The Keith County Historical Society
Mansion on the Hill
The Mansion on the Hill is a three story victorian home overlooking the historic Ogallala, Nebraska. The house built in 1887, showcases some of the finest craftsmanship in western Nebraska. The home contains nine spacious rooms and two baths. Built with bricks made of Brule Clay the home is complete with ten-foot ceilings and sixteen-inch thick walls. The windows are deep and narrow with the original three-part walnut shutters adorned with brass fixtures.
The first floor is built with two large fireplaces hand carved with floral designs and brass fire dogs. The hardware throughout the home is solid brass with scroll designs on the plates, doorknobs and hinges.
In each room the wood trim around the windows and doors features a different hand carved motif. The front hall and parlor boast solid cherry trim and a cured staircase made of solid cherry wood. Distinctive hand-painted glass chandeliers with crystal teardrops hang in the parlor, library, and dining room.
The first floor is built with a large parlor with bay windows; covered in sixteen-inch moldings made of a plaster-of-Paris like substance in four-foot longs. The library, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, hall and bath complete the rest of the first level.
The second floor has three large bedrooms and bathroom. The third floor is a large veranda-type room with two dormer windows and a large storage room.
Leonidas A. Brandhoefer
The Mansion was built by Leonidas A. Brandhoefer. Brandhoefer was born in Pennsylvania about 1850. He had two brothers Lee and Ernest Brandhoefer. He moved to York Nebraska in 1870 where he married his first wife Annie Hawley of Nebraska City. While in York, he opened Brandhoefer and Co. Lumber. His first wife and child died during childbirth while living in York, Nebraska.
In 1885, he moved to Ogallala as a widower taking a job as cashier at The Bank of Ogallala. The town had three banks during this time. By 1886, he was contracting with W. F. Marsh of Cheyenne County to build a home north of town.
On March 1, 1887 he purchased five of the lots on block 26 for $275. June 4, 1887 he purchased the remaining lots of block 26 for $225. He owned all of block 26 for $500. Purchase of the land was from Edwin and Eliza Searle.
200,000 bricks were kilned at L.B. Rector's factory on West 5th Street. The brick was made from Brule Clay. Marsh oversaw all construction of the home. L. Saaby from Denver was hired for painting, woodwork and wallpaper.
By 1887, the home was nearly complete. The cost was $10,000. In July of that year, Brandhoefer fell ill from a paralytic infliction of his spine. He went to York Nebraska for treatment. On August 26, 1887 he returned to work at the bank.
Financial difficulties ensued Brandhoefer after his injury and he was forced to sell the entire block and home for $9,325 to Hugh Lafayette McWilliams in 1888. Brandhoefer resigned from the bank in March of 1888 desiring a job that was more compatible to his health.
He went into business and operated Spring Canyon Ranch in the North Platte Valley. He shipped cattle and hogs on the rail to places to Denver and Omaha. He also became proprietor of The Keith County Market on Spruce Street in Ogallala.
In May of 1889, Brandhoefer married Mary Watts. Mary was born in Pennsylvania about 1861 but had come more recently from Chicago. The couple wed in Omaha as a double wedding with local lawyer J. G. Watts and Pearle Stoner.
The coupled lived in Ogallala on the corner of Walnut and Eighth.(Walnut became East A) they frequented parties at the mansion hosted by the McWilliams.
A major drought caused him to sell out his business in 1892. He moved to Omaha in 1893. In Omaha, the couple had their only child Leah Brandhoefer. (A 1910 census shows she was born in 1891, but they were not living in Omaha permanently yet)
By 1900, the Brandhoefers moved to Chicago. According to census records, Leonidas died on March 27, 1910 leaving Mary widowed. Mary and Leah moved to Almeda California sometime after 1910.
According to a 1920 census Mary was living in Emeryville California. Leah married Rudolph Kleiner Jr. before 1920. They lived in Emeryville and later Oakland California. Mary Brandhoefer, Leah's mother died before the 1940 census.
The McWilliams family was the first family to live in the Mansion on the Hill. Hugh McWilliams purchased the home from Brandhoefer for $9,325 in 1888. The couple lived in the home until 1890 when they left Ogallala. While in Ogallala, Hugh was president of the Keith County Bank as well as a practicing lawyer. Anna stayed at home entertaining guests.
Hugh was born on October 2, 1850 in Mineral Point Wisconsin. He was raised on a farm while being educated through the local school district and normal school. In 1870, he left his home to become a teacher and farmer. Hugh eventually became interested in real estate. He then moved to Pottawattamie County, Iowa where he continued the study of law under the office of Flickinger Bros. at Walnut and Council Bluffs, Iowa.
He later moved to Neola, Iowa in March of 1879 to work with Mr. J.C. Chapman as an attorney and real estate agent. During his brief stay in Walnut, he met Anna Stuart. The couple married on April 29, 1880.
Anna Stuart McWilliams was born in Greenville Park Ontario, Canada in 1856. Her mother was born in Inverness, Scotland. Her father was born in Tomintous, Banshire, Scotland. Her father was a descended of the Stuart Clan of Scotland. Anna had eight siblings in all. The family migrated to Walnut, Iowa where Anna would meet her future husband, Hugh McWilliams.
After their wedding in 1880, Anna and Hugh continued living in Neola, Iowa when they had their first child Robert Lafayette McWilliams. Robert appears to have been named after Anna's father. Two years later, the couple had their second child Frank Stuart McWilliams on August 20, 1883. A year later in 1884, the couple moved to Ogallala where Hugh began his work as President of the Keith County Bank. In 1886, Hugh had the Keith County Bank built.
The McWilliams continued living in Ogallala until shortly after 1890, when Hugh sold The Keith County Bank. The family including Hugh, Anna, Frank and Robert moved to Omaha where Hugh set up another legal practice. During this stay, Anna and Hugh had their third child Justin EarlMcWilliams on June 1, 1890.
Sometime at the turn of the century, The McWilliams moved to Spokane Washington. Hugh engaged in legal practice as well as starting The Fidelity Mutual Savings Bank of Spokane in 1907. Their three children were educated in Spokane.
In 1966 The Keith County Historical Society purchased the home from Arthur Campbell at the cost of $15,000. On October 3, 1973 the Mansion on the Hill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mansion is open from the Friday before Memorial Day through the Sunday before Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday 9:00-4:00, Sundays 11:00-4:00, and closed Mondays.
Admission is free for small groups; donations are appreciated.
6-10 People $15
11-15 People $20
16-20 People $25
Over 21 People please call 284-0821 for rates