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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - December 14, 2005

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Here I am, just hanging out, keeping warm in the cozy kitchen. Hey, have you noticed the awesome, authentic wooden gutters and downspouts on the kitchen? Ol' Henry never saw anything like that before. The downspouts are square and mounted to the brick wall with hand-forged wrought iron. And, there will be rain barrels to catch the rainwater and melting snow! You know, like in the olden days. Keith and Jack, you two have created so many great things for The Stephenson House! Once again, The Stephenson House is very fortunate to have the right people working with and for us!


Henry here overhead some of the board members talking about building a privy at "my" house. You know, even a mouse knows that almost all houses in 1820, whether they were big or small, had a privy. You all will remember the archaeological dig that revealed Col. Ben had a 6 by 9 foot, brick lined privy. Did I tell you that there were at least three holes of different sizes to accommodate men, women and children? Hey, this mouse thinks that's pretty spiffy for an 1820 privy! Yep, Col. Ben's house really needs a privy to be complete. It won't be made functional, though. Those days are gone for sure! And, guess what, the construction of the privy will be the conclusion of construction at Col. Ben's house.


During the Holiday Open House Ol' Henry saw folks admiring and talking about a piece of framed old needlework in the Orientation Room. Henry tucked himself away in Karen's big purse, listened and learned what it was all about. Can you imagine how surprised this mouse was to learn that a 10-year-old girl stitched the needlework sampler in 1833? It is truly an exquisite piece of needlework! The ten-year-old girl was Martha Jane Swearingen, Lucy Swearingen Stephenson's second cousin, who lived in Chillicothe, Ohio.
This beautiful, old sampler was a gift to the Stephenson House from the family of avid local historian Merrill "Rosey" Rosenthal. Rosey grew up in Edwardsville, was a friend of many of the Stephenson House board members and a friend of the Stephenson House. Rosey enjoyed people as much as he enjoyed history and golf! The Friends are most appreciative to his wife Carol and his family for their lovely gift. Henry just knows Rosey is pleased to see this old, historic sampler in the Orientation Room!


The ladies who sew also have been busy working at "my" house. Henry knows you all were impressed with the swags and jabots at the parlor and dining room windows at the Holiday Open House. Kathy sewed these beautiful and so very appropriate draperies just for Col. Ben's house. These draperies were a needed addition to Col. Ben's house. Thank you Kathy, for your excellent work!
And, the dress stitchers have been very busy for a number of days working under the guidance of Saundra Altman. She is an expert in historical clothing. Ol' Henry knows that RoxAnn and Sandra are friends. We were so fortunate to have Saundra guiding us with our clothing. Saundra is a legend in the area of historical clothing! The lights were on late the other night as the group stitched away. Finally, Ol' Henry headed for his quiet, dark hidey place. It was sleepy time for me as the women kept on stitching!


It is Christmas time again and it was on December 15, 1821 when the Stephenson family moved into their new home. It was a busy time and the old great-great grandpappys did not tell much about how Col Ben and Lucy celebrated Christmas. Guess the grandpappies were probably just trying to stay out of the way! Ol' Henry did hear from Cousin Jake and he said they surely had greenery like holly and evergreen boughs on the mantles. He said greenery was a traditional decoration at Christmas long before 1821. For centuries the Christians had used greenery decorations as a sign of everlasting life with God.


Cousin Jake also knew all about Mistletoe. You got me as to how Ol' Henry missed all these stories! Maybe it is because Cousin Jake is older than I am! Anyway, Cousin Jake tells that Mistletoe grows on willow and apple trees and since ancient times it has been used as a sign of friendship. Now that is where kissing under the Mistletoe comes from!
The fun custom of kissing under the Mistletoe comes from England, so it figures that the Stephensons knew all about kissing under the Mistletoe. They were Scotch and Irish, but that is close to England and they had English friends. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries were gone, there could be no more kissing. Ol' Henry does believe the young and the old enjoyed the kissing under the Mistletoe!


Ol' Henry wishes all the dear friends of Col. Ben and Lucy a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy your day with your families who have come from near and far.
Henry is going to spend Christmas with my Cousin Jake and his family. We will have a great day of togetherness. Golly, I hope Santa Claus knows where to find me!


MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM HENRY
See ya' later,
Henry



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