INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - April 25, 2002
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House Mouse is back again. Hey,
have you been by "my" house lately? There is a lot of activity.
The paint removal guys have wrapped "my" house in plastic, then
they unwrapped "my" house, then they sprayed "my"
house with water, then they put some stuff on the brick, then they take
it off and let me tell you - Henry stays inside for sure! The other day
a lot of people were around and I did venture out to hear what was going
on. Michael and Carol from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency had
stopped by to see how the paint removal was coming along and offered advice
and guidelines for paint removal. What this mouse heard was that there
are many ways to remove paint from brick so Joe, HPC and the Friends are
finding the safest method. "My" house, the Col. Benjamin Stephenson
House, is on the National Register of Historic Places and needs the best
Ya' know with all the stuff going on I have been staying
inside and doing some deep thinking about my visit with the cousins. When
Cousin's Zack and Elijah were here we talked about Col. Ben's wife Lucy.
We decided people had to have been rather special to leave their homes
and come to a new frontier. Lucy is one of those special people. She was
a strong woman and Elijah gave us an idea why.
Cousin Elijah said Lucy was born in 1786 on her father's
plantation on the eastern banks of the Ohio River in northern Virginia.
He said there was a lot of trouble between the settlers and the Indians
in that area. When Lucy was 1 year old, her step-brother Thomas was hunting
near home when he was killed by Indians. When Lucy was 5 years old, the
Indians killed 7 people near her house. When Lucy was just 7 years old,
her father, "Indian Van," died. Her mother was left to maintain
the plantation on the frontier. Lucy had to grow into a strong woman to
survive all that danger. Now, Ole' Henry here would have been scared to
That Cousin Elijah from Lexington knows and tells us
so much. This tells me the mouse stories are better coming from the South.
He said Lucy's father, "Indian" Van, provided for her education
in his will. He said Lucy was very fortunate because even most men did
not receive a formal education at that time. She sure had a good Daddy!
Now great-great-granddaddy Ezra knew a lot about Lucy 'cause he had grown
up in her house. He said Lucy had beautiful silver and china tea sets,
dozens of plates, lots of silverware, vegetable dishes, butter boats and
lots of wine glasses for entertaining. Great-great-granddaddy Ezra, a
rather robust mouse, you might call him a fat mouse, knew all about the
mighty fine food Lucy served her guests. Lots of the food was grown on
Stephenson land next to the house and it was good! Lucy loved to entertain
and it really kept her very busy.
One thing all the Stephenson House Mouse family knew
was that Lucy had to be sure everyone at their house had clothing for
both the cold and hot weather. Great-great-granddaddy Ezra liked to tell
about Lucy shopping. He said it was something to see Lucy come from James
Mitchell's store with armloads of material. One day she bought 52 yards
of sheeting, over 20 yards of bombazine, 7 yards of shirting and 4 yards
of coating at Mitchell's! At the same time she bought 50 buttons, 3 dozen
shirt buttons, flannel and 2 bunches of thread and thimbles. He said everybody
was excited to be getting new clothes and Lucy's people got busy sewing.
How would you like to sew all those buttons on? Not me, says Ole' Henry!
Great-great-granddaddy Ezra said one time Lucy went to Isaac Prickett's
Store to buy silk for a special party dress and when she was there she
bought Hark, one of the servants, a new checked shirt. Ole' Ezra would
chuckle as he told how Hark strutted in that new shirt. A guy didn't get
too many store bought shirts in a lifetime! You all must remember that
most the clothing was sewn by hand - no sewing machines at that time -
that included making coats, dresses, shirts, trousers, and undergarments!
Some job, huh!!
And then there was the day in October 1822 when Mitchell's
delivered to Lucy 12 yards of crepe, 4 pair of gloves and 6 yards of bombazine.
Ole' Ezra would get tears in his eyes as he told us how all the fabric
was black and everyone was so sad. Col. Ben had passed away.
In 1821 Lucy was secretary of the Female Sunday School
Society. The minutes of the group show there were two schools open on
the Sabbath with one to benefit those called the "coloured people".
The Treasurer reported that $10.25 was spent for books for the use of
the school. The Female Sunday School Society was intent upon giving moral
instruction to the community and hoped "that the society shall no
longer be confined to females." I heard Karen say this is from an
article in The Spectator of July 1821.
After Col. Ben's death, Lucy stayed in her home in Edwardsville
until 1834 when she moved to Carlinville to join her family who had moved
there earlier. Grandpappy Amos jumped into one of the bureau drawers and
made the trip with her. He always had lots of news from Carlinville because
Lucy was really active there. She bought property, helped organize two
Presbyterian churches, was involved in the political plans of son James
and visited with her son Benjamin V., the surveyor. Lucy also provided
a home for her widowed daughter, Elvira, and for Lucy's granddaughter
I heard Kathryn say that Karen found Lucy's tombstone
at the Carlinville City Cemetery. She said it was inscribed "MISS
LUCY Wife of Col. Benj. Stephenson". She died in 1850 at 64 years
of age. Yep, "Miss" Lucy was a special person!
Well, I guess I have reminisced about Lucy long enough.
Let's talk about what is going on today! I heard Mary and Wilma Jene talking
about a tour only for members of the Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson
House. Sure sounds like fun and it gives Ole' Henry a chance to show off
"my" house! Who knows, they may have food and would I like that!
I will be in my own secret spot and I will be looking for you! Hope to
see you on May 5th!!!
Right now I am heading for Farm Fresh to see if anyone
has dropped any good food in the parking lot. I am a hungry mouse!
See ya' later,
P.S. Don't forget the 50/50 Auction on May 18th and be sure to call Jim
to donate your items! 656-8752