Friday, January 27, 2017

The Family House

Source: National Park Service. Felix G. Stidger House.
The dilapidated shack of a home pictured above recently received protection on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was purchased by my 4th-great-grandfather Enoch Holsclaw for the benefit of his sister Narcissa Holsclaw Stidger and her two sons, following the death of her husband Harmon Stidger in 1838.

The Spencer County Historical and Genealogical Society created a preservation trust to save the home, based on its historic significance related to Felix Grundy Stidger. Felix was a spy during the Civil War who uncovered a vast conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the government in several Union states during the last two years of the war. Stidger thwarted a plan that would have released and armed 75,000 Confederate prisoners in Indiana and Illinois, and resulted in the arrest of over a 100 prominent leaders in these states for treason against the US government. Based on the submission of the preservation trust, the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2016, enabling the trust to receive funds for rehabilitation of the property and plan a museum about Stidger in Taylorsville.
Source: National Park Service. Submission by Felix Stidger House Preservation Trust.
The document filed with the National Park Service is a fascinating read. According to the entry, Stidger is the only individual known from Spencer County involved in the Secret Service. During the war, Stidger's espionage activity took place in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. This made him unique among known spies, as most Union spies went to the Deep South or Confederates came North.

The home's "lack of modernizing gives us a rather honest view into the life of a man who rose from humble beginnings to serve his country in a distinctive way. Felix Stidger's story fits a familiar trope: military service provides opportunities to each service man to draw upon his native strength to make similar contributions to the American war effort, regardless of how rugged his early years might have been. The Stidger House's simple design shows Stidger was a member of the common folk. The unassuming nature of the house surely paralleled Stidger's own demeanor."

According to Stidger's autobiography, his mother Narcissa died in the home on 2 April 1864 after battling sickness for several months. One week before her death, Rebel sympathizers robbed Stidger and his brother while they were in the home caring for their sick mother. Stidger believed the traumatic experience led to her death, and this was the incident that pushed him to join the Secret Service.
Source: National Park Service. Felix G. Stidger House.

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