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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 24, 2002

Hi, Henry, the Stephenson House Mouse is here again. I sure am glad it has been a mild winter because there was a shortage of warm places to curl up in the Stephenson House until Keith and Greg got the fireplaces rebuilt. Now the fireplaces work and we have nice warm fires in them! Well, I said I would be back to tell you about the bricks and I will. But, I want to tell you something else first.


I heard Mary, Donna and Wilma Jene talking about an annual meeting of the Friends group. Now I had to really pay attention because this is real new to me. What I understood was that a lot of the people who belong to the Friends of the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House met last week at Rusty's for dinner and a meeting. Sounds like there was a good crowd -= I heard Senator Evelyn Bowles and Mayor Gary Niebur were there having a good time. Joe Weber talked about Col. Ben's house and showed pictures (slides, I think they are called) of how the house looked long ago and then he had pictures of Keith working with the bricks and the changes that have been made to bring the house back to how it was in 1820. Someone said Kathy was there in a dress and bonnet like Lucy would have worn. Sure wish I could have seen all that - but from the Stephenson House to Rusty's is a far piece for a mouse.


It is really pretty neat that the Friends had their first annual meeting at Rusty's. Let ole' Henry tell you why. Samuel, the great-great-great-grandfather mouse from way, way back told the story that Col. Ben had built a brick house in Edwardsville around 1818. I could not remember that story but it rang a bell. When the meeting was at Rusty's I remembered! Ben's house was one of the first on North Main Street. It was right across from the first Courthouse and Bob Pogue's store was next door. Then I knew! Bob Pogue built his store right to the south of Ben's house. Today, Rusty's Restaurant is in Pogue's building and the north parking lot of Rusty's is where Col. Ben built his first brick house. Bet Col. Ben and Lucy knew what was going on last week in their old neighborhood!


I overheard Karen, she is the one who likes to look up old records, talking about Ben and Lucy's first house. She said she found where Ben bought two lots on Main Street in 1817 and that he also had bills for shingles, nails, timber shingles and sheeting plank at Abraham Prickett's store dated July 15, 1818. Those bills had to be for Ben's first house. When Col. Ben moved out, the Bank of Edwardsville used his house. This is not the same Bank of Edwardsville that I hear Bob Wetzel talking about!!!


When Col Ben built "my" house here at 409 South Buchanan he watched the construction very carefully because he was going to build a might fine, elegant home and he wanted it to be done right. I heard there are records that show where Col. Ben had Bill Hopkins bring a man over to the brickyard at the house site and had him dig clay for the bricks for a shed in February of 1821. Col. Ben paid $4.50 to Bill Hopkins for four days digging clay for bricks. Bill Hopkins was also hired to haul brick bats and clean away ground for the brick kiln and to haul plank, sand, wood and the clapboard he had made for the shed. In June, when the hauling was over, there was a bill for 50 cents for two quarts whiskey for hired hands that put up the shed. Hummm, wonder if that was a days pay or an incentive to keep working?? That is one story this mouse did not hear before!


I must have been Jess, Hark, and Will, who were Col. Ben's indentured servants who made the bricks for the shed - just like they did for the house. Col. Ben did not have a lot of workers so he hired help to dig the clay that was needed for the bricks. Then his people had to build the kiln, use the brick forms to make the bricks and then do the firing. Keith and Greg figure there are at least 100,000 bricks in Col. Ben's house. That kiln must have been fired 24 hours a day for a long time! Then they had to have bricks for the smoke house, the kitchen, the shed and for the floor around the back porch. Lucy, coming' from a fine family in Martinsburg, Va., wanted bricks around the back porch so that people did not have to walk in mud and dust before they came into the house.


The other day Keith found a couple of bricks used in a wall of the house different from the others. These bricks were real, real hard and real dark. I was there when he found them. Keith said they were from the kiln wall and had been baked over and over as new bricks were made in the kiln. Keith also said they used broken bricks and these hard, hard bricks in spaces where they were not noticeable. As long as it took to make bricks, those people did not waste a single brick!


Ole' Henry here is having a great time. I was just plain old bored every day mouse - now all this excitement, new people to watch and listen to and best of all, I am thinking! I am remembering those stories I heard as a kid.
Hey, I am out of here - E.J. and the gang just came back with food and I am hungry. Maybe they brought some of that good summer sausage from Joe's.


See you later,
Henry


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