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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - August 8, 2003

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. This old mouse is so doggone proud of "my" house and all the folks who have worked so hard with the restoration. Just take a look at the smokehouse! There are wrought iron strap hinges on the doors that were hand forged by Bob Woodard. The design is a bean design which was very popular in early America. They are magnificent! And, the smokehouse has been sided with an old fashioned siding called slip-siding. This siding is of pine that was kiln dried especially for the smokehouse. The smokehouse with its hand-forged hinges and slip-siding is one example of why "my" house is so authentic. Keith and his crew found an 1820's piece of pine here at "my" house that had been protected from the weather. Well, Joe found a wood stain that matches the old pine. The smokehouse is now the natural grey color of untreated old pine and it will weather beautifully. It is people like Joe and Keith with their ideas, inspiration and dedication, that have made Col. Ben's House, "my" house, a beautiful, warm home!

Gosh, I was surprised the other day when a big group of men and women came to "my house". I overheard Carol, Elizabeth and Donna talking and Henry here thinks that our Mayor Gary is president of a mayors group and the visitors were Illinois mayors and their wives. They had come to see Col. Ben's house! Henry wants everyone to see Col. Ben's house and I sure am glad they were here! The girls had refreshments for the visitors at a beautiful table set with flowers from the 1820's and Sid gave the folks a great tour as he told them all about the house and its history. After the mayors left Ol' Henry just sat back and smiled. They loved "my" house. The house is looking so wonderful!!!

More good news has arrived for the researchers. A researcher from Chicago found a copy of a letter from Wm. H. Crawford replying to a letter he had received from Lucy Stephenson! Who was Wm. H. Crawford? He was Secretary of the U.S. Treasury! He was the big boss of Josiah Meigs, Commissioner of the Land Office and Col. Ben, Receiver of Moneys at Edwardsville. He was the man Lucy wrote asking why Palemon Winchester, her son-in-law, had not been appointed to take Col. Ben's place as Receiver of Moneys at the Edwardsville Land Grant Office.

As the first receiver of moneys at Edwardsville Col. Ben had a very big job. On behalf of the government he sold new frontier land in the Illinois Territory. The land was sold at very reasonable prices because the government was in dire need of funds for its operation. This new large expanse of land was governed by new, untried reports and regulations and men had to work under entirely new circumstances. Plus, the distance between Washington and Edwardsville was far and communications were very, very slow. Mistakes were made by all and political enemies were made as well.

On April 3, 1823, Lucy wrote to Wm. H. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury. A very determined young widow, she questioned Crawford as to why Major Palemon H. Winchester, her son-in-law (also Col. Ben's attorney), had not been appointed receiver of moneys in Edwardsville. She wanted to know who had furnished the gossip that Lucy and Major Winchester had declined to administer the estate of Col. Ben for the purpose of defrauding the government of its funds held by Lucy. Lucy said she had "proof" of their innocence. This "proof" was the funds mentioned and they were still in her possession.

Of course, Lucy felt she and Winchester had been falsely accused. She wanted answers and she did not hesitate to write to the Secretary of the US Treasury. Remember, this is 1823 and most women did not even get an obituary in the paper when they died!

Secretary Crawford's June 14, 1823, letter responded to each of Lucy's questions and this is how the researchers found out what questions Lucy asked Crawford. Ol' Henry heard Sid and Karen discussing the letter and this old mouse had to concentrate real hard to remember what they said.

In Crawford's reply to Lucy he said it was the President who had decided against Winchester as the new receiver of moneys. He said the President had made his decision based on the information that he (Crawford) was including in his letter. It sure looks like he wanted Lucy to believe he was not involved.

In his letter Secretary Crawford told Lucy that a Judge Thomas had sent a newspaper article to the Treasury department that reported that neither Lucy nor Winchester had administered the estate of Col. Ben. He said that Col. Ben had "misapplied" public money and that the official bond required of Col. Ben as receiver had not been received and Winchester was a party of that bond. Crawford told Lucy that he had not received reports from the receivers office for the month of September 1822 and the first two weeks in October 1822, and this reflected on the character of Col. Ben and also on the character of Winchester. This is when Col. Ben was sick and he died on October 10, 1822. Who did Crawford think was going to make these reports? There was no one in the receivers office to make the reports, the receiver of moneys, Col. Ben, had died.

The many Edwardsville receivers letters that Sid has located have helped to understand some of what Crawford wrote to Lucy. One thing that is known for sure is that the many receivers letters from Meigs and Crawford never even hint that Col. Ben did anything dishonest.

Henry is going to wait until the next time we get together to further explain what Crawford was telling Lucy. All this political business that went on in the 1820's has to be taken in small amounts because it gets complicated!

Hey, a little girl dropped a bag of corn chips in the alley a few minutes ago! I am going to spend my evening with corn chips!!



See ya' later,

Henry





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