Home of Stone: The Mueller-Schmidt House – A Living Heritage

The Mueller-Schmidt House is the only building in Dodge City built of limestone. It’s also the oldest building in the city still on its original foundation. Built from 1879 to 1881, owner John Mueller wanted it to be one of the most impressive homes in the city. Although nowhere near a mansion, many of its unique features stand out as special. Even more special is the story behind the two families who lived in the home—and some of the family members who may still live there in spirit.

Outside view of the Mueller-Schmidt Home (House of Stone)

The Mueller Family Moves to Dodge City

John Mueller immigrates to the United States from Bavaria, Germany, in 1855. He settles in Saint Louis and trains as a boot maker. He meets his wife Karoline in Saint Louis. They marry and have eight children. Unfortunately, only two live to adulthood: Emelia and Henry.

After the Civil War, John, who is now an experienced boot maker, and his family follow the cowtown trail west. He sets up boot shops in the cowtowns and does well. When a town starts to flounder, the family picks up stakes and moves to the next thriving town.

The family reaches Dodge City around 1875, and John opens a boot shop on Front Street. The shop is so successful that he goes into partnership on a saloon and later gets into cattle ranching. He eventually owns three ranches in western Kansas.

John Mueller Builds the Home of Stone

By now John Mueller is wealthy and wants to build that impressive house. He chooses land high on a hill and has limestone quarried from Sawlog Creek, about 12 miles northeast of Dodge City. The home is built with 24-inch thick limestone walls.

John hires a man in Saint Louis to build the staircase, banister, baseboard, and all the trim out of black walnut.

Closets are even added to the bedrooms… and back then, closets were a rarity. You see, a home was taxed on the number of rooms, and closets were considered separate rooms.

The house is finished eighteen months after construction began, and the Muellers hold a big housewarming party. Guests include Bat Masterson and, most likely, many of the other familiar Old West names.

The Fall of the Mueller Family

In the early 1880s, fires break out on Front Street. (Remember, all those buildings are made of wood and connected to one another, with a wooden boardwalk in front of them.) John’s business burns down twice.

He gives up on the boot business, since by now he has three thriving cattle ranches.

Then comes the blizzard of 1886, one of the worst winter storms in Kansas history, to this day. Nearly twenty-five percent of cattle didn’t make it through. John Mueller lost 75,000 head, and he’s out of the cattle business.

He tries going back into the boot business, but by now a quarantine law is enacted. Texas longhorn cattle aren’t allowed to come through. Which also means no Texas cowboys—his biggest customers—come through.

Mrs. Mueller Sells the Home to Mrs. Schmidt

No longer able to afford living in the stone house, the Muellers move back to Missouri. Before they leave, they host one last big event in the home. Their daughter Emelia gets married in the home’s parlor in 1889. Fifty guests attend the wedding.

On March 4, 1890, the Muellers sell the home, fully furnished, to the Schmidts. Very unusual for the time, the names on the deed are the women. John Mueller previously sold the home to his wife for $4,000. She, in turn, sells it to Elizabeth Schmidt for $5,000.

A Little Schmidt Family History

Adam Schmidt also immigrates from Bavaria, Germany and settles in Saint Louis with his family. He is only 12 years old. Within a few months, both of his parents and half of his siblings die of plague. Two boys and two girls remain.

An uncle takes Adam in and teaches him blacksmithing. Adam moves to Dodge City in 1874 and sets up a blacksmith shop along the Santa Fe Trail.

He marries Elizabeth, whose parents own a bakery and restaurant near the blacksmith shop. The couple have three children: Heinrich (called Heinie), Elma, and Louis (called Lew).

Lew is the only child to marry. He and his wife build a house next door. Heinie and Elma continue to live in the house for seventy years. By now, the house has both electricity and plumbing. But, with advanced age, it’s difficult to maneuver the stairs, and Heinie is going blind. So, Heinie and Elma build a home in another part of town, sandstone this time.

The Mueller-Schmidt House Becomes a Museum

In 1965, Elma sells the home to the county to be used as a museum. Three years later, the museum opens its doors to the public.

Because the Muellers sold the home to the Schmidts fully furnished, some of those original furnishings are still in the home.

Two vintage chairs and a table. One chair has a needlepoint seat and back

Apparently, some of the home’s former residents continue to live there, as well…

Apparitions in the Mueller-Schmidt House

On our 2018 visit, we chatted with Erica, the museum’s manager. Skip experienced an odd feeling in the home, the same as when we visited a couple of known haunted buildings. So, he specifically asked if the home was haunted. That question opened up another whole conversation… in short, the answer is yes.

Some workers have apparently seen apparitions…

One visitor’s son told his mom a boy had pushed him during their visit. There was no boy there…

A door occasionally flies open suddenly…

Many paranormal investigators believe that limestone absorbs energy and replays it in the future, like a video. That could explain an apparition. But that doesn’t explain why, when paranormal investigators visited the Mueller-Schmidt House and asked the ghosts if they know anybody in the house, they answered yes. “Who is it,” they asked? “Erica.”

“What do you want to say to Erica?”


Most likely, he was thanking Erica for taking care of the house.

Erica, being skeptical, thought perhaps these investigators prerecorded those questions and answers. But as they were about to end their investigation, Erica blurted out, “What’s your sister’s name?” The answer came back, “Elma.” So, it was Heinie’s spirit answering.

Unfortunately, there is no proof of any of this. The paranormal group said something happened with the computer, so they didn’t have the recording.

But it does make for a good story.

If You Visit the Mueller-Schmidt House Museum (Home of Stone)

The Mueller-Schmidt House (Home of Stone), located at 112 E Vine Street in Dodge City, Kansas, is open on weekends in April and May. In the summer, it’s open seven days a week. In the winter months, it’s open by appointment only. You’ll find more exact information on the Visit Dodge City website.

Other articles in this issue of Midwest Wanderer Explores…

Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Wichita
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Dodge City
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Hays
Exploring the Kansas Gunsmoke Trail in Abilene
Wild West Wichita Comes Alive at Old Cowtown Museum
The Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All-Indian Center
Time Travel at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
Boot Hill Museum: Discover the Wild Wet Legacy
Boot Hill Distillery: Soil to Sip in a Historical Location
Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders
Cowtown to Carousels: Explore the Dickinson County Heritage Center

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