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,