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
See you later,