INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - May 18, 2005
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Once
again I have to say that "my" house continues to progress and
it is totally awesome! Hey, I need to remind you all about the Taste of
Downtown Edwardsville that will be Saturday, June 11 at the beautiful
Madison County Edwardsville Transit Center. There will be fun, food and
music by Joey James from 7:30 to 10:30 PM. Tickets are on sale at TheBANK
of Edwardsville's Main office or call 656-9491. Tickets are $30. You must
buy your ticket ahead of time so that the Friends of the Col. Benjamin
Stephenson House have a chair and table ready for you! The food, of course,
is from all our great Downtown restaurants and it is good! Be sure and
get your tickets!
These warm spring days set Ol' Henry to laying back and thinking about
the Stephenson family of long ago. Ya' know life was different then. I
know for sure that Grandpappy Ezra didn't dine on bits of hot dogs, chips,
cheese and summer sausage like Henry here does. He had to depend on seeds
and whatever he could find! Some folks had indentured servants to help
with the work, but the majority did not. That meant that many a boy or
girl had many chores to do to help maintain the household. Ol' Henry thinks
the Stephenson children were required to do their share of work around
the house. Henry is sure that Lucy wanted her children to be independent
Julia, the oldest Stephenson child, married Palemon Winchester in 1820.
They lived in Edwardsville for 10 years and started their family here.
It was during this time that Palemon, a prominent lawyer, was charged
with the murder of Daniel Smith, a former Edwardsville resident who was
visiting in Edwardsville in January 1825. Palemon was acquitted of the
charge, but Grandpappy Ezra said he thought the whole thing 'took the
starch' out of Palemon and he never was quite the same.
Palemon and his brother-in-law, Bill Starr, opened the first store in
an area in Macoupin County that was later named Carlinville. The next
year, 1830, the Winchesters and their four children were off to Carlinville
and a new life. Palemon eventually became a probate judge in Macoupin
Grandpappy Ezra said that when the Winchester family moved to the Macoupin
County it was for the most part wilderness and contained not a single
town in 1829. The county was created in 1829 and 78 votes were cast in
the first election. The first few land entries were recorded in 1828 and
1829. This was a new frontier!
Grandpappy Ezra knew a lot about Macoupin County because he went with
Lucy when she moved there in 1834. Ol' Henry will tell you a few stories
that he remembers old Ezra telling. I remember the story he told about
in 1830-31when it snowed through December and January, leaving snow three
feet deep that stayed on the ground until March. It was impossible for
the people to get to the mill. They had to pound corn for meal to make
bread and hominy and that was about all they had to eat. Henry here figures
Julia had to pound corn like everyone else, even though she must have
had some items from Palemon's store to depend upon.
Grandpappy Ezra told about the log cabin school where the children were
taught reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. Old Ezra said the wolves
would crawl under the schoolhouse and frighten the children. Do you think
the Winchester children attended this school?
Yep, this is where Julia went with her family. They left Edwardsville,
the northern most town in Illinois, and headed for the new frontier in
Macoupin County. There the people were settlers, often dressed in deerskin
pants and coonskin caps. Horses were scarce and teams of oxen did the
hauling. Grandpappy Ezra told that the wolves would come in the daylight
and kill pigs that weighed 30 to 40 pounds.
There was lots of game including bear, panthers, deer, turkey, prairie
children and quail and most anything else you could think of. But, after
that big snow of 1830-31 few types of game survived except wolves and
deer. Ol' Henry wonders if Palemon really ever went hunting for deer?
Sounds to Henry here that Julia had her hands full! The Winchesters were
in a new frontier and with many chores to be done and few conveniences.
Julia and her children must have been very busy.
Hey, Ol' Henry is talking about Julia Stephenson, Col. Ben's oldest daughter,
who grew up in Edwardsville, raised amid wealth and fashion in one of
the first families of the Illinois Territory. What a woman she was to
go with her husband to the wilderness of Carlinville in 1830!
You all will remember that Lucy sold her lovely home in 1834 and moved
to Carlinville. Well, Ol' Henry knows it was a financial problem to keep
this big house. Henry here thinks it was a big burden off Lucy's shoulders
to sell her house and at the same time she was happy to go to Carlinville
to be near her daughter Julia and her eight children. Julia needed help
and her mother came to her.
Lucy and her daughter were both exceptional women. They were 'ladies'
when necessary but they were also 'women' who could handle the tougher
side of life. They were survivors. The Stephenson descendants can be very
proud of their women!
I better go check on the painter and the gardeners! They sure are busy
and I want to see what is going on! Oh, don't forget the Taste of Downtown
on June 11!
See ya' later,