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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 20, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House Mouse is back again. You know it has been so quiet around here that I finally got used to it. Then, one day people came in like a whirlwind and things livened up. There were a whole bunch here and they were talking about the 50/50 Auction that will be held on May 18 on the lawn of "my" house. What I understand is that The Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House need people to donate items for the auction. Then the item is auctioned off and the money received will go half to the donor and half to The Friends of the Stephenson House. That is why it is called a 50/50 Auction. I also heard something about a possible tax deduction for the donor, whatever that is. I listened real careful and learned that Jim Zupanci is in charge of this Auction. Jim says he needs quality items for the auction but they really don't have to be old. He said he would even take Waterford and Hummel's (now those are words I do not understand) and he talked about old books, duck decoys, pianos and paintings that are prints or rare paintings like a Van Gogh. Jim said just no old refrigerators or recliners and then he laughed. Henry thinks Jim is fun! Then Jim got real serious and said that Gary Niemeier and Gerald Ahrens will be the auctioneers and will donate their time to the Stephenson House. I also heard Jim say he needed lots of items for Gary and Gerald to auction off and would like to know how many items will be donated real soon. Jim said folks should call him at 656-8752, tell him what they want to donate and The Friends will pick up. What a deal!!! PLEASE call by April 15 because Jim is not Superman. He needs some time to get this thing organized!

Now, you talk about a fun day, Henry really had a good time listening to all this planning!! You folks be looking in your basements, attics and nooks and crannies in your house for "quality items". Henry wants to see the Stephenson House looking like Great-great granddaddy Ezra told us about. Not only that, we might even get those modern things called heating and cooling and that takes money! Now, Henry here would like that as the cold a couple weeks ago was hard on me!

Well, I think it is about time I told you what brought Col. Ben to Edwardsville. The reason Col. Ben came to Edwardsville is because President James Madison appointed him Receiver of Moneys of the Land Grant Office on April 16, 1816. He did not return as U. S. Congressman, instead he came here for his new job. John McKee, who was to become Ben's good friend and business partner, was appointed Register of the Land Grant Office.

Now, just what was that Land Grant Office? Deanna said the Federal government had finished surveying all the land north of Kaskaskia in the Illinois Territory and it was now for sale. The Land Grant office was established to handle the sale of this land. Remember, the Illinois Territory went all the way up to the Canadian border and included upper parts of Michigan, all of Wisconsin and the part of Minnesota that is east of the Mississippi River. It is pretty good for an old mouse to remember all that, right? So, Col. Ben and John McKee were in charge of the sales for all those people who came to Edwardsville to buy land in the Illinois Territory. Talk about a big job! Can you imagine all the people that came to Edwardsville to go to the Land Grant Office!


Amanda, the archivist, said Col. Ben bought two lots on North Main when he came to town. In December of 1816 he bought Lot 6, which is just to the north of Lincoln School. In January 1817 he bought Lot 23 and Amanda says in the following September a record shows Col. Ben was residing in his house on Lot 23. When Col. Ben bought his lot it was across from the jail and the courthouse in the Public Square. I hear HPC people talk and now I finally know where that lot was. You all know the spot ~ it is at Rusty's Restaurant. Karen says it is either part of the north parking lot or where the big dining room and dance floor are located. One of these days Henry here is going to journey down that way and take a look. I hear the food is good and ya' never know, Dale might make sure I get a few tidbits. Be worth the long trip!

Enough about Col. Ben's house, lets talk about "my" house. I have to tell you about a scary thing that happened with the restoration here. Ever since I have been here there has been a big steel beam in each of the ceilings of the two rooms downstairs. They were not real pretty, but they did manage to keep the upstairs floors from falling down. When Jack and Laura, the architects, started on the plans I heard from the very start that the steel beams had to go. I kept thinking 'go where' and what happens to "my house". E. J. knew how to do it and believe Henry, I heard all the talk and I listened closely. E. J. had scaffolding put up to stabilize the house while the beams were moved and all the interior and exterior brick work was being done. To tell you the truth, the day E. J. and the guys moved those beam's I took a long walk. I just didn't want to see what could happen. Well, when I came back, the beams were down, the floors shored up and the house still standing! Then the next thing E. J. did was to use those steel beams to reinforce the downstairs floors of the 1845 addition. I have to admit, I left that day too. Henry just could not watch those guys carry those beams into that little cellar and then squeeze into that tiny crawl space to put the beams in place. When I came back, they had it done and they were all smiling. Wow!

Next they repaired the floor joists under the second floor. Remember I told you about those giant termites and all the meals they had on the original floor joists? Well, some of those joists had to be replaced as the termites had really done a job on them. Luckily, E. J. was able to use a lot of the 1820 joists and they were sandwiched between new joists. Now we have strong floor. There was a time when I could tell that the guys were being very careful about how many people were upstairs at one time. Things are looking good!
Hey, I have things to do and have to go now. I am thinking about that 50/50 Auction - you all be thinking too and find some things to donate to The Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House 50/50 Auction.

See ya later,

Henry



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