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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,
Henry




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