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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - February 13, 2002


Hi! Henry, the Stephenson House Mouse is back again. We had a touch of winter and it has been a wee bit cold in "my" house. Sure glad there is soft stuff around that I can curl up in!! I have been finding bits of food in the streets and in the parking lots nearby so I am getting along fine.

Hey guys, I do not want to bore you with dates and all that stuff, but…Ole Henry here knows that you have to get some dates in your head. You have to get a handle on what was going on around here in the early 1800's and think about how early that was in Edwardsville's history. Today I have to talk about dates and who was doing what. Just hang in there with me, it will get better.

When Territorial Governor Edwards arrived in Kaskaskia in 1809, his first job was to reorganize the territorial government. I told you last time that was when Col. Ben was appointed Sheriff. Edward's next move was to form military companies. Old great-great-great-granddaddy Samuel said he understood the U.S. was not too friendly with Britain after the Revolutionary War. He said that the British had been seizing U.S. ships and firing on some of our vessels. Also, there were some unhappy Indians. The Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Sac and the Fox Indian tribes were not happy with how the territorial governments were making treaties for exchange of land. These tribes were siding with the British so the people in the Illinois Territory were fearful of an Indian attack. Ole' Samuel said there were a lot of unhappy people and he figured that was why Edwards got the militia going as soon as he got to the Illinois Territory.

Now, the reason I talk about dates and all that school book stuff is because I want you to Think!! It was not many years after the Revolutionary War that Col. Ben, Ninian Edwards and that group of men came to Illinois. They came only five years after Lewis and Clark left Wood River on their famous journey! Ole' Henry here just wants you to have an idea of how long ago this all happened!! As you can see, it was long, long, long before Henry was born!

Ole' Samuel told of how Edwards appointed men from Kaskaskia and the surrounding area as captains of militia companies in St. Clair and Randolph Counties. The captains then appointed officers for their companies. In May of 1809 they were preparing for war in the Illinois Territory. Edwards knew about the trouble with the Indians around Virginia and the Ohio River when that area was a new frontier. The mouse stories say Ole Samuel said over and over that Edwards and his men wanted to be prepared for trouble.

Great-great-great-granddaddy Samuel loved to tell stories about the war and he educated all of us on the War of 1812. He talked about a trade ban imposed on Britain in 1810 but Britain refused to cooperate. Finally President Madison had had enough, he called Congress into session in November of 1811 to prepare for war. War was declared on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. Ole' Samuel told how Col. Ben was right there defending the Illinois Territory, serving in two campaigns of that war. Funny thing though, Ole' Samuel never talked about his being with Col. Ben in the war! I believe he stayed home!

Elizabeth of HPC found records that show Ben was elected Brigade inspector, brigade Major and then appointed Adjutant General. I heard her explain that the adjutant general helped the Commander-in-Chief Edwards by sending out orders, keeping records, and writing letters. Guess you would say that Ben was Edward's right-hand man. I also heard Elizabeth talk about Illinois records that show that on Sept. 12, 1812, troops under the command of Maj. Benjamin Stephenson were at Fort Russell. He was in command of eight companies with a total of 570 men. I think you all know that Fort Russell was somewhere just north of Edwardsville. It must have been a big fort!

You all know that Ole' Henry here has been calling Benjamin Stephenson the Colonel ever since he left Virginia. He actually became a Colonel here in Illinois at the close of the War of 1812. I just heard the old stories talk about Col. Ben and to me that was his name. To me, he was always a Colonel!

Col. Ben served as Sheriff of Randolph County from 1809 until 1814. He was elected to serve as Delegate to Congress from the Illinois Territory. He served in the House of Representatives in 1814 and 1815, at the same time James Madison, the man our county in named for, was President. Remember, it took 35 days to get to Washington, D.C. from Kaskaskia. Just think how much Ben must have cared about the future of the Illinois Territory and its people!

I have heard very little about Lucy when Col. Ben was busy in Congress. I wonder if Lucy and the children went to Washington with him. At our reunion I asked my mouse cousin Zach from Kaskaskia to ask the other cousins there if they knew anything about Lucy and Ben during the time he was in Congress. I hope to hear from him any day now.

Let's get back to "my" house and see what is going on! I was talking about the great breezes that come in these windows. When the people from SWAP were removing the plaster they uncovered brickwork that helped the architects know what kind of windows had been at the top of the stairs. It was easy to see that the window at the back of the stairs had been filled in. This space has been opened and a replacement window is ready.

The window in front was the big, big surprise! This window had been made smaller! It was originally a Palladian window. The best Ole' Henry could understand from the talk around here was that a Palladian window is wider than the usual window and has a fan shaped window at the top of it. E. J. and his guys are making a Palladian window and soon the breeze will blow through on the stairs from front to back of the house. The breezes will blow like great-great-granddaddy Ezra remembered. These replacement windows even have 100 year old glass in them! It seems that E. J. can find the best stuff for the best prices!!!

Now let me tell you about the heat from the fireplaces. Some of the owners have made changes to the house over the years. The Frank Dickmann family owned the house in the early 1900's. Yes, you are right. Ben Dickmann, our former police chief, is related to the family! At that time Victorian homes were all the rage and the Dickmann family wanted a fashionable house so they made some Victorian changes. One change was to make the downstairs doorways wider. When HPC decided to restore the house back to the 1820's, those doorways had to be restored to the original size. Keith found the original doorway size and he added brick to make the opening smaller. The size of those doorways sure makes a difference in heating. Carol and Donna will tell you that when those fireplaces are going, this house is warm!

"My" house just feels good! I spend a lot of time thinking about the 1820's and Ben and his family and all that went on here. HPC and the Friends of the Stephenson House are making plans for you to come here this Spring. Be sure to stop by, I know you will like "my" house.

See ya' later,

Henry

 


 


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