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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 and self-sufficient.


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 County.
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,
Henry




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