Back Roads: Old limestone home retains spirit of family
LAKE CITY — Juli Schmidt was singing the praises of the beauty, history and charm of the 1870s limestone farm house in which she and her husband, Joe Schmidt, live outside Lake City when she casually mentioned "this one is haunted, by the way."
Haunted by the memories of all its stories and history?
No, haunted, as in spirits talking and furniture moving. Sudden smells of pipe tobacco and perfume. And, a puppy whose hair would suddenly stand on end and begin hunting through the house for someone who wasn't there.
"There is nothing symbolic about this," she said. "They are real, and they have visited. This house is haunted by people who lived here, and they come to visit to see how things are."
She doesn't fret, however. "They are good, they are all good," she said.
The spirits are just part of living in the beautiful old house near the 18th tee of the Lake Pepin Golf Course. It's on land his great-great-grandfather, Joe Schmidt, built on in the early 1870s.
For a while, the house was not used except for storing popping corn. But there was never any doubt about keeping and restoring it. The old house has been in his family for too many years. Many Schmidts have lived there, often as a starter house before moving to other homes. His mother and several siblings who once lived there now live only a mile or two away.
About 20 years ago, the old house's roof was deteriorating, so they took it off and built a new one, Joe said. When they looked inside the 2-foot-thick walls, they saw they were hollow inside.
When they measured it to make sure the building was square, they found it was off by maybe a quarter inch.
"It's amazing they could be that close," he said.
About 10 years ago, they decided the grouting of the big limestone blocks needed work, so they sandblasted off what they could and used a power chisel to remove the rest.
If was hard work, Joe said. They later completely renovated the inside.
"We sank a lot of work into this, thanks to my wife," he said. "She is the one who said they had to do something with it."
"I love older homes," Juli said. "I grew up in an older house, and there's nothing like an older house. … Everything is better in an old house. There is not a thing that's not better.'
His great-great-grandfather first lived near Theilman but moved to the area and bought 1,120 acres, according to the family history. He and his children cleared stumps, plowed prairie and turned the wild land into a farm.
Over the years, hundreds of people have lived there, some, according to Juli, returning as spirits to check it out. She believes they approve.
"I think they do, I think they do," she said. "They are happy with it."
Back Roads is a weekly column on people and places in Southeast Minnesota. If you have a tip, call John Weiss at 507-285-7749.