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Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Folks, there are so many things going on around here that it just makes my head spin! My buddies E. J. and his crew are back! They are busy getting the concrete base ready for the brick courtyard and the foundation for the summer kitchen poured. And, the guys brought the finished house shutters with them. They really are great looking! In addition to all that, there has been another discovery by the alley!

The Stephenson privy was found!! Man o' man, what a find! Digging was going on for the handicap parking lot and the next thing you know they were finding brick walls that were in a large rectangular shape. Well, they found a 9' by 6' privy and it is for sure that it was built by the Stephensons because it is made of the same brick as the house and the barn foundation. Now, let me tell you, that is a big privy! Ol' Henry's heart was beating loud and strong! This mouse has heard about privies and I know this is where you find all kinds of things that belonged to the family because the privy was also a place to throw broken and unwanted objects. Wow!

Sid was there when the privy was found and plans were made to excavate the site. I heard somebody say that pieces, called shards, of china from the 1790's have already been found! Henry here thinks Sid is really having fun! What is really cool is that the excavation will be going on during the Burgoo this Saturday. What an unbelievable opportunity for you folks to watch an actual excavation by a professional archaeologist right in the middle of Edwardsville! How lucky can you get!!!

Well, Henry will settle down now and tell you about Elvira Stephenson, the youngest Stephenson daughter, and what has been learned about her life. I overheard Elizabeth and Karen talking about how great it was to have located her obituary as it was full of information about Elvira and her family.

Elvira died November 6, 1881 and her obituary was published in the Carlinville Democrat. Henry has to chuckle a little because Cousin Seth, who is from Carlinville and who knows everything, did not know that Elvira lived and died in Carlinville! The obituary was signed "WWF" and Karen knew immediately that this was William F. Freeman who had married Ellen Winchester, daughter of Palemon and Julia Stephenson Winchester. Julia was the first Stephenson child and Elvira's older sister. Freeman had been a member of the Stephenson family for the 30 years since his marriage to Ellen Winchester in 1853. He knew the family story quite well and in writing Elvira's obituary he provided a wealth of information about the Stephenson family for future generations, including Elvira's birthdates!

William F. Freeman wrote in Elvira's obituary that she was born in Kentucky on March 23, 1809. He wrote that Elvira and William E. Starr had four children, only one of whom survived her, a son, William H. Starr of the Territory of Arizona.

These two sentences gave researchers the correct answers to several questions. Freeman gave Elvira's actual birthdates which is the first time an actual date and year have been located. Elvira's year of birth had previously been a calculated guess from very early Census records that did not show actual year of birth. The scant Census information made it appear that both Elvira and Benjamin V. were born in 1812, which just did not seem correct. This mouse thinks that the researchers are now confident that Elvira was born in 1809 and Benjamin V. in 1812, as he stated on pension papers.

Elvira's age has always been a bit of a question. You might recall that the Carlinville Census of 1850 shows Elvira's age as 38. Well, the obituary information would make her age 41 in 1850. Henry here says, 'with a twinkle in my eye' that he suspects Elvira was 'a courtin' and lowered her age! Sure enough, the obituary tells that in 1851 she married 30 year old Enoch Wall, Macoupin County Clerk. Unfortunately, Enoch died in 1858.

In 1860 Elvira married for the third time, becoming the wife of William Maddox, a 54 year old farmer. Maddox died in early 1881 and Elvira died the same year at age 72. Elvira is buried in her own lot in Carlinville Cemetery. Ol' Henry thinks Freeman is making a point when he says that Elvira was buried in her own lot in the Carlinville City Cemetery.

William F. Freeman knew so much about the family and preserved a lot of the family history in Elvira's obituary. He wrote that Elvira had remarkable experience and had passed through almost all the changes of fortune in her life. He tells of a fulfilled youth when Elvira was "reared amid wealth and fashion, she became one of the gayest of the gay, a belle among one of the first families of the Territory of Illinois." But, fickle fortune had reduced Elvira to "circumstances to the extreme of bitter poverty". Freeman writes that Elvira, who was called Auntie Maddox, had a kindly disposition, ready to lend a helping hand to the destitute and the afflicted. She looked on the bright side of life even though "she realized its bitterness and disappointments in many ways."

Henry thinks Freeman wrote that Elvira was buried in her own lot because he knew that Elvira had sacrificed much to buy her own burial lot. She may have been poor, but she was not buried in a pauper's field!

Freeman wrote a gentle, tender and true story of Elvira's life that shows his respect and great compassion for Elvira. Freeman obviously felt tremendous pride for the Stephenson family and Elvira when he wrote … "She was among the last of the early settlers of Illinois, and particularly of Edwardsville, Madison County. She was the friend and associate of EDWARDS, WHITESIDES, PRICKETTS and others of the long ago."

Elvira's obituary has provided the researchers with dates, places, names of some of the Stephenson family friends and more on the family's life style. Sadly, it is now known that Elvira, the gayest of the gay, reared in wealth and fashion, left this world in extreme and bitter poverty. Well, Henry here feels sad for Elvira. It has been a long search to find out about her life, now we know and the search is ended.

OK folks, the Burgoo is this Saturday, October 18, 2003, at the Stephenson House! Beginning at noon, Mary will have crafts people there demonstrating how the people of the early 1800's created many of the items needed for survival. Wilma Jene and Lois will have the Burgoo ready to serve at 2:00 P.M. along with that great bread from Green Earth and freshly churned butter! And, remember, an actual excavation will be going on at the same time!! This will be a weekend to remember for a long time!! Henry will be looking for you on Saturday!

See ya' later,

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