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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - February 19, 2004

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Things are moving along at a fast pace around here! In fact, I just moved to the smokehouse so I can stay out of the way of E. J. and his crew. They are putting up ceilings and metal mesh on the walls as they get ready to plaster. Can you believe that? The day to cover the brick walls with plaster has finally arrived! Just think, soon the rooms will be like when Col. Ben and his family lived here. The Friends have come a long, long way thanks to their hard work and the generous contributions and continued support of the restoration project. Henry here is right proud of all of you!!!

Hey, lets talk some more about the privy and the dump. It sure 'twas a surprise to Henry when I learned how much a privy and dump can reveal! You learn about the construction, choice of site and how the people lived-all kinds of things. Gee, it gets to be a lot of information. The Stephenson family owned the house and used the privy from 1820 until 1837, and then from 1839 to 1902, the Wolf family owned the house and used the privy. The last time we talked, Henry here told you about what was found in the privy from the Stephenson reign. Now, lets talk about the artifacts found in the privy from the Wolf family.

There were lots of dinnerware fragments in the privy and bottles in the Wolf dump. By the 1840's, Staffordshire pottery began to change in appearance because of improved inks. Red, green, black, brown and other colors were used in the patterns on the pottery. And, the traditional blue used on the pottery was softened to more of a "powder blue". Well, when Sid found dinnerware fragments with colors other than blue, he knew it was from after 1840 and had belonged to the Wolf family.

I overheard Sid and Jim talking about Bennington and I thought they were talking about a friend. No! They were talking about pottery fragments with a brown glaze and splattering of yellow that was found in the privy. This pottery was called Bennington - not the name of a friend! Sid thinks these fragments may be the real Bennington pottery produced between 1845 and 1858 in Bennington, Vermont. We sure would be doggone lucky if we found real Bennington dinnerware fragments that belonged to the Wolf family! Bennington pottery was made for only 10 to 12 years so there can't be a lot of it! Hey, it just could be that Frederick and Caroline Fix Wolf bought that pottery when they lived in Philadelphia in early 1840's. Yeah, Ol' Henry sure does dream about the old days.

The legs of a Frozen Charlotte, a doll that was manufactured in Germany and England from the 1840's to the 1870's, were found in the privy. The legs are white porcelain and just straight and stiff or "Frozen". An 1873 Indian Head Penny was also found. The date of the penny and the time period the doll was popular indicate their origin was during the time the Wolf family owned "my" house.

Henry here took a little stroll around the privy when Sid was excavating and I then realized how shallow that privy is. I bet it isn't much more than four feet deep! I heard Sid say that the early privies all tended to be shallow. Col. Ben built a very well constructed, shallow privy that he intended to last a long time, and it did! The privy was periodically cleaned by "honey dippers" until around the 1900's. The periodic cleanings did not allow for long accumulations of artifacts and therefore few objects were found.

Another real nice find on the Stephenson property was the remains of a dump area. The dump was found next to the backporch of "my" house. Ol' Henry watched when Sid and the guys were going through the remains in the dump and I saw a lot of pieces of colored glass picked up. I heard them say it was mostly black and some amber colored glass from wine bottles. There was also a lot of clear glass that Sid said was remains of wine goblets and a large glass or glass bowl. Ol' Henry saw Sid picking up lots of white pieces of something. Later I heard him say these pieces were from white ironstone plates and platters. An 1863 silver three cent piece and a ceramic inkwell also turned up. Boy, that dump sure had a lot more stuff than the privy!!

The 1863 silver three cent piece had to be from a later period than when the Stephenson's lived there. It probably came from the Wolf family. The inkwell was probably from the Wolf family because Carter's Ink started making glass bottles around 1860. It could possibly have been from the Stephenson family but the contents of the dump indicate it was the Wolf family who used the dump. The white pieces found in the dump were ironstone. One of the pieces is marked "Ironstone China, James Edwards". Sid checked and James Edwards was producing ironstone with this mark in the 1870's.

The wine bottles were clearly made in a factory and some are stamped "Weeks Glass Works". Weeks Glass Works was up and running in Stoddard, New Hampshire from about 1860 to 1873. So, the wine bottles and ironstone in the dump were from the same time period and probably belonged to the Wolf family.
Now, what about all those wine bottles? Sid said there must have been glass from 30 wine bottles and also pieces of wine goblets. Did you folks figure out why there were so many wine bottles? Henry here told you long ago that Philip Fix was a vintner. A vintner raises grapes and makes wine. Fix bought the Stephenson property in 1839 and also bought a lot of land adjoining his land on the west. In 1845, Frederick A. Wolf and his wife, Caroline Fix, were gifted the house and property from her father, Philip Fix. It looks to Ol' Henry that Frederick soon learned to be a vintner under the direction of his father-in-law Fix. Eventually Frederick A. Wolf was known to have the best grapes in the area. When you have grapes and wine, you also have wine bottles and wine goblets and your occupation is a vintner. Now you understand why there were wine bottles in the dump!

Sid spent a lot of time excavating the privy and dump and Ol' Henry guesses everybody wishes more had been found. However, already more is known than before. For one thing, Sid and the researchers are confident that the Stephenson family set their dining room table with dinnerware with a blue feather pattern of shell edge pearlware. We would never have known had the privy not been located! As has been said - "It was meant to be!!!"

The sun is shining and I am going out to get catch some rays. ( I heard the kids call them "rays" the other day!) You all be good and keep your ears open for any new information on "my" Stephenson family and house.


See ya later,

Henry




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