ben and Lucy were here, but I don't think a mouse, even Henry, will be invited to a restaurant!!

There has been snow and more snow and then cold. I am keeping warm and on the nicer days I hustle out and find nuts, seeds and whatever else looks good. The best is when somebody drops stuff on the sidewalk or alley and I can have a no-effort feast! You all keep warm.

See ya' later,
Henry


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