INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - May 4, 2005
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. This
old mouse says the same thing every time - there sure is lots going on
at 'my' house! The Sig Eps were here recently and worked on the yard.
They sure did a great job mulching the plants and trees, helping prepare
the garden beds and fixing up the formal garden. You guys are really great
helping hands! Thanks friends from all the Friends!
The floors in the 1820s part are installed and are receiving a finish
coat by The Paint Crew. The Crew is also painting the 1845 floors in the
original brownish color that the Wolf family used. Keith the carpenter
and his men have most of the door and window trim installed plus the thresholds.
No more rays of light or cold air come in from under the doors! Keith
the painter is very busy too as he continues to paint and glaze all the
trim work! Good going guys!
Prof. Cory's class from SIU has been studying the ways in which the Stephensons
may have used their house and they presented their results in class last
week. These students came up with some excellent, creative ideas to portray
life in the 1820s. For instance, a tool shed was certainly required to
hold all the rather large tools needed to maintain Col. Ben's land and
an even larger kitchen would have been needed! The students researched
cooking in the 1820s and prepared some of the recipes. As they used the
recipes they realized that cooking a meal in early kitchens was a major
task. It took many hands to provide the meals for the family and many
hours to complete them! The Friends appreciate all that Cory and her class
have done for us.
Hey, Ol' Henry made it home from Lower Town via the scenic route without
a mishap! When I got back, The Paint Crew was at 'my' house, painting
and telling stories and I heard George talking about - you will never
believe- the earthquake of 1811-1812! Ol' Henry scampered to his hidey
place and listened to every word said! George had been reading about the
earthquake and Henry heard him say there were actually four big quakes
in Southern Illinois. There were two on December 15, 1811, one at 2:15
AM and one at 8:15 AM and one in January and in February1812. George said
there are numbers that rate how bad an area is hit by an earthquake. He
saw a map that showed Kaskaskia, Carmi, and Louisville, Kentucky were
all given ratings of 6, 7, and 8. Only New Madrid got an 11 on the December
16, 1811 earthquake. George said that there are universities that study
about earthquakes and the numbers are pretty accurate. I am just a mouse,
ya know, but it sure sounds like a rating of 6, 7, and 8 meant the area
was hard hit.
George had a good earthquake story to tell about a man who lived in Louisville,
Kentucky, an area hit as hard as the Kaskaskia area. After the first great
shaking of the earth in December 1811, this man wrote that he thought
"the roar would leave them deaf if they lived". By January he
was asking "what are we gonna do? You cannot fight it 'cause you
do not know how". In February 1812 this same guy said he feared "the
ground is going to eat us alive". The family was about to go crazy-from
pain and fright and his animals had run off. A month later he wrote that
he didn't know if their minds had gone bad or what. "I swear you
can still feel the ground move and shake some". By April this poor
man had finally rounded up enough animals to pull the wagons to move his
family out of Kentucky to Pigeon Roost, Indiana, where he figured there
would be no moving ground!
George said that the earthquakes were felt for about four months. Reports
of the trembling earth came from folks from the Atlantic Coast and from
Indians in the regions beyond the Mississippi. Hey, that included New
York City, New Hampshire, the Carolina's, New Orleans and of course, Tennessee,
Kentucky and Illinois. There are many stories from all these areas, including
one from a man in Louisville who recorded 1,874 separate quakes between
December and March. He sure was a busy guy keeping those numbers! There
were lots of stories, lots of changes in the land, rivers and lakes but,
as George pointed out, very few lives were lost.
Well, a few days later, Lisa picked up the mail for 'my' house and it
included a story about the quake at Kaskaskia. Someone out there sent
great earthquake information to P. O. Box 754, which is the Stephenson
House box! Henry says thank you, thank you, your help is needed and appreciated.
Golly, here were stories just like Ol' Henry figured were around somewhere
about the "great shakes" of 1811-1812! Sid read the article
out loud and here is some of what Henry heard: 'The folks at Kaskaskia
were frightened beyond description by the earthquake as the earth waived
like a river blown by the winds, the church steeple bent like a reed and
the old bell rang like a demon was pulling the rope! The houses cracked
like it was doomsday and stone and brick chimneys fell down. The earth
cracked open with crevices so deep that folks could not hear a stone hit
the bottom! The air and the water drawn from the split earth had a terrible,
disagreeable odor. The people of Kaskaskia, believers and unbelievers,
flocked to the church and listened as the stout old priest implored mercy
from Him whom the elements obey.'
Now, at last, Ol' Henry knows about Kaskaskia and the quake of December
1811. Can you imagine the fear of the folks when the ground kept shaking
and rolling for the next four months? No wonder they thought it was doomsday!
You know what Ol' Henry thinks? I think that someday, someone, somewhere
will find a letter that Lucy wrote home to Virginia telling about the
horrible earthquake. It had to be so frightening that Lucy would have
felt she just had to tell the relatives in Virginia about her experience.
Someday a letter will appear - Henry hopes!
Oh, oh, I see Jane coming with one of her great coffee cakes. I gotta'
go - I don't want to miss a single crumb!
See ya' later,