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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 19, 2005


Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. I must say 'my' house is looking absolutely outstanding! Have I said that before? Just maybe! Keith and Jack are back and Ol' Henry is so happy to see them. Did you know they are brothers? They have finished the plaster around the staircase and have hung the cabinet doors in the bedrooms. Things just keep looking better and better! Keith the painter has the millwork caulking completed and now it is time to make final decisions on which rooms will be wallpapered or painted. Then The Paint Crew will begin the wall preparation.


'My' house is also going to get an outdoor sign to be created by a number of local artisans. John designed the sign; Dave will do the lettering; Bob will do the wrought iron details and Larry will do the construction! Henry thinks Joe has assembled a great team!


Remember sometime ago Ol' Henry told you about how the Stephenson line was carried on through Elvira Winchester Matthews and her children? Remember, Elvira, Julia Stephenson Winchester's daughter, married Milton Matthews and lived in Columbia, Mo. Marion, the oldest of Elvira Matthews daughters, married George Dearing and they had four sons. They were educated men with two of them working for the U.S. Government and another was a lawyer. This was around 1910 when the number of government employees was not large.


Hey, let me tell you what I learned this summer about the other children of Elvira Winchester Matthews. You remember I told you about my Cousin Elzey from Columbia, Missouri and how he knows everything. Well, now he knows all about the grandchildren of Julia Stephenson Winchester. He sure does have a lot of information! But first let's talk about the education of the Stephenson/Swearingen families. Lucy's father provided for her education in his will in 1793 - yes, educating a woman in 1793! Sid has copies of letters that Lucy wrote that make it clear that Lucy received that education. Actual records of the education of the Stephenson girls, Julia and Elvira, have not been found. But, we know Lucy wrote about the Female Academy in Edwardsville and how she convinced her protégé Patty Canal to seek an education. One can be assured that Lucy made sure her children received the best education possible in the Kaskaskia and Edwardsville area. And, don't forget Col. Ben was selected as an Illinois delegate to Congress in 1814-1815, where he won so much respect he was soon appointed Receiver of Moneys at the Edwardsville Land Grant Office. He certainly promoted education, because shortly before his death he had placed a notice of the opening of a Seminary of Learning in Edwardsville where Greek and Latin languages would be taught in addition to the usual arithmetic, reading and writing. It definitely appears to Henry that the Stephenson kids were educated, intelligent and raised to be independent!


Now, lets talk about the children of Elvira Winchester Matthews, Julia Stephenson Winchester's daughter. There was Marion, mother of the Dearing boys; there was Fannie who died at age 13 and then Sarah who died at the age of 23, three years after the death of her mother. Elvira Winchester Matthews died in 1877 at the age of 49 leaving three younger children. They were Laura, age 16, Nicholas, age 13 and Lucy, age 11. These children all received a college education. Ol' Henry figures Marion, the oldest sister, and mother of the educated Dearing boys, had a strong influence in their lives, including their pursuit of learning. It appears that Marion was one of the first to champion the education of women!


Nicholas, the only Matthews son, had probably completed his education as a lawyer by 1890. In 1933 he was still practicing law in Fresno, California. Laura was a 16 year old when her mother died, and by 1885 she was a 24-year-old educated, workingwoman. Hey, Henry here may be just a mouse, but even I know that 1885 is early for a woman to be working "outside the home"! Laura Matthews had graduated from Stephen's College and completed a course in a commercial school. She was a secretary for several years and in 1889 she was appointed the first official court reporter of the 9th Judicial District in Columbia, serving from 1889 to 1904. Pretty good for a woman of that time! Laura, who did not marry, was interested in political as well as historical projects. In 1935 at the age of 72 she died on a train returning from California where she had been visiting relatives, perhaps brother Nicholas, the lawyer. That was a pretty long trip for a 72 year old in 1935! Sounds like another educated, independent Stephenson descendant to Henry!


Finally we come to the youngest daughter, Lucy, who was 11 at the time of her mother's death in 1877. Lucy graduated from Stephens College, did graduate work at the University of Missouri, taught at Stephens and, in 1899, she taught at Rose Hill Seminary in Versailles, Kentucky. Hey, looks like another educated, independent Stephenson descendant! Lucy married David L. Thornton of Versailles, 22 years her senior, around 1897, and they had three children. Her son David Thornton, Jr., was a lawyer by education and he married a woman who was educated in S. Carolina, received a M.A. degree in French from John Hopkins and worked on her doctorate at La Sorbonne in Paris, probably in the 1920's. Henry here thinks education had become a way of life for a lot of Col. Ben's descendants! David's wife had taught at her alma mater, Converse Hall in S. Carolina, and then taught French at Margaret Hall School in Versailles, Kentucky. This is where she met David Thornton, Jr. and they married in 1936. Cousin Elsey says that Frances Thornton was the person to call if you needed information on matters of historical value, art, conservation, preservation and gardening. She made a lifetime hobby of improving the old Thornton-Lyle house in Versailles. Wow - she would have loved the Stephenson House!! This lady is the mother and grandmother of the Hilton Head, S.C. and Lexington, Ky. Stephenson descendants that Ol' Henry talks about. Here we have an educated male Stephenson descendant who married a very well educated lady!
Elvira Amanda Matthews, Lucy's granddaughter and daughter of Julia, would be very proud of her educated, intelligent and independent Stephenson descendants! The Stephenson family had some good genes!


This Thursday, January 20, is the Stephenson House Annual Dinner at Sunset Hills Country Club. It is not too late to make a reservation. You just need to call Sally at 656-9491 and there will be a place ready for you! Henry has heard some friends of Col. Ben and Lucy will be there! I have found a ride and I will see you there.

See ya' later,
Henry

 


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