C.A. Francois was born in Prussia, but made his mark in Redwood Falls starting in 1879.
In November 1853, a son was born into the Francois family, which called the Rittersdorf parish, then known as Prussia, its home. Little did the family know what kind of impact the man known to Redwood Falls residents as C.A. Francois would have in business. Francois’ father was a weaver and his mother was of Swiss heritage. It has been reported he was the direct descendant of a noble family, with the family name recorded in both German and French history. Yet, by his early teens, like many others, Francois saw his destiny as being across the Atlantic Ocean in America. He was 15 years old when he secured the funds to make the trip and before he reached his 16th birthday he had arrived in New York. Francois began working in a greenhouse belonging to a Dr. Beach, and there he came down with malaria, which would play a part in his future. Francois spent two years in New York where he mastered the English language and developed skills that would allow him to enter into business later in his life. After traveling west, Francois stopped in Eau Claire, Wis., and in Wisconsin he attended the LaCrosse Business College before taking on a job with a dry goods store. He later took a role as a traveling salesman in Minneapolis. In 1879, Francois arrived in Redwood Falls and entered into the general merchandise business with F.W. Philbrick. The Philbrick and Francois continued for a number of years before Francois opted to sell his portion of the company. He then purchased his own store from James McMillan partnering with an uncle. In the 1890s, Francois erected what was known as the Francois block on the corner of Second and Washington Streets, which not only housed a general goods store but also included what was known as the Francois Hotel. Business continued, and many recognized Francois for his entrepreneurial skills. He was also known as a community leader involved in various community groups, such as the AOUW, which was a fraternal organization for community workmen which provided mutual social and financial support after the Civil War. In December 1879, Francois married Lizzie (Porter) and to the marriage four children, including W.P. Francois who took over the family business after the passing of his father. Later in his life, Francois began feeling the impact of the malaria he experienced, which lead to other bronchial and asthma issues. Those concerns forced him to leave Redwood Falls spending time in Florida, Colorado and Arkansas to deal with his ailments. Although he appeared to be doing better, a telegram came in May 1893 reporting Francois had died, which was a shock to his family and business partner H.G. Schmahl. He was just 40 years old when he died, and many considered his death a great loss of an active community man.