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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular wood frame house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40°. To the viewer's right and slightly in front of the house is nearly cubical side building about a quarter the size of the house. The front door of the house is protected by a narrow pediment-type roof supported on two wooden uprights; it is flanked by two windows on either side, and the upper story has five windows. It is the Melville Stone House in Hudson, Illinois.]

Melville E. Stone House, Hudson, Built 1837.

 p50  Birthplace of a Journalist

In the quiet, elm-shaded village of Hudson, just north of Bloomington, stand two attractive old frame houses associated with two nationally known men. In one was born Melville E. Stone, co-founder, with Victor F. Lawson, of The Chicago Daily News and "father" of the Associated Press, and in the other lived, as a boy, Elbert Hubbard, author, editor, and master craftsman. Both houses are appropriately identified by historical markers and both, despite their great age, are in good repair and still used as dwellings.

Of the two, the abode connected with Stone has the richer historical associations. For not only was it the birthplace of the noted journalist but here lived one of founders of Hudson and here, in later years, often came Adlai E. Stevenson, once Vice-President of the United States. This dwelling is of note, too, as the first home to be built in the Hudson Colony, which was the nucleus of the present community.

At the time the Stone family was living in "Five Oaks," the owner of the house was James T. Gildersleeves, early Illinois settler, one of the founders of Hudson and a man whose descendant played important roles in the development of McLean County. As was Melville Stone's father, he, too, was a New Yorker, a native of Hampstead, Queen County. He was born there April 10, 1803, and came to Illinois in 1836.

Seeing the future possibilities of the Illinois countryside, Gildersleeve and a small group of men joined hands to set up what was to be known as the Hudson Colony. He and his brother, John D., subscribed, says an old historical work, "for four colony interests, which gave them the right to nearly seven hundred acres of land, consisting of prairie and timber land, and town lots in Hudson."

It was on one of these town lots that James Gildersleeve built his house in 1837. This was the first dwelling to be erected in the colony. Other houses followed and soon Hudson was a thriving village. Here, in "Five Oaks," James Gildersleeve spent the remainder of his days, becoming the patriarch of the village. Some ten years after the completion of his house, he rented a portion to it to the Rev. Elijah Stone and thus "Five Oaks" became the birthplace, on August 22, 1848, of a great American journalist.

But the Stone family remained here only a few years, subsequently moving to Nauvoo, Illinois. Upon the death of James Gildersleeve, the house in Hudson was occupied by his son, Charles. One of the latter's daughters married Thomas W. Stevenson of Bloomington, brother of  p51 Adlai E. Stevenson, congressman from Illinois during the 1870's, Vice-President of the United States in the administration of President Cleveland, and member of the American monetary commission in Europe in 1897. In the heyday of his public career, Adlai Stevenson was often a visitor to his brother's house in Hudson. Here, too, came other prominent persons of the time.

The house and its setting are unusually attractive. Now almost hidden in the shade of the five old oaks which surround it, this dwelling is a two‑story, gable-roofed, frame abode, painted white, with green shutters. Here and there are ornamental details showing the Greek Revival style of architecture of the 1830's and 1840's. Inside are numerous comfortable rooms, trimmed in walnut and enhanced by inviting stone fireplaces.

Although this house survives as a reminder of the life and works of Melville E. Stone, another memorial to him stands a few miles away at the north end of Lake Bloomington. This is the Stone-Hubbard Memorial, a stone bench near a parkway entrance which is a dual memorial to both Stone and Elbert Hubbard.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 07