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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - June 11, 2003

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Boy oh boy, are things moving along at "my" house! E. J. and the guys are working hard for sure! Have you checked out the new front door? Pretty classy, huh! The red is gone and "my" house has an elegant door with a transom and sidelights. Absolutely awesome! Then, please check out the porch! The roof is on and the porch is taking shape. Really looking good! Col. Ben would be mighty, mighty proud of his home!
The Sheriff's Work Alternative Program people came by the other day. Jim worked with them all day taking down drywall from upstairs and removing nails in the woodwork. Let me tell you, they really got dirty! I got smart and went outside and stayed clean. I guess Norm's people are finished with work on my house. Henry sure will miss them. They have truly provided the help for the Stephenson House that will benefit many, many area people of all ages.

As expected, the lot next door is taking a lot of planning. Me? I just play in the water puddles, skip rocks and have a good time. But, Carol of The Friends has been very, very busy coordinating plans for the lot with the City and we will soon see results of her work. Pretty soon you will see really big trucks bringing big loads of dirt to fill and grade the lot. What a perfect place to use the dirt that has been left from digging at Glik Park! Henry has overheard that parking will be hidden by a fence at the rear of the lot and there will be a brick courtyard by the house, an arbor and brick paths connecting the house to the parking area and gardens. It is going to be beautiful! Carol, of the gardens and grounds committee, has her eye on some buffalo grass to plant. Buffalo grass is a strain of grass that was abundant in the early 1800's. Authentic! Sounds great to this mouse!

We had a truly exciting happening with the history of Col. Ben recently! It all began with a visit from Cousin Elzey from Columbia, Missouri. He came by to check out the progress of "my" house and just hang out with me for a while. We did a lot of talking about the Stephenson family and then Cousin Elsey said we should get the watercolor miniature of Col. Ben. Could have knocked Ol' Henry over with a feather!! "What do you mean - what miniature?" "Where is it?" Cousin Elzey calmly said it is at the American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. He thought we all knew that! Well, the miniature was there sure enough! Rose Marie found it on the internet. Next thing ya' know the museum had e-mailed The Friends a copy of the miniature. It was our own handsome young Col. Ben painted in watercolor on ivory and is a tiny 2 7/8" by 2 1/8". Henry thinks it took a very talented artist to paint that small!

The American Art Museum told us this story. In the 1970's the museum bought the miniature from a Major Gary Starkey. At that time the museum learned from an art dealer that the miniature was painted before 1800 when Col. Benjamin Stephenson was in Cuba, but the dealer did not know the name of the artist.

The miniature of Col. Ben and the art dealer's information has given The Friends a lot to think about. How did the dealer know it was Col. Ben and how did he know that Col. Ben had been in Cuba before 1800? It would not surprise Henry one bit if one day some Stephenson House cousin knocks at my door with the answer. My cousins continue to amaze me with their wealth of information.

There is more about Col. Ben's picture. Did you see the miniature and the large photo of Col. Ben at Route 66? Henry thinks you may realize these are the same pictures of Col. Ben, except he is facing opposite directions. Here is the story of the large photo. Several years ago, Karen located a 1914 newspaper article about the Freeport DAR honoring Col. Benjamin Stephenson, the man for whom Stephenson County was named. The DAR was presenting a plaque and a picture of Col. Ben to the courthouse. Through the cooperation of the Stephenson County officials, a Freeport photographer was able to produce a copy of the picture of Col. Ben for The Friends.

Ol' Henry does try to listen when The Friends talk and I heard that the 1914 newspaper article said that the large picture of Col. Ben was a copy from an old tintype "set in gold" that was taken when Col. Ben was in Cuba. Henry also heard that the researchers could not figure out how to get the facts on Col. Bens' trip to Cuba and some even wondered if it was true that he had been in Cuba. It remained a question with out an answer, but the discovery of the miniature and the art dealer's information just might lead researchers to some answers. For starters, they now know that Col. Ben was in Cuba before 1800 and the large photo is a copy of the miniature, not the romantic sounding tintype "set in gold". Talk about romantic! Pam at SIU Art Department said that miniature portraits were often exchanged as engagement gifts. Could there be a miniature of Lucy just waiting to be discovered?

Folks, next weekend is the big "A Taste of Downtown Edwardsville" benefit for the Stephenson House. Ol' Henry is going to try to hitch a ride to the Madison County Transit Center on the evening of June 14 because I love the Joey James Orchestra, flags, watching people have fun and mainly, food! I am going to be there for sure! If you have your ticket ahead of time and are ready to have a good time, This Is The Place To Be on June 14th. Don't have a ticket? Hustle on down to the main office of The Bank of Edwardsville and hopefully there will be tickets waiting for you at $25. each. Your ticket includes truly scrumptious food from the Downtown Restaurants and fun. There will be a cash beer and wine bar. Sounds like a winner to me!

I am on my way to find a real small red, white and blue baseball cap to wear on June 14th at "A Taste of Downtown Edwardsville."



See ya' later,
Henry



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