The Spooky Spinster at Holman Pottery

The Schimelpfenig family. Although the records are not clear, it's believed that Lydia Mary is the second from the left, top row, in the photo. // courtesy of the Genealogy Center, Plano Public Library
The Schimelpfenig family. Although the records are not clear, it's believed that Lydia Mary is the second from the left, top row, in the photo. // courtesy of the Genealogy Center, Plano Public Library

Several years ago, Debbie Holman invited a friend to visit her home on 18th Street in Plano. The friend happens to be a prominent psychic, but this was simply a social visit; Debbie hadn’t asked her to check out the house for paranormal activity. But as she walked through the house for the first time, the psychic stopped abruptly. 

“What is it?” Debbie asked.

For just a moment, the psychic had seen a vision.

“I saw a woman standing in the kitchen by the sink,” she told Debbie. “She was wearing an Edwardian dress and with her hair up.” 

So, who was this specter?

A Single Lady

Debbie and her husband, Tony, live and operate a small business, Holman Pottery, in the Folk Victorian-style home built in 1890 by Fred Schimelpfenig, one of Plano’s founding fathers and a prominent businessman. The Schimelpfenig name is familiar to Planoites. There’s a library as well as a school in Plano named after Schimelpfenigs, and descendants of the family are still living in Plano. 

The Holman House // photos Jennifer Shertzer
Holman Pottery // photos Jennifer Shertzer

Debbie did some research and believes her psychic friend had a vision of Lydia Mary, the woman who bought the home from her father and lived in the Holmans’ house, alone, for about 15 years. 

Originally, Fred built the home as a rental property, but in 1905, he sold it to Lydia Mary for $2,000, just a few days after her 21st birthday. 

This was an unusual situation. At the time, few women owned property; most women married and relied on their husbands financially. So why did Fred sell such a large (3,200-square foot) home to Lydia Mary, a single woman? 

The psychic knew nothing about the house’s history and had never seen the photo before, but as you can see, Lydia Mary wore Edwardian clothing, with her hair up. When Debbie showed her the photo, she said, “Yes, that’s her.” 

Lydia Mary lived in the house until just a few years before her death at age 40 in 1924. The cause of death listed on her death certificate was officially “Chronic Anemia,” but some records say she had a “skin affliction.” Descendants of the family recalled stories of trips to see doctors in other cities, to no avail. She never married. 

So why did she own her own home, rather than living with her parents, as would’ve been the custom at the time? Possibly, Fred Schimelpfenig suspected, for whatever reason, that his daughter was not likely to ever marry. Unmarried women were financially vulnerable at that time. Perhaps Fred put the home in Lydia Mary’s name as a way of ensuring she’d be provided for. Maybe she was sickly or had some kind of disability. 

Or maybe she was just odd or eccentric, which in those days, likely would have prevented her from marrying. 

At any rate, if it’s Lydia Mary who is haunting this house, Debbie’s sense is that hers is a calm and friendly spirit.

“I’ve felt a presence,” Debbie says. “It’s a peaceful presence.” 

Debbie believes Lydia Mary was content while she lived in the house. She had her own place but wouldn’t have been lonely with her family next door. 

Tony and Debbie Holman, current owners of Lydia Schimepfenig's house
Tony and Debbie Holman, current owners of Lydia Schimepfenig’s house

The psychic had a second vision in the home: In the pottery studio, where Debbie’s husband works during the day, she pictured a dining room table, beautifully appointed, ready to serve a meal.

Neither vision frightens Debbie; she feels only positive vibes from the spirits who reside in her home. Plano was a prosperous town during Lydia Mary’s time (and most of its history, for that matter) and fairly peaceful. So maybe that’s why many of the ghosts who haunt downtown buildings seem to be, for the most part, friendly spirits. 

But, as the Holmans later learned, the house has a sad history as well.

Two Wives, Gone Too Soon

After the Holmans moved in, they had a visitor: an elderly man named Bill Robbins. 

“That’s not that unusual when you live in an old home,” Debbie noted. “People stop by and say, ‘Oh, I used to live in this house.’”

Even though he was only three years old at the time, Bill had a very vivid memory of his mother’s body laid out in a coffin right there in the front parlor. 

Many families cared for their dead at home and had funerals in the front parlor, which was usually the best room in the house for that very reason. (Decades later, when deaths were handled by funeral homes, the front parlor became known as the “living” room.) Visit one of the old houses in Plano, and it’s easy to imagine how eerie it would have been, sitting at home at night, with your departed loved one in the next room.

The front parlor where Bill's mother's coffin would have been located.
The front parlor, where Bill’s mother’s coffin would have been located

And you can imagine how difficult it must have been for Roy Robbins, the man who lived in the house between 1922 and about 1934. Just three years after he moved into the house, his wife, Bertie, passed away. Roy remarried and, in 1931, the couple had a son named Bill. Then Roy’s second wife passed away from cancer just a few years later.   

Not surprisingly, Bill said his father couldn’t stand to live in the house any longer. Father and son moved out not very long after the funeral.

About the Schimelpfenigs

Frederick “Fred” Schimelpfenig (1852–1942) served as Plano’s mayor from 1902 to 1908. He was the owner/operator of a lumber company as well as a dry goods store. He began the first Plano Music Conservatory and devoted 65 years to serving on the Board of Stewards at the Plano Methodist Church, now the First United Methodist Church of Plano. His wife, Louise Ernestine Rammers (1857–1907), was a leader in the temperance movement that helped drive liquor and saloons out of Plano. She lent books to girls in the community, providing the city’s earliest library service in her home.

Mrs. Schimelpfenig played an important role in the early days of First United Methodist Church of Plano. She hosted the first meeting of the Woman's Parsonage and Home Missionary Society in her home in 1880. The name changed many times over the years, but the organization remains active today under the name of United Methodist Women (UMW). The L.E.R. Schimelpfenig Circle of the UMW continues to meet, every second Monday of the month, in members’ homes. When you consider all of her civic accomplishments, on top of raising seven children (an eighth child died in infancy), it’s hard to believe that Mrs. Schimelpfenig died at the relatively young age of 50.

This story is excerpted from “Haunted Plano, Texas” (2018, The History Press) written by Plano resident Mary Jacobs and now available at Amazon.com. All proceeds from sale of the book benefit the Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation.

Mary will be signing her book on Oct. 11 5-9 p.m. at Interurban Railway Museum, Oct. 12-13 6:30-9 p.m. at Interurban Railway Museum, Oct. 19-20 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Costco, and Oct. 20 2-4 p.m. at Barnes & Noble.

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