INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 30, 2002
Hi, Henry here again. We had our Stephenson Mouse Family
Reunion in Kentucky last week. That was a central location - we have Stephenson
House mouse descendants all over! My mouse cousins come from W. Virginia,
Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Columbia, Mo and in Illinois from Kaskaskia,
Carlinville, Galena, Freeport and Chicago. There were a lot of stories
and I picked up a lot of information on Col. Ben and Lucy and their descendants.
Ole' Henry here will try to catch you up on all the history!
At the reunion we got to talking about Ben's early days before he met
Lucy. Ya' know, sometimes no one can remember and this was one of those
times. No one could recall much about Ben before he met Lucy. Cousin Elijah
from Lexington said he recalls there were letters at the Lexington post
office for Ben to pick up in 1800. Another cousin said he had heard tell
that Ben spent some time in Cube when he was a young man. Seems like he
was a guy moving around! I told my relatives to let me know if they recall
any stories about Ben before he met Lucy.
I do recall that great-great-great-grandfather Samuel
said Ben and Lucy got married around 1802 in Virginia and the daughter
Julia was born in 1803 in Harpers Ferry. By 1807 the family, including
a son James W., was in Logan County, Ky. Old Samuel was always proud to
tell that Ben was a property owner and one of the original members of
the Free and accepted Masons in Russellville, Logan County, Ky. in early
My cousins at the reunion said it was in the early 1800's
that Col. Ben met Ninian Edwards, who our town is named after you know.
Edwards was a wealthy politician and eventually became Chief Justice of
Kentucky Courts. My Kentucky cousins also tell that the big old families
had one or two dozen children. Each child wanted a thousand or so acres
of land. Many in Virginia received land in Kentucky and they moved from
Virginia to Kentucky and some went from Kentucky to Ohio and Illinois.
Ninian and Col. Ben were ready to head to the Illinois Territory when
President Jefferson appointed Ninian as Governor of the Illinois Territory
in 1809. Ben, Ninian and their families headed for Kaskaskia. At that
time Kaskaskia was the political and social center around here.
I have really had to search my brain to recall what I
have heard about what went on around 1809. You know, that was about the
same time Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri River to look around, which
was a long time ago. I heard Amanda, the Stephenson House archivist, mention
the 1810 Census of Kaskaskia. She said that census only told how many
men and women lived at one place. Hey, you think about this for a minute.
Benjamin Stephenson had 17 men and 5 women living at his place plus the
census show 5 other free people there, what ever that meant. That log
cabin had to be real full!! Shoot, even a mouse family would have been
Governor Edwards, Col. Ben and many other men were in
Kaskaskia in 1809. Great-great-great-grandfather Samuel always said Governor
Edwards was smart and knew a lot of smart men. He got those men to come
to Kaskaskia to help with the reorganization of the territory of Illinois.
Edwards appointed Col. Ben as Sheriff of Randolph County, Nathanial Pope
was Secretary of the Illinois Territory, and Jesse B. Thomas was the first
I overheard Joe and Karen talking the other day about
how many men came from Kaskaskia to Edwardsville. Some of the men they
named were Jesse B. Thomas, Daniel Cook, Nathanial Pope and Ninian Edwards.
Each of these men became a U.S. Congressman. Karen said Cook County was
named for Daniel Cook. You understand that a mouse can't know everything
and I had a hard time trying toremember those names. So I mentioned all
this to my cousin Jacob and he remembers the old timers telling of those
men visiting Col. Ben's house here on Buchanan Street and stopping by
the Land Grant Office at Pogue's Store. He reminded me too that Shadrack
Bond, our first state governor, was from Kaskaskia and the next two governors,
Ninian Edwards and Edward Coles lived in Edwardsville. And, don't forget,
Col. Ben was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention that formed the
Illinois Constitution. Those must have been some days!
Let's talk some more about this house that Col. Ben and
Lucy built. When you come to visit you will see that it has four square
rooms each 18 by 18 foot, two are on the ground floor and two on the second
floor. You will see a hall and stairway with a big window at the top of
the stairs. Now, the windows in this house are really great! The breezes
come in one window and go right out the window directly across the room.
Great-great-grandfather Ezra, he was Samuel's grandson, loved to talk
about the breeze that would come in the big window at top of the stairs
and blow by him and out the big window above the front door! The kitchen
was attached to the house. Now that was unusual for houses around here
and I heard that some did not believe it was attached. The other day I
saw Keith and E.J. pointing on the wall at what they called a ghost line.
It was the roof line where the kitchen had been attached to the house.
It just seems like the house is talking to Ole' Henry when I hear the
architects and E. J. and Joe talk about all they have learned.
I want to tell you one more short story about the fireplaces!
A few days ago E.J. was showing Kathryn and Karen a long piece of rusty
looking iron. He said it came from under the mantel in one of the fireplaces
and asked what they thought it was. Well, Henry here had to laugh, because
those girls didn't have a clue! It was a wagon wheel that a blacksmith
had straightened when he needed a long, flat iron piece in making the
fireplace! E. J. recognizes all that old stuff and knows how it was made
Enough for today folks.
See ya' later