In 1896, as the area was prospering, Nicholas Kneiper built a home to which he brought his wife, Louisa, and baby daughter, Gertrude, by horse and buggy from the Lautner Settlement. The Kneipers’ were later blessed with four more children. In 1908 Nicholas built a new barn, then enlarged the family home in 1914 to its current size. The original home was built under three elm trees. After a 1920’s windstorm blew one of the trees down, the homestead became known as Twin Elm Farm. Eventually, in 1975, when Dutch Elm disease ravaged the remaining elms and they were cut down.
While the Kneiper children were growing up, the homestead was a working dairy farm. They raised oats, corn, and hay to feed 8-12 cows, a few pigs, chickens and a pair of ducks. Potatoes were raised as a cash crop. They kept a team of horses to do the work and a collie to bring the cows up from the field. The cows were milked by hand and the milk was run through a cream separator in a room in the house specifically made for that purpose. The skimmed milk was used for making cottage cheese for home consumption and any excess was given to the pigs. The cream was cooled, kept in a 3′ x 4′ x 7′ icebox in the basement, and periodically taken into Traverse City to be sold to Ideal Dairy. Ice was cut in large blocks from East Grand Traverse Bay during the winter and packed away between sawdust layers in the ice box.
Long to be remembered were neighborhood gatherings. These included thrashing bees, shredding- corn bees, barn raisings, quilting bees and winter social gatherings. The neighbor who lived the farthest away from the host would pick up the rest of the neighbors on a large horse drawn sleigh. Nick Kneiper liked to snap the reins of the horses so they would jump and a couple of people would fall off the back of the sleigh into the snow.
The farm was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Kneiper’s daughter Isabelle and her husband Willard Ritter in 1942 and the Kneipers remained on the farm until their deaths. Willard and Isabelle Ritter raised six children and one niece, on the farm. In 1969 they developed an airport on the back of the farm that was known as the Acme Skyport. Mr. Ritter was an aviator, educator, welfare administrator as well as a devoted husband and father. Mrs. Ritter was an at-home mother. The family was active in the local Catholic church.
In October 2002, the home was relocated five miles from its original location to the current location on Broomhead Road. Although some changes have been made we, John & Judy York, have tried to retain the architectural integrity of the home. Our goal has been to bring the home back to the condition that Isabelle had prided herself in keeping it.