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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - September 14, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse if back again. You know, it is just downright pleasant around 'my' house these days. A nice routine has developed as Director RoxAnn comes in every morning and Keith and Jack continue to work away on the summer kitchen. Tuesday is the day The Paint Crew comes to take care of the house and on Wednesdays the gardeners work their magic. In the meantime, Keith's wife stitches beautiful linen tablecloths to be used for special events here at the Stephenson House. And, board members come in and out each day with various projects. This all makes for a friendly full day and Henry sure loves it. The scarecrow in the garden helps Henry keep a watchful eye on all these activities. And, he never says a word! Henry loves this easy, laid back routine, but the stop-by folks are also great, like Don, Millie, Vi and Gert. They are all great friends and neighbors who stop by to check on the progress and chat. Don has fun telling the guys fish stories and he also frys up some mighty fine fish!

Hey, Bob Coomer, the Director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, enjoyed a tour of 'my' house recently! He had lots of praise for Joe and all those who have worked so long and hard on this restoration. Let me tell you, Henry was right proud to have Bob as a visitor!

Ol' Henry found a bag of corn chips and they are my very favorite food! I took those chips to my hidey place to enjoy and do some thinking. Since the beginning of the restoration of Col. Ben's house much has been said and written about the house, Col Ben and his family, the town and events of the time and the fund raising events have taken place. Ol' Henry thinks it is time to once again think about the historical significance of Col. Ben. Just to remind us all to why Col. Ben's home is important to Illinois history.
You will remember that Col. Ben came to Kaskaskia when the Illinois Territory was formed in 1809. The territory governor was Ninian Edwards, a friend and political ally of Col. Ben's. One of Edward's first official acts was to appoint Col. Ben as Sheriff of Randolph County where he worked closely with Edwards, Nathaniel Pope, Shadrach Bond and the three judges of the General Court of the territory.
Col. Ben also served as a member of the Militia in the War of 1812, serving in two campaigns against the Indians of the Peoria Lake area. In the first campaign he was second in command to Edwards and in the second campaign Col. Ben was in command of the Illinois Militia.
After serving as Sheriff for five years, in 1813 Col. Ben was appointed to fill the remaining portion of Shadrach Bond's term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was then elected to a full term in the 14th Congress by a vote of 118-2. Ol' Henry wonders who the two were? Col. Ben had gained the respect and trust of the people in the Illinois Territory.

Col. Ben , the man some described as "shy, quiet and unassuming, and plain," went to work to get legislation passed for the people in the Illinois Territory. Bills favorable to the Illinois people were passed regarding squatters rights, land claims based on militia service, help for those who had made land claims and donations of land to those who had suffered losses during the war and road improvements. Col. Ben also succeeded in having a law passed that required a circuit court system with courts in individual counties in the Illinois Territory that would be accessible to all.
The men of the Missouri and Illinois Militia had not been paid for service in the War of 1812. Col. Ben, with the support of Gov. Edwards, got cash money from the War Department and the men were paid. The men from Missouri were not so fortunate.

Do you remember that Col. Ben was called a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives because he represented a territory, not a state? Yep, and as a delegate he did not have a vote, yet he got all these important bills passed! Col. Benjamin Stephenson had a way about him that convinced his colleagues in Washington of his honesty, knowledge and belief in the needs of the people of the territory and they supported him with their vote for the people of the Illinois Territory.
Did you know that Col. Ben introduced the bill for the new land office in Edwardsville? Now, what an important bill that turned out to be! The Edwardsville Land Office developed in to the busiest land office in the country at that time. It brought growth and prosperity to Edwardsville. Not only that, President Madison appointed Benjamin Stephenson Receiver of Public Moneys at the Edwardsville Land Office. Once again, this "quiet, unassuming man" made his mark! Hey, even a mouse knows that this position was a political plum!

In 1816 Col. Ben declined to run for another term in Congress and at about the same time Pres. Madison announced Col. Ben's appointment to the land office. By the end of the year Col. Ben was in Edwardsville and had opened a general store. Henry thinks Col. Ben thought he could run a store and the land office at the same time. Well, the store was soon closed as Col. Ben had a very, very busy and profitable land office to manage! Then other positions were opened to Col. Ben. For instance, as Indian Sub-Agent he and Auguste Chouteau negotiated the Edwardsville Treaty of 1819 with the Kickapoo Indians. Ben was a busy and effective man for sure!
Col. Ben contributed to the development of the town of Edwardsville as he served on the town's first board of trustees, chaired the 4th of July event, was president of Edwardsville's first bank and was road commissioner. And, he was working on opening a local school shortly before his death. Col. Ben and several business partners made land available for a new court house as they could foresee the town growing to the south.

Col. Ben was a true public servant, serving at the Federal, territorial, state and town levels He was one of three men from Madison County elected to serve as representative to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1818. And, here is something you might like to know! The 1820's home of Col. Ben is the only home in existence of the 33 men who signed the Illinois State Constitution!
Ol' Henry knows that the story of Col. Ben is not described in history books like a lot of men and Henry does not know why. Maybe it is because Col. Ben was a quiet and unassuming man. But there's one thing for sure, Col. Ben was a true public servant who served the people in an outstanding manner.

It is that time again! The 4th Annual 50/50 Auction is Sunday, Oct. 2 at 10 AM at the Stephenson House. Sid and Jim are looking for more items for this year's sale. Please check your attics, basements, drawers and dressers for things you can donate to the auction! Please give Jim Zupanci (656-8752) or Sid Denny (656-9408) a call if you have questions or have items to donate. Thanks from everyone at the Stephenson House!

Henry is going outside to take a look at that beehive oven again! It just fascinates me! Then I am going to catch a quick nap before friends start dropping by to talk!

See ya' later.
Henry

 


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