Minnie Peak opens a new chapter in the Alten House

This article is the third and final in a series highlighting the National Register of Historic Places nominated Alten-Peak house in Manhattan, Kansas. The stories of the families who built or lived in the home and neighborhood shaped the history of the house and the community in which it remains 157 years strong.

In 1915, George Rehfeld’s sister, Minnie Rehfeld Peak purchased the Alten House.  Wilhelmina “Minnie” Rehfeld (1882-1936) married Charles Peak on December 31, 1901, and moved into the city of Manhattan from a farm in Manhattan Township.  In 1907 Charles took a job at J.J. Paddock & Sons Monument Works in Manhattan, where he was a machinist and blacksmith.  The couple owned their home at 322 Bluemont Ave in 1910, where they lived with their three children.  On August 10, 1910, Charles was killed in a horrific accident when a compressed air tank exploded.1  He had $2,300 of life and accident insurance through Modern American Woodmen providing Minnie with continued financial support.2  On September 22, 1915, she purchased the Alten House for $1,000.  Minnie was a thirty-three-year-old widow with three young children and it is thought that she likely put an addition on the house prior to moving in (the original stone house having only two rooms).  She also purchased Lot 49 in the Rock Hill Addition.

Tough times are evident in the tax rolls.  Tax records show that Minnie paid the property tax of $1.32 for Lot 49 on November 22, 1919, but for Lot 53 with the house, she didn’t pay the $15.21 until nearly a year later on August 24, 1920.3  That was more than her few neighbors could manage, some of whose lines in the tax ledger end with “sold to the county.”  Minnie’s property with the stone house was valued hundreds more than the other few houses in the neighborhood suggesting the new houses were likely small frame bungalows or cottages.4  The 1920 federal census provides further evidence of the scarcity of homes in the new addition.  The only lots in the Rock Hill Addition listed with houses were Lot 32 (Horne), Lot 48 (Dodge), and Lots 50-52 (F. Coder).  Lots 43-52 were located south of the Golden Belt Road, now Fort Riley Boulevard/K-18.

Minnie made it work.  During the 1920s and 1930s Lot 53 sporadically is listed in the newspaper for delinquent taxes, but eventually Minnie paid them.  The 1920 federal census shows her living with her three kids, with occupation listed as “housekeeper.”  Minnie’s brother George still lived on their family farm only a short distance south of the Alten-Peak House in Rock Hill.  Minnie’s obituary in 1936 said she ran a dairy and family members recall that she sold eggs in town.  It has been reported that that Minnie rented rooms and even ran a tavern, although official documentation has not been found (prohibition was in effect until after her death).  Her children were Mabel Heloise (1903-1934), who married George Weisner in October 1922; Roy (1905-1963), who married Irene Drown in 1928; and Irene Eleanor (1907-1988) who married Fred Schofield in 1926.  The 1930 census shows Minnie Peak living alone in her home valued at $1,000.  She died in 1936 just two years after her oldest child Mabel.  Her remaining children, Roy and Irene received un-divided equal shares in the two homes; the Charles and Minnie Peak home at 322 Bluemont (no longer extant) and the Alten-Peak House in Rock Hill.  Minnie’s brother George Rehfeld was the administrator of her estate.  After a few years the houses were divided with Irene Peak Schofield getting the Alten-Peak house where she had been raised.  Her brother Roy lived in the house at 322 Bluemont for several years and later on Westwood Road, northwest of the Alten-Peak House.

Irene married Fred Schofield in 1926.  The couple had their first child Gwendolyn Allene (1927-2018) and a second child, Charles Fredrick, in 1933.  Irene and Fred divorced in the late 1930s following a rocky marriage.  In 1940, she married Philip “Jack” Lakin (1906-1976).  Lakin had an eight-year-old son, Donald Wayne, from a previous marriage.  In May 1945 the Lakin family moved into the Alten-Peak House that had been rented out for a time after Minnie’s death.  The Lakins built a small rear addition on to the house in 1949 and put a new finish on the outside of the house in November 1953.  During the 1951 flood, the stone house located on high ground, sheltered sixteen close relatives.  The Lakins operated an antique metal polishing shop from the property for many years.  Jack died in 1976 and twelve years later when Irene died, the Alten-Peak House was purchased by Dixie Roberts, who lived directly north in a house on Arthur Drive.  Eight years later in 1994, Steve and Kris Springer bought the Alten-Peak House that his great grandmother Minnie had purchased in 1915.  Steve revived Lakin’s Metal Polishing operating it out of the house for a time.  The house was later rented to the owners of Master Landscape who then bought the property in 2009.  That sale concluded the Peak’s seventy-plus year chapter in the history of the Alten-Peak House.  The Alten-Peak House has now been home to Master Landscape for twenty-five years, a good start on the third chapter of the home’s history.

The Alten-Peak House in 2023

The Alten-Peak stone house is in the process of being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as a representative of an era in Kansas.  When Charles Alten constructed his house in 1867, he was a German immigrant and veteran of the Civil War, who chose a piece of prairie to farm near other German immigrants south of Manhattan.  He set his stone foundation on a hill not far from the wagon trail on the military road that tied Manhattan to Fort Riley.  His home would have been the first thing travelers saw when heading east and the last stop on the road to the Fort.  The house would remain in his family for nearly fifty years, long after his death in 1892.  Alten’s neighbors were some of the earliest settlers to the area.  The Moehlman, Rehfeld, and Rosencutter families emigrated from Germany during the 1850s and 1860s establishing farms in the rich bottom land of the Kansas River less than three miles from the Alten house.  When S.W. Forrester platted the Rock Hill Addition which included the Alten stone house in 1914, he began a transition for the home from a farmstead to part of the city landscape.  In 1915 the house was bought by Minnie Peak, a descendant of the Moehlman, Rehfeld, and Rosencutter families, all early German settlers in Manhattan Township near the Alten farm.  Having been raised on the Rehfeld homestead, Minnie Peak likely would have found it easy to call the stone house her home.  The house would remain in the Peak family for the next seventy-plus years. 

The Alten-Peak House has persevered for one hundred fifty-seven years and counting.  Its residents including the Alten family (Charles, Theresa, and son August) and Fannie and Julius Engleman are buried in Manhattan’s Sunset Cemetery not far from their neighboring pioneers, the Moehlman, Rosencutter, and Rehfeld families.

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