INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 15, 2006
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. “My” house is now open to the public as of March 2 and on that day there were young people and their parents here at 10 AM for the very first tour. Ol' Henry loved seeing them enjoy “my” house as Joe, Sid and Carol answered their questions and told them all about Col. Ben's house. There is something different going on every day and Henry is having fun. Hey, when the school kids come to visit it will be plain old exciting for Ol' Henry.
Ol' Henry remembers that it was a year ago when the Board of The Friends talked about the need for a kitchen and wondered where the money would come from. Well, thank goodness they found money to build the kitchen! One of the highlights of a group tour visit to The Stephenson House is the cooking fire in the kitchen. Either Sid or Keith starts the fire very early in the morning. When the fire burns down the hot coals are put in the bustle or beehive oven to heat it for baking. When the tour group arrives in the kitchen RoxAnn is there in her period dress and apron, armed with ingredients for cooking on that day. Well!! So far RoxAnn has baked the best bread ever, cinnamon rolls and beans. Chuck says her stew and the chicken over the fire are outstanding! Keith sure knew what he was doing when he built the beehive or bustle oven. It works great!
Ol' Henry just loves the kitchen scene where there is the smell of a wood fire. There may be men working there or just hanging out and Bob J. is nearby cleaning and sharpening his tools. And RoxAnn is baking! Of course, Henry also watches for a time to sneak into the kitchen and swipe some breadcrumbs off the floor.
Henry here really isn't into poetry or sentimental sayings, but this says it all about the kitchen fire. “Good wood warms you thrice: when you cut it, and when you burn it; the embers warm your soul.” The kitchen and the fire warm the soul of Ol' Henry.
One thing for sure is that Henry learns a new bit of information with each tour of “my” house. It appears to this mouse that it takes more than one tour to get all the fun and facts about The Stephenson House and the people who lived there.
For instance, Henry learned more about the bed tickings on one of RoxAnn's tours. Let me explain how the bed works. Rope is strung to make the bottom of a bed. A hay or straw stuffed ticking is place on the tightly strung rope. Now the bed has a ”box spring”, the rope, and a “mattress”, the ticking. A big fluffy feather bed is placed on top of the ticking, which makes the bed very high and all soft and comfy. Then the sheets, pillows and covers are put over the feather bed. Ol' Henry has checked all the beds out and believe me they are soft and wonderful. You too can lie down on these beds when you come to visit! Poor Ol' Henry didn't understand that the ticking had to go on first because the soft feather bed would slip right on through the ropes. Ol' Henry tags along on most of the tours and expects to learn something new each time.
Henry has much fun playing in the new dirt area by the porch where Keith and Jack are finishing up the shade garden. This shade garden is a lovely gift to The Stephenson House that will have brick and flagstone pathways amidst gorgeous shade plants. It will be a wonderful garden, often called a pleasure garden, which creates a pleasant picture in Ol' Henry's mind.
By the way, have you noticed the fence posts in the back of the house? A donation of lumber by Bob P. has made a fence along the alley possible. Bob, thank you from The Friends!! Keith, Jack, Sid and Joe have finished cutting all the pickets for the fence. These pickets are identical to the original picket found in the attic of Ben and Lucy's house. Pickets are also mentioned in the probate records, so this will definitely be an authentic fence.
So very much has been going on around here, Henry forgot to mention the well house that EJ of St. Louis Tuckpointing donated. It is on the very spot where the Stephenson's well was located. Their well has been in existence all these years but was covered over with a concrete slab about ten years ago. Now the spot is marked with an old-time well house that even has a bucket that lowers way down! Thank you EJ! You know, Henry really misses seeing EJ around here.
The ladies have been busy making period clothing for the volunteers. Karen, Keith's wife, has been churning out skirts and Carol H. is making dresses, kerchiefs and chemises. Oh yes, Henry has learned that a chemise is an undergarment similar to a slip. Makes me blush…
The tour guides work between tours. Carol and Jenece dust and tidy up between tours. Karen does handwork on clothing and John, a great new volunteer tour guide, reads about the history of the house and the Stephenson family so he is ready for questions! All these folks and others who are around the house put every minute to it's best use. Henry has to be very careful and stay out of their way!
Ol' Henry is as pleased as Punch with The Stephenson House, “my” house, and it shows! There was so much to tell you about that my history lesson has to wait until later. You know, there is always something new in the history department too!
It is time for Henry to slip into the kitchen and see if there is any of that great bread around. It is sooooooo good!
See ya' later