INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 10, 2005
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. I'm
telling you, things are real quiet around here. About the only folks I
see are The Paint Crew when they paint and sand one day a week. The gardeners
have not been around and Henry thinks they are reading old time seed catalogs
as they plan the spring planting. I sure needed some action and I knew
what I would do.
Cousin Jake has been asking me to come to his house for a visit and that
is where I spent most of last week, just hanging out with Jake and his
buddies. Cousin Jake lives in what is called Lower Town by those who have
lived in Edwardsville for a long time. This is the area around Rusty's,
down North Main to the Klingel House. This is where Edwardsville began!
Cousin Jake and his buddies told Ol' Henry about when Thomas Kirkpatrick
and the very first settlers came in 1805. They built their log cabins
on top of a ridge that ran north and south. This ridge ended near today's
Klingel House and the land sloped steeply down to a creek they named Cahokia
Creek. The creek would provide power for the mills they needed. The street
that followed this ridge north and south became Main Street. Jake's buddies
pointed out to Ol' Henry that North Main Street is on top of that ridge
and showed me where the land drops off on both sides of the street from
the Klingel House to near High and North Main Streets. Cousin Jake and
his buddies sure do know a lot!
The guys from Lower Town told me about Kirkpatrick's house being designated
in 1812 as the County Seat by Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards. They
said Kirkpatrick named the town he platted "Edwardsville" in
honor of Edwards. In 1816 the Land Grant Office opened in Edwardsville
and Edwardsville became "the" place to be. Young men came to
Edwardsville from New York, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
They were aggressive and adventuresome men, eager for land and wealth
and for a place in politics in the new territory. As land was sold by
the Land Grant Office the town grew and various kinds of jobs became available.
And, the guys told Henry, many of these men came here and stayed for a
number of years as they found their place in the growth of Illinois. Then
they left Edwardsville to venture further into the frontier and the new
towns that were springing up in the state of Illinois.
The guys from Lower Town told me a story as an example. They took Ol'
Henry to the corner of Fourth St. and N. Main, the corner of a big parking
lot in front of Eden Church, to tell me about Dr. John Bowers. Dr. Bowers
was the first doctor in Edwardsville. He came in 1810 and built a log
cabin at this corner. Dr. Bowers became a friend and business partner
of Col. Ben's in the Todd and Others Addition called Upper Edwardsville.
He was Edwardsville's doctor for seven years.
In 1817 Dr. John Todd came to town and that same year Bowers sold his
log cabin to Dr. Todd. Some time later he went to either Carlinville or
Carlyle, the guys were not too sure which town.
Dr. John Todd had served as a surgeon from Kentucky in the War of 1812,
was taken prisoner by the Indians in 1813 and was later paroled and allowed
to return home to Lexington. He must have had some stories to tell! Todd
was also a partner with Col. Ben in the Todd and Others Addition. Of course,
you remember that Dr. Todd was Col. Ben's doctor. He was the only doctor
in town so he had to be his doctor! Dr. Todd added a frame addition to
the log cabin he bought from Dr. Bowers and this is where some of his
children were born. He was Edwardsville's doctor for ten years.
In 1827 Dr. Benjamin F. Edwards, Ninian's brother, was the next doctor
to come to Edwardsville. That same year Dr. John Todd moved to Springfield,
Illinois, where he continued to practice medicine for many years. Who
do you think he sold his Edwardsville house to? Yep, to Dr. Benjamin Edwards.
As Edwardsville's doctor he covered a territory fifty miles around tending
to the sick. In 1836 Edwards moved to Alton where he apparently had a
smaller practice. He had been Edwardsville's doctor for nine years.
Judge Joseph Gillespie bought Dr. Edwards house in 1837. A lawyer now
owned the 'doctors' house! He was admitted to the bar in 1837, the same
year he bought the house from Dr. Benjamin Edwards. Judge Gillespie, who
had grown up in Edwardsville, served as a state Senator and as a Circuit
Judge. He married in 1845, raised his family in the doctor's house on
N. Main and in 1855 died there.
Cousin Jake's buddies think Gillespie's house was Dr. Bowers's log cabin
that Dr. Todd had improved with a frame addition. Henry here thinks this
is probably true. The house was razed many years ago but a picture of
Judge Gillespie's house shows a rectangular two-story frame that could
easily have been Dr. Bowers's log cabin with a frame addition.
The 1810 log cabin was home to three doctors and one lawyer. The doctors
went on to other Illinois towns and Judge Gillespie stayed in his hometown.
This story is one of many about 1800's doctors, lawyers, land speculators
and craftsmen who came to Edwardsville and left after a number of years.
Edwardsville was where it all began and from here the men went on to other
towns to help build the state of Illinois. Henry here sure did learn a
lot during my visit with Cousin Jake and we had fun too!
Ol' Henry can tell spring is almost here because some of the plants that
were planted last year are turning a pretty shade of green! I sure hope
the neighborhood rabbits don't eat them.
See ya later,