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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 31, 2004

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. And, I am here with news! Jeff at Mechanics Planing Mill has provided the latest "best news of the day". He has donated many, many dollars worth of millwork, baseboard and trim, which replaces what is missing after 184 years. Carol, Sid, Candy and Karen were at MPM to watch as the special knives on Jeff's machine cut into 10" boards and created baseboard that matches the 1820's baseboard. Let me tell you, Jeff, the planing mill, and the great, old, unique machine that Everett handles so efficiently impressed these folks! Sid and the girls talked and talked about what they had seen when they came back to "my" house. Ol' Henry listened but just could not understand it all - I am just a mouse, ya' know! One thing I do know is that The Friends think Jeff and his donation of millwork is extraordinary and can't thank him enough!


After all the excitement over MPM and the millwork, Ol' Henry just laid back for a few days to do some thinking about "my" house. Over the years great-great-great grandfather Samuel told many a story about Col. Ben and Lucy. One story he liked to tell was about how he would hear them talking as they spent hours planning their new house. Ol' Samuel knew of the love and pride they had for that home!


It was a sad day when Col. Ben died so soon after their home was completed. After his death Lucy and her children struggled for 12 years to keep their beloved home. Beginning in 1834, the home has changed owners many times but Ol' Henry knows that if "my" house could talk she would say that all the folks who lived here loved her, were very proud of her and gave her a lot of special care.


For 184 years Col. Ben and Lucy's wonderful house was home to 14 families and their many children. Henry here has tried to remember the changes that these families made to the house to make it comfortable for their family. Uncle Thomas, who was great granddaddy Amos's brother, knew all about the 1845 Wolf addition that made more room for children. Then, in 1902, when the Dickmann family took over they made the house more fashionable and enjoyable for their family. They even added indoor plumbing. Now, that was an improvement! Both families took great pride in this house.


Among a lot of Stephenson mouse stories told about improvements to Col. Ben's house, there is one about the Waltrip's installing the iron beams that kept the upstairs floors secure. And, of course, all the Stephenson House mice loved the Berry sisters who bought Col. Ben and Lucy's home in the 1940's. The Berry sisters enjoyed this warm and comfortable home that was large enough in which to raise their deceased sister's four children. With the help of their brother, a carpenter, Iona and Stella Berry were able to provide care and updates to their home. They loved this place and so did the children. Henry was here when some of these grown children came to visit recently.


Ol' Henry's daddy told about the hours the Steve Weisemann family spent on Col. Ben and Lucy's house. They painted woodwork, wallpapered and did all kinds of neat things to the house they were so proud of. Henry also knows that in 1982 Steve did the research needed to place Col. Ben and Lucy's house on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity was the last owner of Col. Ben and Lucy's house and they deserve a lot of credit for preserving this historic home. Henry was here at that time and I remember Lyle talking and working with the boys as they learned to maintain the historic house in which they had so much pride.
There were groups in town that helped the Sig Eps with maintaining the home. For instance, Henry knows that Goshen Preservation Alliance provided the beautiful brick sidewalk from the street to the front door.
Yep, a lot of people worked to keep "my" house in good condition. These people, some long gone, made it possible for the City of Edwardsville and HPC to consider restoration. Restoration could and has happened because the house was allowed to decay over the last 184 years. Now, with "blood, sweat and tears" and the tremendous support of the Edwardsville community, The Friends of the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House is well on the way to bringing Col. Ben and Lucy's house back to the way it was in 1820. The results of everyone's work are really starting to show!


And, the outside is shaping up too! The house now has a great asphalt parking lot, brick sidewalks and soon will have a garden and grape arbor. That sounds like food!


I want to tell you one last thing. Cousin Elzey from Columbia, Mo. sent word that he is sure that Col. Ben's older brother, William, is buried in Knoxville! Well, that caused a stir around here because Karen and the researchers had not previously found a trace of brother William. Leave it to a Stephenson House family mouse to come up with the answers!!


I am on my way to City Park to meet Cousin Jake. Hey, speaking of City Park, did you know that Ninian Edwards, Ben and the other guys that developed Upper Edwardsville set aside that land for the City Park way back in 1821?? Some mighty good thinking, I would say!

See ya' later,
Henry





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