INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - April 20, 2005
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Hey,
the grape arbor is underway!! Jim and Carol F. planted six big grapevine
plants in the backyard. The grapevines will climb up the arbor and bring
back visions of long ago when the Wolf family made wine with the grapes
they raised here. Do you think our grape arbor with six vines will bring
winemaking back to 'my' house?
It has been a busy week for Keith the painter and Keith the carpenter,
one finishing the glazing and the other replacing the deteriorated floors
in the 1820s part of the house. Everything sure is looking good! The electrician
was here and hung some beautiful old-looking light fixtures in the hallways,
bathrooms and the back stairs in the 1845 part of 'my' house. And, he
also installed track lighting in the room that will be the orientation
room. This mouse understands that if you want light in the 1820's part
of 'my' house you will use candles, just like Col. Ben and Lucy did long
ago. Henry here just knows that candles will create beautiful light and
bring a wonderful glow to all the rooms.
Ol' Henry's recent visit with Cousin Jake in Lower Town was fun and full
of old stories. It so happens that Charles, a buddy of Jake's, had mouse
relatives who came to Edwardsville from the Kaskaskia area where Col.
Ben and Lucy lived during the earthquake of 1811. Ol' Henry has always
wondered what happened when the earthquake shook Kaskaskia.
Charles told about a fellow from near Kaskaskia who had a house raising
the day before the earthquake. Men and women from miles around gathered
to raise the house and enjoy the feast and dancing that followed. Well,
that earthquake came about 2 o'clock the night of December 16, 1811. By
morning the new house was still standing but parts of the roof were shaken
down and some of the long, top-logs were on the ground. According to Charles,
the old stores told how the ground would shake and then rock and roll
in long waves. After a quiet spell, there would be another shake and a
long roll. During the long continued roll, the tops of the tall trees
would tangle together. As they swayed, they would part and fly back the
other way. Then the tangled top branches would pop like gunshots when
they broke and the forest floor was just covered with broken limbs. Charles
said that when he says 'tall' he means the kind of tall timber that made
95-foot logs! Wow!
Why didn't the log cabins fall apart when the ground moved? Charles had
the answer and explained how the houses were built. These houses were
like pens about fifteen feet square and seven feet high, built of small
logs that one or two men could handle. These logs were dove-tailed at
the corners and long logs were used to support the roof. On one side was
a door and on the other side there was a six-foot square area about a
foot deep for the "chimbley". It was built out of many small
layers of split white oak sticks and wet clay, with one half of the chimney
in the cabin for the hearth and the other half outside for the base of
Charles went on to say that the houses "in the country" were
built with wood and wet clay, no nails and no stones. Actually, these
houses were flexible like a basket and were a perfect structure to resist
an earthquake in the area of Kaskaskia. One fact he did add was that there
were in fact two earthquakes on December 16, 1811. One quake happened
at 2:15 AM and another followed in the morning at 8:15 AM. No wonder those
folks were scared and talked about the "great shakes" for years
to come. Charles said he heard the quakes continued for several months!
Charles had other stories to tell about how the earth heaved up piles
and piles and piles of pure white sand on the plains that covered many
square miles near the Wabash Rivers. He said the salt works near Shawneetown
had a lot of damage but oddly enough some places nearby had slight damage.
Charles said that all the stories agree about how frightened the domestic
animals were. The horses were nickering, cattle lowing, hogs squealing
and mice squeaking, all running to the house for protection and comfort.
Cousin Jake and Henry here sure wished there had been more stories to
tell about Kaskaskia. The good story we always heard was that there were
few lives lost because the Illinois Territory was new and not many people
lived here. Charles said there was little damage to homes because, by
sheer coincidence, the houses "in the country" were constructed
so they could withstand earthquakes. He mentioned that Shawneetown had
a few 'pretentious' houses where the stone chimneys came crashing down.
That sure made Ol' Henry wonder what happened in Kaskaskia where the houses
were made with a lot of stone.
Well, Charles exhausted his supply of earthquake stories and Cousin Jake
and Henry learned more about the 1811 earthquake. Ol' Henry wonders if
the old great grandpappys Samuel and Ezra did know stories about the earthquake
but their stories have been lost over time. It sure would be great to
know what all went on with Col. Ben, Lucy and the children during the
time of the "great shakes"!
Ol' Henry was anxious to get back to 'my' house and I left Cousin Jake
and his buddies a few days later and headed home. I plan to take the scenic
route home and go along the old Cahokia Creek area and try to "see"
where old creeks and streams ran to the east of what is now Edwardsville's
Main Street. I sure hope I don't get lost!
Se ya' later,