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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - November 23, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back just hanging out in my hidey place and watching all that goes on around here. The Paint Crew has finished painting the cabinets for the gift shop and as they painted they talked. This is when Ol' Henry heard something about a turkey dinner at Elizabeth and George's house and everyone was bringing a dish. Ummmm, Henry really started listening! Sure enough, there was going to be a turkey dinner at George and Elizabeth's. Well, when the evening came, Ol' Henry just jumped in Keith's van and went to the turkey dinner too. No one knew I was there! During dinner Ol' Henry took a great scamper over the fields and hills and into the woods. Oh, was that fun! It reminded me of the stories that great-great-grandpappy Ezra told about playing in the 182 acres at Col. Ben's house. Now Ol' Henry really understands how great it was to have all that land to run, play on and explore.


As it turns out, the scrumptious dinner was in honor of Keith, his wife Karen, and Jack! Keith's Karen received The Friends Preservation Award for her interest and help with our projects. These wonderful people have been here for five years restoring Col. Ben's house, putting lots of love and dedication into their work. As you would expect, they have become family to all of us.


There was a lot of fun and a lot of work during those five years. Ol' Henry remembers a day so hot that the guys recorded the date and temperature on the new ceiling joists, just so the future generations would know. Some of the best times were spent on the porch during warm evenings, enjoying that awesome breeze! The porch was the place for the neighbors, the Friends and evening walkers to stop by and visit. It was there many of the future plans for Col. Ben's house were thought of and discussed. Ol' Henry knows there were also a lot of tall tales told on the porch!


And, talk about neighbors. Soon after the restoration began the neighbors took a liking to Keith and Jack and the next thing you know they were bringing them dinner! Don fried great fish, Gert baked great pies and Milly always has something good too. Vi always keeps a special eye out for "my" house. The evenings on the porch with Keith, Karen and Jack around have brought family to the Stephenson House.
When the kitchen is completed all the construction work at Col. Ben's house will be finished. Sadly, Keith, Karen and Jack will go on to another restoration work at another place. Good for them but they will be missed by all. They have promised though that they will come back to be with us during events like the 50/50 Auction and other events The Friends dream up. They are special friends and part of the Col. Stephenson House family and The Friends will not let them stay away too long. Hey, Ol' Henry has spent many an hour with these folks through the hot and the cold, and the good days and the bad. Keith has made sure there was food for me in the cold, cold winter. And, you know what? I think Keith knows where my hidey place is and has not told a single person. Ol' Henry is really going to miss you all!


Hey, Ol' Henry has some more to tell you about my visit with Cousin Jake and his buddies in Lower Town. Henry has just maybe figured out the reason why 39 men were fined for fighting at the same session of court. There was a lot of political tension, unrest or plain old arguing going on during the early 1800's in Illinois! The big question of Illinois becoming a free or slave state created many an argument and many, many newspaper articles. Slavery, political parties, the president, the militia and the Army generals - politics in general- were the topic of many of the men's conversations. This had to lead to tempers flaring and many fights resulted! As you can imagine, 39 men could easily be hauled into the same session of court for fighting and consequently fined. Such was life on the frontier as the state of Illinois was being created.
Did you ever hear about the first hanging in Madison County? Well, Cousin Jake told Ol' Henry all about the hanging. It happened in 1824 and stemmed from the first murder case in the county. Eliphalet Green, a laborer at a distillery in Wood River, had a quarrel with a fellow laborer, William Wright. It ended up in a first fight and Green was badly beaten. Green, known as a half-wit, was really angry, got his rifle and shot Wright dead. Green ran away into the woods but later gave himself up to a lawyer. Well, this was a difficult situation, as the man was known as a half-wit. A special court was held for the trial of Eliphalet Green and the jury found him guilty of killing Wright with malice aforethought.


Judge John Reynolds, the presiding judge, was concerned with the verdict. Cousin Jake said that when the judge passed the sentence of death to Green he said something about how he, the judge, did not condemn Green, but it was the jury and the law. Jake also said that Judge Reynolds seemed agitated when he wrote the execution order, because there were a lot of corrections and changes in wording. The order stated that Green be hanged by the neck until he was "dead, dead, dead" and that he be hung in a "convenient" place. Sheriff Nathaniel Buckmaster scheduled the execution for 2:30 AM in February darkness. He had obviously chosen a time when not many people would be around. Buckmaster choose the creek bottom, near the bridge, on the Springfield Road. Many spectators appeared, however, some coming from a distance to witness the execution. Also, a number of Indians came to see how the civilized people killed their fellow man. The hanging was carried out and Green, the half-wit, was buried near the execution site.
The opinion of the public was divided on the crime and its penalty and many of the leading men had a lot of sympathy for Green. Paris Mason guarded Green's grave against body snatchers. Mason finally had the corpse re-interred in his own family graveyard. This is the story of the first hanging in Madison County, according to Cousin Jake.


Hey, it is time for Ol' Henry to be heading out to find some fluff for my hidey place. Winter is on the way!


See ya' later,

Henry


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