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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - April 11, 2002

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back. Golly, have I been busy. I have had relatives visiting and big machinery outside. One day last week all sorts of clanging and banging and loud motor sounds started over at the old Clark filling station lot. They were cleaning up the lot and tearing down the canopy where the pumps had been. Turns out it was the Keller boys, Dale and Jim, helping out the Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House. It was one of those big projects that a wise mouse stays away from so I watched from inside "my" house. The lot sure looks good now and I bet it will be used during the 50/50 Auction in May.

Henry here sure hopes that a lot of you donate stuff to the auction because I just know The Friends of the Colonel needs to earn lots of money. You know a mouse isn't too concerned about money but it did come to my little mind when the Keller's were working on the Clark station lot. I suddenly realized The Friends had to pay a lot of money for that land. They really need the space for parking, gardens and small outbuildings and I'm thinking they had to go to Bob's bank and borrow money. Now, from what I understand, when you borrow money you have to pay money back to the bank each month. Hey, this is all hard for a mouse to comprehend, but Henry now knows that the Friends need to raise money and the 50/50 Auction is a good idea. The Friends get half and the donor gets half of the sale price of each item. Sure hope you all donate to the auction and help make it a big success!

So, all this noise is going on next door with big machinery around causing me to get a little jumpy, when I hear a knock at my door. I was really curious 'cause I don't have much company. I opened the door and who appears but Cousin Zack from Kaskaskia! I hadn't heard from him in so long I was beginning to think he had run into one of those traps. He came to tell me what he had been able to find out about life in Kaskaskia when Ben and Lucy were there. I showed him around "my" house and then we settled down with a bag of chips Cousin Zack had found.

Cousin Zack started telling stories. First we talked about the big earthquake of 1811. It had really been felt in Kaskaskia and we both wondered why we had never heard any stories about Ben and Lucy and the earthquake. Zack said Ben and Lucy and the Edwards and a lot of the other families had settled in Prairie Du Rocher which is near Kaskaskia. The people of the area were French and enjoyed a slow pace of life. They lived in houses built of stone, farmed and loved music, dancing, games, and liked to socialize. He said the Pierre Menard and Nathanial Pope mouse families still talk about the fun they had the first winter when the folks came from Kentucky to the Illinois Territory.

Cousin Zack told me what some of Ben's jobs were when he was Sheriff Stephenson of Randolph County. He said it was the sheriff who brought people into court for outstanding bills and the sheriff had to collect the money. The sheriff also took the census of the county and collected the taxes which included a tax on single men! Now, just what did they have against single men?

Then the very next day Cousin Elijah from Lexington, KY shows up at my front door! Spring must be the time for my relatives to travel. Elijah brought news about Lucy and Ben in Kentucky. He said Lucy Swearingen Stephenson had inherited a lot of land from her father "Indian" Van. You know, the Virginia planters needed a lot of land because they wore out their land raising cotton making it necessary to buy new land so they could plant more cotton. It only took three years of cotton to wear out a piece of land. Anyway, back to Lucy and her land. In 1806 Lucy sold all the land she had inherited from her father to her step-father, John Newhouse. Well, we three cousins sat back, ate some more chips and thought things over. We decided that Ben and Lucy now had cash and they were getting ready to head for the Illinois Territory.

Cousin Elijah told us what he knew about the settlement of the Illinois Territory. President Jefferson was planning for the settlement of the land east of the Mississippi. Stephenson, Edwards and many other men who later came to Edwardsville waited in Kentucky for the territory to open. These men were chosen by Jefferson to govern the territory and prepare it for becoming a state when the population reached the size required by law to be a state. The men and their families had to prepare well in advance before heading West to the Illinois Territory. That Cousin Elijah - I guess he knows what he is talking about!

Soon after my relatives went home there was more news at "my" house. Jeff the surveyor brought Karen a map he had made. The map shows the 182 acres that made up the Stephenson property. Next thing you know, Karen is in her car getting ready to drive around to figure out where the boundaries of the land are today. Was I excited! I jumped in the car when she wasn't watching and went with her. I was finally going to see what my great-great grandfather Ezra talked about. Oh, did I have a good time! Later I heard her tell Kathryn how to find the boundaries using the street names today. The property forms a rectangle. Starting at the corner around Dewey St. and Sheridan you go down Sheridan, turn right on Jefferson and then draw an imaginary straight line that runs behind the Market Basket property, behind Cherry, Plum and Quince Streets and then go through Grandview where Buena Vista crosses the north end of Grandview Drive. This line continues to the American Legion and then goes north on the west side of the Woodland School (the old Junior High). At the end of the school playground, which is on a line with Georgia Street you turn to the east and the property line goes through the school property, across West Street and over to just behind the "island" on Benton Street. Here there is a small square area that was not part of the property. The property starts again up near the Madison County Shelter Care and runs just south of Schwarz Street until you are back around Dewey and Sheridan. It was fun taking that ride to find the boundaries - you might enjoy the drive too!

Henry has more news! The paint removal is going to start on "my" house soon, so be watching! Boy, do I have a lot going on around me!

Remember the 50/50 Auction!

See ya later,

Henry



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