Lulu Moore once labored as a domestic on the Scheidt family farm in Howard County. She has called the farm home for 43
Now a prominent doctor and his two sisters -- whom Mrs. Moore says she helped raise -- want to evict the 82-year-old blind woman from the tenant house on their Highland farm.
The result is a tiff between two families whose personal and professional relationship goes back two generations.
"I ain't going to move from here," said Mrs. Moore, sitting on a bed on the first floor of the two-story, four-room home. "This house is mine."
The siblings want to subdivide and develop the farm, a project that could boost their family trust by as much as $5.6 million.
The doctor, Peter Scheidt, has taken the dispute to Howard County District Court, where Judge Lenore Gelfman will hear the case tomorrow.
Mrs. Moore, who worked for the late Melvin and Prue Scheidt, says the couple gave her the tenant house as a lifetime home.
The Scheidts' three children say that based on their parents' wills, the couple never intended to leave Mrs. Moore or her children any part of the 120-acre farm.
Regardless of the wills, Mrs. Moore's attorney, Jo Glasco, argues that the Moore family has lived in the house without paying rent long enough for it to be considered her lifetime estate.
Mrs. Moore says she didn't pay rent from 1950 to 1981, when -- as part of an agreement with Peter Scheidt -- running water and a septic tank were added to the tenant house, Ms. Glasco said.
Even though she has become blind from age and diabetes, Mrs. Moore has learned to feel her way around the wooden white house that sits off Route 108 near Route 216.
The Moore family worked on the farm, now called the Paternal Gift Farm, even before the Scheidts moved to Highland, Mrs. Moore said. In 1946, Mrs. Moore said, she and her family helped the Scheidts move there from Montgomery County.
At that time, Melvin and Prue Scheidt bought part of the farm, off Hall Shop Road. That section did not include the tenant house.
Lulu Moore was hired as a domestic worker in the Scheidt home. Mrs. Moore, who was living in a nearby house, said she cared for and raised Peter Scheidt and his sisters, Sally and Carol.
"I took care of them the same as if they were my own," Mrs. Moore said.
In 1950, Melvin and Prue Scheidt bought the land south of the farm, which included a tenant house that had no running water or septic system.
That same year, Mrs. Moore and her family of six children moved into the tenant house, while she worked for the Scheidts, she said. Her son Millard helped raise the sheep, cattle, chickens and horses on the farm for the elder Scheidts. Later he and his sister Pauline worked for Peter Scheidt, who built his home on the property.
Mrs. Moore raised her children and several of her grandchildren in the house. Her granddaughter Diane, 39, stills lives with her.
Melvin and Prue Scheidt died in August 1979 -- she on Aug. 3, he on Aug. 6.
But Lulu Moore didn't worry about having a place to stay. Melvin Scheidt had told her, " 'I want to keep y'all here because it's y'all's house,' " she said.
Lulu Moore's refusal to leave angers the Scheidts. They said it's clear from the wills that their parents never intended for the Moores to have any part of the estate.
"I'm sorry that the Moores feel that promises were made," said Sally Churan, 55, the oldest of the three children. But the wills "didn't mention any such people as the Moores."
"My parents didn't even give us anything [directly]," she said. The money goes into a trust, and "the trust goes on for a long time. No money goes directly to the heirs."
The Scheidts plan to turn the land into 28 one-acre lots for homes. The lots would sell for about $200,000 each, Peter Scheidt said. That's about $5.6 million, which, according to the wills, would go into the trust.
At the discretion of the estates' trustees, "part or parts of the whole of the net income" from the trust can be distributed among the Scheidts' descendants.
Peter Scheidt's wife, Susan, is handling much of the project. Ms. Scheidt, 53, ran for the Howard County Council against Charles C. Feaga in 1990, and is an agent with Long & Foster Realtors.
The tenant house sits on one of the 28 lots.
"She's blind and feeble in a house that's substandard," said Dr. Scheidt, the chairman of the Department of General Pediatrics at Children's National Medical Center and a professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University Medical Center, both in Washington.
The Scheidts say the Moores paid rent to their parents when they moved into the tenant house in 1950 -- $25 a month plus household and farm work. Mr. Scheidt said he is searching his parents' records to show that the Moores paid rent from 1950 until his parents died in 1979.
The Moores didn't pay rent from 1979 until 1981, when running water and septic were added to the tenant house, Dr. Scheidt said. In 1981, the Moores started paying $150 a month in rent, he said.