INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - October 15, 2003
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
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
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
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
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,