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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 19, 2003

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Have any of you noticed the big smiles on the faces of The Friends Board Members? The Friends of the Colonel Benjamin Stephenson House received a donation of a right tidy sum of money recently. It was an absolutely wonderful donation! Thank you, thank you!! This will surely take some of the stress away from some of the things that needed to be done at "my" house!!!

Ol' Henry here and Cousin Jake have been putting our heads together to remember the stories great-great-great-grandfather Samuel told about when Col. Ben was Representative to Congress. We've remembered a lot!
It was Ol' Samuel who spun many a tale around the time when Col. Ben decided not to run for re-election to Congress. Great-great-great grandfather Samuel told about Col. Ben writing a long letter to the folks in the Illinois Territory about his two terms in Congress. This letter was published in the Kaskaskia newspaper in June 1816. The letter told of the laws Congress had passed for the benefit of the Illinois Territory and Ol' Samuel would chuckle. He knew it was Col. Ben who saw and heard what the Illinois Territory needed and had introduced the laws and succeeded in getting them passed. Ol' Samuel chuckled because Col. Ben was pretty closed mouth about what he had accomplished, but most people understood.

Col. Ben's first day in Congress was on Nov. 14, 1814, and only 11 days later he introduced two resolutions. Not bad for the new boy in Congress! One resolution was to employ more militia in our area for the War of 1812, but the war soon ended so that one was withdrawn.

The second resolution involved matters about land and land grants. The law on the land matters had nine sections, so it covered a lot. Ol' Samuel said Col. Ben made sure the settlers who had settled in the Illinois Territory before the land was surveyed and for sale would be treated fairly. Col. Ben proposed that if these early settlers who had settled on free land could show they had occupied and improved the land, it would be legally their land and it could not be sold by the Federal government. This resolution was passed into law by Congress.

This resolution about land also included wording about land claims made by men who had served in the Militia. They were entitled to land grants if they had a warrant certifying their service in the Militia. These land warrants could also be purchased. Thomas Kirkpatrick, one of our first settlers, purchased his land warrant from Pierre Lejoy, a Revolutionary War veteran.

Col. Ben also proposed in this land act that folks could be granted land because of sufferings from treatment by the Indians. Col. Ben told in his letter published in the Kaskaskia newspaper that he had secured land for Mrs. Ann Gillham as compensation for her suffering while a prisoner of the Kickapoo Indians. He said he could have done the same for others if he had been provided with the proof needed. Henry here has heard that the story of Ann Gillham is told in Brink's History of Madison County. But, the story great-great-great grandfather Samuel told long, long ago is the one that Henry knows and here it is!

One day in 1790, James Gillham and his small son Isaac were plowing his corn field in Kentucky. While Gillham was in the field, a band of Kickapoo Indians sneaked into his house and took his wife Ann and their other three children as prisoners. The Indians ripped open the feather beds and used the ticking for sacks to carry the stuff they stole from the house.

The Indians hurried off with their prisoners, avoiding white settlements along the way, hurrying forward without food or rest. Great-great-great-grand pappy Samuel said how the adults had no food, but the Indians had some jerked venison that they gave to the children. He said the kid's feet were bleeding from all the walking and their mother used her clothing to wrap their feet.

Finally, after traveling a long way, the Indians stopped and sent their two best hunters for game. They returned with one poor coon. They dressed the coon, made a kind of soup and they all finally had a little food.

The Indians were hurrying with the Gillhams toward the Kickapoo town near the head waters of the Sangamon River in Illinois. Ol' Samuel said he heard Mrs. Gillman tell that after they had crossed the Ohio River on three rafts of dry logs, they finally started moving slower and found food. The group marched by Vincennes and Terre Haute and finally reached the Kickapoo Indian town of Salt Creek, about 20 miles from today's Springfield, Illinois.

Ol' Samuel said it was a terrible scene when James Gillham returned from the field to his house. He saw the feathers from the beds scattered all over and his wife and children gone. The frontiersman knew his family had been taken by Indians. Gillham and his friends immediately started to trail the Indians. They found footprints of Mrs. Gillham and her children in several places, but soon the trail was lost. Gillham abandoned the lost trail, sold his property in Kentucky and went to Vincennes and Kaskaskia hoping the French traders who had knowledge of the Indian tribes could be able to help him. However, at this time the whites and Indians were very hostile and little information was to be found. After five long years Gillham heard from a French trader that his family was with the Kickapoo Indians. With guides and two French interpreters, Gillham visited the Indian town at Salt Creek. He found his wife and children alive and well! A ransom was paid through an Irish trader named Atchinson at Cahokia. Great-great-great grandfather Samuel said the youngest child could speak no English and it took some time before he could be persuaded to leave the Indian country.

In 1797, two years after finding his family, Gillham became a resident of the Illinois Territory. The action of Congress in 1815 gave Ann Gillham her choice of any available quarter section of land within the Illinois Territory in testimony of the hardship and suffering she had endured during her captivity among the Indians. Ann and James Gillham settled on 160 acres of land near Long Lake in Madison County in 1815.

Well, Col. Ben did a fine job getting the land laws passed quickly by Congress. And, there are other areas where Col. Ben provided a lot of help for the folks in the Illinois Territory that I will tell you about later. He really achieved a lot in his two terms in Congress. I do believe that with Cousin Jake, Sid and Henry here working on this we are going to find out a lot more about what Col. Ben did in Congress! I hope so.

Here is some good news we all have been waiting for! Mark and his men are here at "my" house and have started work on the electrical part of the heating and cooling system. E.J. and his crew will be here any day and let me tell you, when they get here my food situation will definitely improve. I like the summer sausage from the Market Basket and so do they!! Ummmmmmm, can't wait!

See ya' later,
Henry


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