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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - July 13, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Once more Ol' Henry is here with an update on "my" house that is also known as the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House, ya know. The gardeners are busy planting winter savory, lavender, thyme and valerium. A great big thank you goes to our friends at Biver's Farm who donated the herbs. Henry thinks each gardener has found his or her own special area: Susie does conservative watering, Nancy tends the roses, Jim's is the grapes and Carol handles the vegetables. Things are looking good! Jim reminded us that the vegetable garden is experimental because almost every plant and seed are varieties new to the gardeners. How each plant survives and produces is always a surprise!

Ol' Henry heard some real good news. The Stephenson House now has a Director! The Board spent several months in the director search and has chosen RoxAnn as the Director of the Stephenson House. RoxAnn is a gregarious, talented, happy and personable young woman who was Site Director at Ft. Madison, Iowa. She will be a terrific asset to the Stephenson House. RoxAnn is experienced and knowledgeable in many areas including period dress, docent training, educational programming and grant writing. Ol' Henry thinks there are some really great times ahead under RoxAnn's leadership. Welcome to the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House, RoxAnn! (And, please remember to drop a few crumbs of food for me occasionally!)

By the way, Henry now has the lowdown on Sid's excavation at "my" house. The Stephenson House probate records show payment due for work on an office at Col. Ben's house. Also, there were indications that there had been a structure on the north side of the house. So, it was decided to do an excavation.
Sid, our resident retired SIUE anthropology professor, led a group of students in a scientific excavation. A grid of 5-foot square excavation sites was plotted out and the students began digging in 6-inch layers. Henry heard lots of giggles and chuckles as the first 6-inch layer revealed tab tops, broken plastic and paper clips. As the students dug deeper Ol' Henry heard sounds like "Ohhhh"! "Wow"! and "Look at this"! The digging began to produce good results!

Soon the dig will be finished and then the task of sorting, labeling and organizing all the artifacts will begin. Ol' Henry peeked into the containers and could see there are a lot of bags full of "stuff" to organize!
OK, what did they find? Well, this was the biggest dump of all and many things of interest were found. The oldest items identified so far are two buttons worn on clothing from the 1790's. That is pretty darn old and a good guess is that the buttons are from a shirt someone brought with them to the Illinois Territory.
Fragments of green featherware plates, bowls, and cups were found. Remember, Sid found blue transferware and blue featherware fragments in the privy excavation. It looks like the Stephensons had three sets of dishes that were very popular in the early 1800's. Also, an 1821 George IV coronation coin with a hole drilled at the top was found. Maybe the coin had been made into a necklace for Lucy!
The long list of items also includes clay marbles, glass marbles, pieces of six or seven clay pipes, a brass locket with glass bead on the edges and mocha ware. Mocha ware dishes were used by the middle class and often used in taverns. Ummmm, wonder why Col. Ben had mocha ware?
Again, a lot of bottles were found with perhaps half being from the Stephenson time period and the other half from the Wolf family. Crockery chards, made of clay with a dark glaze and etchings, had been tossed in the dump.

Hey, be sure and check out the artifacts when they are on display at a later date. Pig's teeth will be there. It is absolutely amazing how much they resemble human teeth! The biggest find of all were square headed nails. And, when Henry says big, he means about 75 pounds of nails! Sid is puzzled about the reason for the large number of nails. Give the researching sleuths time and there will be an answer.
This large dump was started in 1820 and continued until perhaps 1900. The location of the dump makes it seem that what was broken or not needed was simply tossed out the kitchen window into the dump! Remember, it was 1820 and 1830! The sight of Lucy or an indentured servant tossing trash out the kitchen window makes Ol' Henry smile!

What are the results of the excavation? Many, many artifacts were found which provide more needed insight into the lifestyle of the Stephensons. However, there was no evidence of the office that Sid had hoped to find. The office that was mentioned in the probate records probably was located at Col. Ben's first brick house on N. Main Street, across from the first public square. Today this area is a parking lot.
Once again, the Stephenson House has benefited by people who care and are interested in preserving the past. A big thanks to Sid and the students!

A telephone will soon be working at "my" house. Now, I am just a mouse you know, and have little knowledge of a telephone. But, think what would Col. Ben and Lucy have thought of such an instrument???
Well folks, your faith in the Board members of the Stephenson House and your continued support have been responsible for the unbelievable restoration of Col. Ben's home of 1820. Each and every one of you helped make this dream possible! And just think - we now will have a Director and a telephone! Thank you all so much.

Ol' Henry is now on his way to find some dinner. The good news is that I hear Keith may be around again soon. When he is here there are always tidbits left for me! Right now, Henry's stomach thinks he is on a diet!


See ya' later
Henry

 


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