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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - February 27, 2002

Hi! Henry is back and let me tell you, I have had an exciting two weeks. First of all, we had a party at the Stephenson House. Yep, we had a real party with the Friends of the Stephenson House Board and E. J., Keith and Gregg. Say, have you ever had lasagna? I had never heard of it, but is it good! OK, here is what went on. The House Board meeting was held at "my" house and they had dinner here before their monthly meeting. E. J. and the guys were invited for dinner. "My" house looked great! Maybe you happened to drive by and see the lanterns Carol put in the windows for the party. The ladies put up long tables with pretty tablecloths, they had candles and lanterns, a great fire in the fireplace and lasagna for dinner!

And, get this, there were big pictures of Lucy and Col. Ben. I heard Karen say they were pictures of the original oil portraits that are in Lexington, KY. The inventory of Stephenson's household showed there were two portraits, so everyone just figured they had to be of Col. Ben and Lucy. From what I heard it took a long time to locate the portraits. Finally, a descendant of Col. Ben's was found in South Carolina and he sent pictures of the portraits to Karen. The night of the party they were all talking about going to Lexington to see the actual portraits!

Getting back to the party. I found a great "hidey" place and I felt like I was part of the party. But, you know, I sure was wishing they would leave some food behind! I counted, there were over fifteen people. They talked, laughed, joked and had a real party. I just know it was a like when Col Ben and Lucy entertained.

After dinner the Board had their meeting. Henry has never been to a meeting so that was another new experience. Since I did not know what would go on. They talked about a 50/50 auction, Rt. 66, costumes, and docents, (which is a new word for Henry), gardens, education programs and money. They are really busy!
Now let Ole' Henry tell you his news! When I went to the Stephenson mouse reunion last month I asked all the cousins to be listening for old stories. Well, Cousin Van from West Virginia really came through this week. He had lots of information about Lucy's father. Just between you and me, I think he really likes the story because he has the same name as Lucy's dad.

Cousin Van tells that Lucy's father was a frontiersman named Van Swearingen. When he was about 28 years old, around 1770, he and his family headed from eastern Virginia for the wild frontier on the banks of the Monongahela River which is in Pennsylvania. He became involved in the vicious fighting in that region between the settlers and the natives. This fighting was known as Lord Dunmore's War and it was at this time he got the nickname Indian Van.

Cousin Van had so much to tell me! During the Revolution, Indian Van joined George Washington's Army in New Jersey and became a captain in a Rifle Company. He and 20 of his men were captured at the Battle of Stillwater in 1777, and were released about a month later.

Indian Van lived in Pennsylvania and later in Virginia. He was married several times. His last wife was Eleanor Virgin who was Lucy's mother. Cousin Van said Indian Van was always looking for property to buy. He accumulated lots of land and when he died his kids inherited it. Indian Van died in Ohio County, Virginia in 1793. Lucy was just seven years old at the time.

I told Cousin Vann that he was wrong, Lucy did not come from Ohio County, Virginia. I told him great-great-great-granddaddy Samuel said Lucy was from Martinsburg, Virginia. Cousin Van agreed and said Ole' Samuel was right He thinks Lucy's mother left Ohio County and went to Martinsburg after Indian Van died. Probably because it was a lot more civilized in Martinsburg!! Now, that is a lot to find out from one cousin, but the Stephenson mouse family was always know to be doggone good historians.

When I learned about Lucy's dad, Indian Van, I began to understand Lucy a little better. The mouse story tellers have always wondered how Lucy was brave enough to come to the unknown Illinois Territory. Think a minute, that young woman was the daughter of Indian Van who had raised his family on the wild frontier. Lucy had grown up in the wild Virginia frontier where Cousin Van said one of her brothers was killed by indians right after she was born. I guess all this helped make her a very strong woman. Other stories I know about her, and I will tell you some of those later, all make Henry just know that not much scared Lucy!

At the Board meeting I heard something I had not heard before. I knew there wasn't too much work going on at the Stephenson House lately and I found out why. They are waiting for the weather to stay warm so that the white paint can be removed. Then the new windows and new front door will go in and the bricks will be tuckpointed. I can't wait! Henry just loves to have all those people around.

The other stuff I heard at the Board meeting was the talk about how the people in Edwardsville had been so great about helping get "my" house on the way to restoration. They said people have given lots of money, have given their services and others are ready to help when the house is ready for their part of the work. Donna said there were over two hundred members of the Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House. She was really happy! She said that was really a lot of members in short period of time. Everybody there talked about the wonderful support from the community. I love these women because they get so excited about "my" house and what is going on. You know that the men are happy too, but they are quieter about it. Ole' Henry does know that the Stephenson House Board really talk a lot about how much the community has helped them. Of course, they always mention that it could not have happened without Senator Bowles. I would like to be here when she visits as it sounds like I must be only one around that doesn't know her. However, Henry does understand that Senator Bowles really get things done.


There has been enough excitement for a while. Now I have to get down to the practical things in life. One thing I have to do is find some new fluff for my bed!

See ya later,

Henry



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