Kleinschmidt General Store

Liz and Paul Kleinschmidt farmed as many as 500 acres. The farm on Northfield Church Road, where Paul was born, was purchased by his father Frank in 1909. Paul told of working with a 6-horse hitch and of their first tractor, a McCormick-Deering with steel-lug wheels, and then about having the first rubber-tired tractor in the neighborhood. Every day, from pre-dawn until well into the night for 20 years, Liz and Paul raised and tended their dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, chickens, and sheep. The farm provided well for the family of 7. In 1982, Paul and Liz retired from farming.

Paul’s craftsmanship and artistry in wood began to fully develop. His model building began when he was unable to adequately describe a “gravel wagon” for his children, so he made a working model for them to see. A gravel wagon was used by farmers to maintain local roads before there was a County Road Commission to do that. His art is in evidence everywhere in the community—the Webster Church, Webster Township Hall, the historical society buildings, and local homes.

Both Paul and Liz were very involved in community activities: She was a 4-H leader for many years. She made the German potato salad and applesauce for the Webster Fall Festival for about 22 years of its history, and she was the festival treasurer for a dozen years. Paul began his community service as a Township Trustee in 1964 and retired in 2000.

In 2005, this general store replica, recognizing the service of Paul and Liz to WTHS and the community, was built with funds donated by friends and neighbors. With its display cases and cabinets, it provides almost 1,000 sq. ft. of storage and exhibit space. Paul’s scale models hand-carved in meticulous detail from his memory— Boyden School, the log cabin where his father grew up, an entire collection of horse drawn farm equipment, intricate gift items and toys for the children, livestock, a collection of Noah’s arks complete with 2 x 2 animals—are on display in the Kleinschmidt General Store. (These items are on loan to the WTHS by the Kleinschmidt family.)

Items typically found in a pioneer general store are on display around the large open room. The general store was the place to purchase just about everything you needed for your home, your animals, or your farm. On a barrel in the middle of the room with chairs around it rests a large checker board with checkers, ready for any visitors to sit and play a game or two. On display is the antique wooden washing machine given to WTHS by the Kempf House in Ann Arbor, MI in early 2023.

In the late fall of 2023, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Wensel donated a 100-year-old potbelly stove to the WTHS. It now sits in the back corner of the store with a few chairs around it. The large cast-iron stove began its life in a general store in Vermillion, IN, where it warmed customers for over some 50 years. When the store was sold, it went to the Wensel’s home where it resided for another 40+ years.

Today, the Kleinschmidt General Store building serves as our gift shop during fundraising events, selling old-fashioned toys, games, and candy.