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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - January 19, 2006

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Ol' Henry has a quick message for you. Thursday, tomorrow night, January 19th, at 6:00 p.m. the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Stephenson House will meet at Sunset Hills Country Club. It is late, but there is always room for more, so just call Director RoxAnn at 659-1818 and talk with her. Henry has overheard a lot and knows this will be a fun evening!
Ya' know, this mouse has a mighty fine life at Col. Ben's house. It's warm and comfortable and there are always bits of food around! What more can a mouse ask for? Ol' Henry knew he was getting too comfortable and needed a change when he overheard Karen say she was going to Wayne's Cleaners to pick up her cleaning. Hey, Wayne's is on the way to Cousin Jake's in Lower Town! So, Ol' Henry packed a bag and jumped in her car for a ride. Yep, a ride half- way to Lower Town makes the trip a lot shorter and Karen will never know she had a passenger!


By golly, the trip did go fast and when Ol' Henry arrived, Cousin Jake and his buddies were just starting to nibble away on a loaf of bread, a big piece of cheese and some nuts! Ol' Henry had arrived at the most perfect time, not only for the food but to hear some interesting stories. You can just figure how the talk went back to the old days when Edwardsville and the state of Illinois were new. Soon the guys were deep into discussing Daniel Pope Cook. Ol' Henry knew a little about Cook so I was able to follow what they were talking about. Henry remembered that Ninian Edwards' daughter, Julia, and Daniel Cook were married in Edwardsville in her fathers new house in 1821. Julia's wedding was the most elegant social event of the year! Ol' Henry remembers that Cook was the Territorial Auditor of Accounts and friend of Territorial Gov. Edwards and the Stephensons in Kaskaskia before he came to Edwardsville in 1818. It was good to learn more about Cook from these Lower Town guys!


Cousin Jake's buddies were sure that in 1815 Daniel Cook, a new lawyer from Kentucky, came to Kaskaskia through the urging of his uncle, Nathaniel Pope, who was Secretary to Illinois Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards. The law practice was a little slow because the population was pretty doggone sparse in the Illinois Territory. Cook soon bought a newspaper, the Illinois Intelligencer, to add to his income. He was publisher and editor of the newspaper with various politicians contributing articles. The Illinois Intelligencer became a political power at once. The guys from Lower Town spoke about Daniel Cook with great respect. Cook lived in Edwardsville for 3 or 4 years during which time he was a Madison County judge and then was appointed the first Secretary General of the State of Illinois. At the same time he was courting Julia Edwards and they married in May 1821. Cook was the Illinois Representative to Congress for 8 years, from 1819 to 1827. Daniel Cook died at age 33.


The success that Cook achieved came during his brief 12 years as an Illinoisan. It is no wonder that Cousin Jake and his buddies have such high regard for Daniel Cook, an eloquent speaker, an intelligent lawyer and very popular. Jake also knew that Cook was the first in the state to use stump speaking in a political campaign. Cook's project was the Illinois-Michigan Canal. Early in his career in Washington he urged Congress to grant aid to Illinois for the construction of this canal, but Congress rejected the idea. For five years Cook continued to pursue Congress for the canal construction. He had gained the support of other states in part by arguing that the Canal, in time of war, would provide transportation for troops and stores. In March 1827 Congress finally granted Illinois over 300,000 acres along the 10 mile route of the proposed canal outside the city of Chicago. It was a long and hard fought major victory for Daniel Cook and it is no surprise that Cook County is named for him. Cousin Jake did have to smile when he pointed out that Cook was Chairman of the Ways and Means committee when the act for the canal was passed. This position was one of power and was an indicator of the high esteem in which he was held in Washington.


The Lower Town guys also recall the story of Cook's last days in 1827. Daniel Cook was a frail man and his health was failing fast but he continued to spend many long hours working as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. During his last weeks in Washington he was confined to his bed. In June he went to Cuba in a vain search for better health but then returned to his father-in-law's house in Belleville with Julia and their 2 -year-old son, John. In October Cook traveled to his birthplace in Scott County, Kentucky, where he went into a consumptive decline. He died there on October 16, 1827. The next years brought tragedy to Daniel Cook's family. After the death of her illustrious husband, Julia and their only child, John, moved from Edwardsville to the home of her father in Belleville, where she died 3 years later. Three years later, in 1833, her father, Ninian Edwards, died from Cholera and John was left an orphan. A clergyman from Belleville educated John who later attended Illinois College. He could not continue his education because of failing eyesight. But he later became mayor of Springfield, a Brigadier General in the Civil War and a politician.
Cousin Jake also told us about the last years of Daniel Cook's career as a Congressman. Cook was a "lame duck" congressman when the Canal Act was passed in 1827. He had been defeated in the 1826 election. The election in the previous year had ended with a deadlock of 5 presidential aspirants. Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were among the 5 candidates. Adams was a personal friend of Daniel Cook and Andrew Jackson was the man supported by the people of Illinois. Government rules sent the matter of the final vote into the hands of the House of Representatives. Jakes said to make a long story short, that with the help of Cook, John Quincy Adams won over Jackson by a single vote.


Daniel Cook went with Adams on the vote and the Jackson supporters in Illinois felt betrayed. Cook had campaigned little for the 1826 election because he was busy with the Ways and Means Committee and his health was poor. Joseph Duncan of Jackson County defeated Daniel Cook by 641 votes in the 1826 Congressional election. Cousin Jake said he had heard Cook described this way: "Daniel Cook was a rare, small, frail man who seemed to know from the beginning that he had limited time in which to accomplish all the plans he had for the public good. He exerted his influence and worked with might to bring these plans to conclusion." He was an exceptional man who made his mark in 12 short years.


Ol' Henry visited with the Lower Town guys for a good number of days and learned a lot more about the old days. Sure are a lot of stories to sort out that I thought about on my way home. Home! Wow, when I returned things had changed. Keith had the kitchen plastered and was working on the privy. This was one surprised old mouse. Hey, even the privy looks good. You have to envision it covered with brick and you will get the real picture.
Now is the time for Ol' Henry to head to his hidey place. Rest is what I need after my visit to the guys in Lower Town.


See ya' later,
Henry


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