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,