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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - October 4, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Ol' Henry has news about really neat visitors who came to see "my" house and gardens the other day. A group of about 40 folks from the Illinois State Master Gardeners Convention came to see the Stephenson House gardens. The garden committee was here to answer questions and Col. Ben, John McKee and Daniel Tolman were also here giving tours. Now, Ol' Henry knew these men were Joe, Sid and Jim! But, these guys were so authentic that the visitors had to be taken way back in time as they listened to the men acting out the tours.


Henry heard Carol F. say our visitors came from as far north as Arlington Heights and DeKalb, Illinois and from Evansville, Indiana. Gosh, people from really far away came to see "my" gardens and house! Henry here just about bust his buttons with pride when hearing the gardeners exclaim about how beautiful everything is at Col. Ben's house! They could see that a lot of folks love this place and dedicate a lot of time to making it special. Ol' Henry is so proud!


Henry is keeping a careful eye on the construction of the beehive oven that I told you about before. It is a complicated process for a mouse to understand, but this mouse is learning as the oven progresses. Ol" Henry just keeps watching and listening. The oven started out looking like a brick igloo, soon the shape changed as the igloo was covered with cement and it got to be a bigger and fatter igloo or beehive! Then the entire shape disappeared when it was covered with the brick hearth wall. Doggone, the shape Henry was watching disappeared! I was glad to learn that the inside of oven has the igloo or correctly, the beehive look, so the shape is still there! The beehive oven is located on the west outside kitchen wall. Hey, come to the 50/50 Auction and check it out!


The women who baked bread in these ovens knew what they were doing. They knew they had to keep a fire burning in the oven until the brick was hot enough to bake bread. Then the hot coals were removed and the bread put in to bake. Now, how did they know how much wood to use for the fire and how long it would take for the oven to get hot enough to begin baking the bread? And, how did they know when it was done? Seems to this mouse that a lot would depend on the kind of wood used to make the fire and how fast it burned. How did they know? The beehive oven was used to bake lots more than just bread. The women of 1820 baked the same things that are baked in ovens today, like pies, cakes, cookies, cornbread, beans and stew. RoxAnn knows how to cook in these ovens and loves it! Ol' Henry is anxious to see what she bakes and hopes there is some left over for me!


Please remember that the 4th Annual 50/50 Auction is set for this coming Sunday, October 2 at 10 am. Jim and Sid want you all to know this is the biggest array of items they have ever had! There is something here for everyone, so come and bid with abandon on the items you want! Henry will be looking for you!
The Paint Crew, the volunteers who now do everything in addition to painting, are here on Tuesdays, ya' know. These men have gotten into history and are reading and learning! Surveyors were the topic recently and Ol' Henry listened and learned. Did you know that surveying was a highly respected profession, probably more so than school teaching? A surveyor and his work affected a lot of people and the knowledge of math that was required also put the surveyor into a mysterious world. Henry guesses not many people had math skills in the early 1800's and before.


George Washington began as a surveyor at the age of 17. How about that! George surveyed a lot of land in Virginia, Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley before the Revolutionary War. George and many other surveyors received good fees for their work. The surveyors knew the prime land in the areas they were surveying and made their "tomahawk claim" for land. A tomahawk claim was made with an ax or tomahawk mark in the trees that bounded the land claim. This was the first system used and was called the Colonial System. The claim was then filed in the colony in which it lay. George Washington and others claimed a lot of land.


As this mouse listened to the stories it is pretty clear that first of the land speculators were the surveyors. The many surveyors doing the first surveys in the new territory made claim to thousands of acres of land that later made them wealthy men. No wonder the profession of surveying was so well respected! Ol' Henry reckons trouble came when the Indians realized that the white men were coming in large numbers to claim land in places like the Ohio River Valley.


When Henry heard the men begin to talk about surveyors in Edwardsville, it was near quitting time. Ol' Henry hopes to learn more about local surveyors from The Paint Crew when they are here next Tuesday!
Well folks, it is time for Henry to take a tour around here and check out all the interesting boxes that are filled with things for the 50/50 Auction. There sure is a lot to look at, including some mighty fine big pieces of furniture too! Remember, Sunday October 2 at 10 a.m. at the Stephenson House!!


See ya later,
Henry



 


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