INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 29, 2006
HI! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. Long ago Ol' Henry heard a lady say “it's the little things that make a house a home” and now this mouse understands what she meant. She meant the little things like the clothes rack with wooden pegs that Jim C. hung in the quarters above the kitchen and the hanging rack that Bob W. made from an antique rake. Jim C. put the hanging rack in the kitchen where it now holds wooden cooking implements. Hey, “my” house is looking like a home!
The big surprise for Ol' Henry the other day was when I was looking around the parlor and saw a beautiful colored portrait of Col. Ben above the mantel! Later Henry learned that this portrait was a wonderful gift to The Stephenson House from the Madison County Family Physicians. What a great gift and a big thanks to all the physicians from all of us at The Stephenson House, including Henry. St. Louis artist Lon Brauer, who is RoxAnn's friend, painted this reproduction from a picture of the 1800 watercolor on ivory miniature of Col. Ben. The portrait is beautiful and really helps make “my” house a home! Be sure and come see for yourself!
This old mouse wants you to know that some mighty good, downhome cooking has been going on here. A few days ago Vickie and Dixie, RoxAnn's friends, cooked a great meal of fresh bread, stew and Apple Crisp baked in the open hearth in a large Dutch oven. And, Dixie made butter and whipped cream for the finishing touch! Does Ol' Henry need to tell you how wonderful the cooking smells were as they came from the kitchen? Ol' Henry wonders if the word about all this good food has reached Cousin Jake and his buddies in Lower Town.
You know, Henry hangs pretty close to Keith and Jack ‘cause they are fun and always busy! Their latest project is fences! Here they were, working hard as they were finishing the authentic Stephenson picket fence around the shade garden, and the next thing Ol' Henry sees is a split rail fence going up by the grape arbor! From what I hear this is a sample split rail fence to help The Friends decide about fencing around the property. Looks good to Henry.
The Paint Crew is finished with painting projects and they are now officially known as the Tuesday Morning Crew. They are a super bunch of guys who help with cleaning, sweeping, preparing the shade garden and doing other odd jobs. The Tuesday Morning Crew is a tremendous asset to The Stephenson House. They have fun, good ideas and keep things spruced up at “my” house. Who would ever have thought that guys who had desk type jobs in real life could be so spectacular at manual labor like painting, digging, loading materials and even cleaning house! They simply do whatever needs to be done and have fun doing it! Ol' Henry sees a lot from his hidey place and knows these guys are great!
One day Henry heard the guys of the Tuesday Morning Crew, who work mighty hard, talk about the amount of hard physical labor needed to survive in the early 1800's. Joe mentioned the hand-hewn beams in Col. Ben's house and how they were made. It took a strong man! He said they used a broad axe or squaring axe that was sort of a giant plane as they chipped away at round logs to make them square. The broad axe was level on one side, had a short handle and a razor sharp blade. Joe smiled as he said, “you had to be on your toes every second or the broadaxes would”.
Just as Ol' Henry was wondering what kept the round log from rolling around, Chuck came up with the answer. Dogs were used to clamp the log down. Dogs? Well, he said, there were a lot of things called dogs in the early days including a lump of iron and fireplace andirons that looked like little dogs. Col. Ben and Lucy had andiron dogs and there are some at the fireplaces now.
And, there were hewing dogs that were used to clamp down the log to be hewed. Chuck read that hewing dogs were two spikes joined by an iron bar about 20 inches long. One spike was anchored into the log and the other spike anchored into a short piece of square beam that the log rested on. This kept the log from rolling around and all the man had to worry about was his toes!
The guys talked about pit saws, the chisel axe and fences. The fence stories interested Ol' Henry. Rail and stone fences had slits in them called “grikes”. Some people believe these spaces, especially in the stone fences, were used to shoot through in Indian fighting. They were actually spaces or “grikes” for people to squeeze through and they were small enough that the farm animal would be too timid to squeeze through. The men even made little ladders called wood stiles so the women could get over the rail fences.
Old Henry just loves it when the guys talk about the old days!
Hey, I heard George is building a wheelbarrow for hauling watermelon. Now, what is that all about? Wish I could hitch a ride to his house and see for myself. Right now I am going to my hidey place to eat the corn chips I found this morning! Do you like corn chips as much as I do??
See ya' later