Laclede: River Birch Farm

The Haunted House of Laclede By Andrea Evans

Halloween tends to invoke in all of us, young and old, thoughts of ghosts, goblins, witches, and haunted houses. And this time of year we hear many tales of haunted houses, haunted hotels and ghost stories, even in this area. There are even some local places rumored to be haunted.
One place is the old River Birch Farm Bed and Breakfast in Laclede, now occupied by its owner for more than 30 years, Dale Robertson. Lizzy Ellersick, the original owner, however, may still be "occupying" the home as well.

The House of Envy
Lizzy's brother built the house for her in 1903. For its time, the house was quite magnificent, and was even considered the nicest house in the countryside, Robertson said. Some of its outstanding features, which are quite rare for the time, included a furnace in the basement, which provided central heating for the home. It also had indoor plumbing, which meant there was a toilet in the house.
The Ellersicks earned their money from the sawmill that was on their property. Even this was quite modern for its time. It was planar engineered and ran off a central steam engine. All parts of the mill were run through a belt and pulley system. The Ellersicks were quite successful in the lumber business...until the mill was completely destroyed by fire in about 1914. Back then fire control was not very good. Once the mill caught fire, there was no way of stopping it. Having no insurance, the Ellersicks were virtually wiped out.

Neighborhood Eccentric
No mill meant no money. And when the Ellersicks stopped making money, Lizzy threw her husband, C. William Ellersick, out. From then on, Lizzy lived in the house by herself. She closed off the entire six-bedroom, five-bathroom house except for the kitchen and one bedroom just off the kitchen.
It is rumored that the people in town, especially the kids, thought she was kind of weird. They treated her like she was some kind of a special scary person, Robertson said. Kids would sneak up on her while she was gardening or fishing and then run off. She was considered the neighborhood witch, possibly just because she lived in such a big house all by herself, Robertson said. Regardless of her reputation, Lizzy continued to live in her house until Oct. 26, 1960, when she died.

Rebuilding a Home
It was 1969 when Robertson bought the house. Before that it was vacant for a number of years. Locals called it the haunted house of Laclede. The brave ones even went through it at night.
When Robertson bought it, though, it had been vandalized and had bad water damage from a leaky roof. In fact, the only reason be bought it was for the waterfront property.
He initially planned to tear the old house down because it was in such terrible shape. But the house was so well made it took him two weeks just to take off the front porch. It was then he realized it was worth trying to save. The house was built out of the best tamarack or larch the mill could cut, he said.
"The house is built like a rock," Robertson said. "It's like a fortress almost."
The basic part of the house was still in pretty good shape. About five years after buying it, Robertson decided he would like the house better if it were closer to the river instead of right near the railroad tracks.
Although he thought it would be impossible to move such a big house, he was proven wrong. The Engblom Brothers of Priest River managed to move the house about 200 yards and put it on a new foundation right by the river.
"I was truly amazed that they could do that," Robertson said.
Then he started rebuilding it, working on it a little bit at a time while still living in Seattle. In the late 1970s he finally moved into the house, living in the kitchen, since it was the only room finished.
But a s a commercial airline pilot, Robertson was often gone for days at a time, even sometimes for as long as a month at a time. His property managers came up with the idea of turning the house into a bed and breakfast, an idea Robertson apparently thought was a good one.
In about 1980 he opened his house up as the River Birch Farm Bed & Breakfast. When he was home, he lived in the main part of the house and ran the bed and breakfast along with the managers he hired to take over while he was away.

Lizzy Lingers
The operation turned out to be a success. The bed and breakfast was featured twice in Sunset Magazine and on a Spokane news station.
"The house got a lot of publicity while it was a bed and breakfast," Robertson said.
But at times, Lizzy seemingly wanted to let people know that it was her house people were staying in. For the interest of the guest, Robertson told most people about the story of Lizzy.
He said he would ease them into it. If they seemed uneasy about it he would stop. "Some people actually are easily frightened by that kind of thing," he said.
Others would return, asking to stay in lizzy's old room. Some quests reported hearing different noises in the house, like someone walking through the upstairs or the sound of doors opening and closing. Bit no one has ever claimed to have actually seen Lizzy.
"I hear noises every night in the house. The old house creaks like crazy," Robertson said,, even though he said he doesn't believe in ghosts.
Margaret Locatell, who Robertson calls the "resident grandmother," also has heard some strange noises while staying in the house. She now lives in what used to be the carriage house.
It was slowly converted into a work shop and then a house. One night, while sleeping in one of the six bedrooms, she said she was awakened. "I heard some kind of noise and I said, 'Lizzy, will you keep quiet? I want to sleep!' And she was quiet," Locatell said.
But Locatell couldn't really describe the noise. She said it was "just a noise."
Locatello, who has lived there for almost 20 years, still finds old pieces of dishes and other items that belonged to Lizzy around the house. Robertson closed down the bed and breakfast in about 1995 after he retired.
The managers of the operation also were ready to retire at that time. Since then, Robertson has lived in the house but now has it up for sale.
"It's just too big to maintain," he said. He wants to stay in the area, though. He plans to build a smaller house just a little ways down the river. But his hope is that whoever buys the River Birch Farm, with its 400 feed of waterfront and 2.5 acres, will reopen it as a bed and breakfast.
Lizzy just might enjoy making her presence known to her house-guests again.
"I'm sure that she was a very good person," Robertson said.

NOTE: The following story was posted with permission from The Newport/Gem State Miner Newspaper - Fall 2002 Horizon

Not Researched


  • CB

    Submited on: Saturday 3rd of November 2012 04:18:20 AM

    I know exactly where to go for this. It is out way past the Idaho Youth Ranch. Unfortunately, the road to take to the Kimama lights is now farm land. The story is there was a german sheep herder, who met with people delivering food and supplies to him by >>
  • KG

    Submited on: Wednesday 8th of August 2012 02:54:22 AM

    OK so I dnt know the whole story... I've been investigating it for about a week now since I first heard above it... my boyfriend who told me had also never heard it before, but my two cousins have... anyways so if u out there at night, i dont know where o >>


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