The LeDuc family dabbled in spiritualism, opening a door into the spiritual world…
Members of the LeDuc family co-exist with living, enjoying family togetherness.
This beautifully restored, 1865, fifteen room, buff-colored limestone, impressive Gothic Revival Mansion, with a red trim, and its grounds which make up the LeDuc Estate, is the most complete example of the work of architect and landscaper, Andrew Jackson Downing. Tom and I found this an impressive, imposing work of art, and were allowed to join a veteran’s group tour, a friendly lot who invited us to join them! It has all the rooms popular in a Gothic Victorian style mansion, including a parlor, sitting room, living room, dining room, family room, a glorious library, a sewing area, a roomy kitchen and a huge pantry, servants quarters, plus the bedrooms and sitting areas upstairs. The front yard is large, with some impressive trees, which are very old indeed. Downing as a landscaper understood the needs of trees as they became older, leaving plenty of room for their root system.
Outside, in the back of the mansion, one finds the original barn-carriage house and ice house, which for the first time in years was filled with blocks of ice harvested from Lake Rebecca in February of 2007. The people of Hastings got together and had fun figuring out the best way to do this. Visitors can now see how ice was stored and used before the era of refrigeration.
The grounds are lovely as well. As General LeDuc was a gentleman farmer when he wasn’t traveling, his apple tree grove, and grape arbor are still there and in great shape.
One can also have a picnic in the picnic area and enjoy a stroll through his wooded area.
Because of the size of this property, special historical events are held here; from fur-trade rendezvous to Civil War encampments come to life with colorful living history characters, with special programs for all ages.
Small weddings and other family events can be held here on a rental agreement.
General William LeDuc, a Civil War quartermaster, and his wife, Mary, moved to Hastings which was located in the Minnesota territory. They wanted to build a country estate, with a stately home, a garden, and a working gentleman’s farm, but didn’t have the big bucks to hire a private architect to design and build it. With a budget of 2,000 dollars, they picked up a copy of Andrew Downing’s popular book describing his various designs, which was a popular way for the upper middle class to have a grand home built on a reasonable budget. Andrew Downing was the “Martha Stewart” of the 19th century, by offering plans for homes and gardens which were beautiful and well designed, but wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg!
After Mary selected and modified the design to suit their tastes and family needs, the building of this Gothic Revival Mansion was started in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, with the estimate of costing $5,000, which was a little more than what was planned, but still doable. Unfortunately, the LeDuc’s experienced everyone’s worst nightmare in dealing with construction projects. After many problems, their dream home was finally finished in 1865, at the final cost of $30,000! YIKES!
When General LeDuc became the first Secretary of Agriculture, under the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the LeDuc family moved to Washington D.C. where they enjoyed the social stimulation and the educational opportunities for the four LeDuc children: Mary, Florence, William, and Alice, who took full advantage of and enjoyed this stimulation. Both William and Mary also found marriage partners among the social circles.
When General LeDuc’s time in public service was over, he moved his family back to their home in Hastings, which was very upsetting to his wife, Mary, and their daughters, Florence and Alice. They would deeply miss the advantages of living in Washington D.C., preferring city life to living in the Minnesota territory, which lacked educational and marital opportunities.
General William LeDuc became a restless entrepreneur who had a lot of ideas on how to make money. Most of his enterprises didn’t make him much money, except his railroad enterprises. Unfortunately, he was cheated out of his portion of the profits by greedy partners. However, later in his life, when he was in his nineties, the wife of one of his ex-partners gave him what would have been his portion; $100,000 dollars when this ex-partner died.
His wife, Mary, and daughters always supported him and his efforts, and stuck by him, even when funds were low. Because they were always living on the financial roller coaster of being supported by an entrepreneur, they made the best of life living in their fabulous house, raising their own food, having a lot of family time and being involved in handiwork and home crafts.
Their servants were area girls who didn’t speak much English. However, after learning enough English from Mary, they would quit and go to Saint Paul to find higher paying jobs, which must have been really annoying for Mary. Mary did have high standards for her servants, so though they didn’t appreciate it at the time, they were prepared as well to offer good service.
Their one loyal servant was an ex-slave, George Daniels, who became friends with General LeDuc during the Civil War. George was a gifted manager and ran the farm for the LeDuc family.
For entertainment and pleasure, the LeDuc family spent a lot of evenings together, reading, playing games, enjoying music and viewing pictures with one of the earliest slide projectors which would project a picture on a screen. When money became tight, Florence and Alice eventually started The Hastings Needlepoint Company to earn income, which continued until 1922, when they retired.
In 1904, Mary died at the age of 75. Perhaps this was the beginning spark which ignited the General’s and Alice’s interest in spiritualism, though their interest in contacting spirits may have started years before. Spiritualism was popular among upper-class women in the late 19th century, because it gave women a prominent status of becoming mediums and trance lecturers.
General William LeDuc died in 1917, leaving the house and property to Mary and her family, and Florence & Alice; women who had never married, but had their own needlepoint company, as well as their father’s inheritance. Alice bought a house in Minneapolis for the entire family, who continued to enjoy the house in Hastings as their summer home.
The depression hit the LeDuc family hard and in 1941, after struggling through the 1930s, they sold their beloved LeDuc summer home estate to a family friend, who loved the place almost as much as they did, Carroll Simmons. He set up his antique shop on the first floor, and lived there as well.
In 1958, Carroll Simmons made arrangements to give the entire estate to the Minneapolis Historical Society, when he retired from business, which happened in 1986. The MHS planned to open the estate as a museum, but times, regulations and safety standards had changed. The house and grounds stood vacant for 20 years, in which the house was brought up to required state codes and renovated to its former glory. The Estate finally opened as a museum in 2005.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
The LeDuc family dabbled in spiritualism, especially General William Gates LeDuc and his daughter, Alice, who were heavily involved in its practices. Perhaps they opened a door into the spiritual world.
Florence and Alice never married because of a lack of suitable young men, probably because they lacked the sizable dowry needed to attract upper-class suitors when they were young. The family was really close in life and loved their home, and had many fond memories of living and growing in this special place in their lives.
Carroll Simmons loved the mansion and property and set up his antique shop on the first floor. He made sure that the mansion and estate would pass into caring hands who would invest the money and time to keep the place up to snuff in its original glory and share it with the public in the form of a museum. After moving out in 1986, perhaps he missed the mansion so much that he decided to return!
Spirit of General LeDuc
A restless man during life, is now a restless entity, puttering around his castle!
Spirit Of Alice
The entity of his devoted daughter, Alice, is thought to have stayed behind to keep watch over him, keeping him company.
Spirit of Carroll Simmons,
It is also thought that a third entity of Carroll Simmons, has joined this pair.
Doors have been known to open and close by themselves, sometimes slamming.
Cold spots have been felt.
Objects sometimes are moved around a room.
Nothing has been done to drive them out as they are friendly entities who are benign and cordial, who still have the run of their beloved home when the museum closes. They are accepted as part of the museum.
LeDuc Historic Estate
1629 Vermillion Street
Hastings, Minnesota 55033
The LeDuc Historic Estate can be found in the Minnesota town of Hastings, on Vermillion Street, between E. 16th and E. 17th, on most of its original acreage.
- LeDuc Historic Estate brochure * LeDuc Historic Tour
- The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations
By Chad Lewis & Terry Fisk, 2005
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr