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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 care.

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 death!

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 Sarah Winchester.

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,

Henry
P.S. Don't forget the 50/50 Auction on May 18th and be sure to call Jim to donate your items! 656-8752



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