The Man Behind The Mist


“Who is flickering the lights?.. *Sigh*…Henry..”

“Who threw this glass across the room?….Henry..”

“Who just moved the furniture?.. Henry..”

“Who drank all my wine!?… Henry!.. Oh, wait.. Whoops, that was me. Sorry, Henry.”

If you are familiar with the winery, then you may also be familiar with some of the unusual happenings that occur as well.  When daily activities cannot be explained, when whispers out of thin air are heard, or when our “spooky meter” just seems to be beeping nonstop, there is one name our staff will commonly call out: “Henry!”  Henry has been known for the last few decades to be von Stiehl’s resident spirit.  But with paranormal investigative teams claiming that the winery has about 27 unidentified spirits lingering in its halls, poor ‘Henry’ often takes the blame for all of the ghoulish shenanigans that the winery and our staff encounter.  

But who is this man behind the mist? “Henry” is not simply a name that we collectively designated to yell out in regard to unearthly phenomenons, but rather, a local legend.  The famed, “Henry”, is Henry Schmiling.  

Henry Schmiling was born in Pomerania, Germany on May 4th, 1845, and later arrived in the Ahnapee, WI area of the U.S. when he was twelve years of age. Henry then enlisted for the Civil War as a boy, being just shy of seventeen years old.  Henry was then recruited with many other local young men to Company E, Fourteenth Wisconsin, where he exhibited strength and bravery at the Siege of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea. After being discharged on October 9th, 1865, he returned to Ahnapee and founded the beloved brewery that we all know today, the Ahnapee Brewery.  And wouldn’t ya know, the building of what is now von Stiehl Winery today, just so happens to be that very same brewery that Henry founded. 

Speaking of Ahnapee Brewery, have you ever wondered where the brewery acquired the name for their well-esteemed craft beer, “Little Soldier”? Well, I’ll give you a hint.  Not only was Henry Schmiling a young man of sixteen years of age when he enlisted into the Civil War, but he also only stood 5’6. As the once founder and brewmaster of the original Ahnapee Brewery,  Little Soldier is a modern day homage to Henry Schmiling and the successful ‘Ahnapee Brewery’ name that he established. 

But Henry’s past life and current connections don’t end there.

If the name “Schmiling” sounded familiar, it should! Aric and Brad Schmiling, the current owners of the winery, are the great, great.. great.. GREAT nephews of Henry Schmiling.  It is this amazing serendipity that decades after Henry Schmiling’s involvement with the brewery in the very same building, despite facility turnovers throughout the years, that his later kin would also adopt the building as their homebase for the winery.

In life, Henry was a loving husband, a caring father to four children, and an altruistic individual. He was superintendent for fourteen years at the County Farm, which helped care for those less fortunate.  Henry passed away on July 10th, 1925 at the well-lived age of 80, marking the end of Kewaunee County survivors from the Company E Civil War unit.  

The cellars underneath the winery played a role in Henry’s title as ‘Brewmaster’, which is often where you may end up spotting a small glimpse of Henry today.  Henry is often seen standing in the cellars, commonly dressed in his Civil War regalia.  Although he had once brewed his own delicious craft beer in the cellars, we like to think that he is now helping the aging process move along smoothly amongst the wine barrels that currently line the walls of the cellar.  

If you were to ask any of our staff about “Henry”, a small smirk may creep up on their face, followed by a story or two.  Yet, despite the odd spirit encounters, our staff would agree that Henry is a welcomed fellow guest, teammate, and scapegoat for those moments when we accidentally break a crystal glass or forget to replace a lightbulb.

“Who just patted me on the back for a job well done?….. Aww, thanks, Henry..”

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