Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Local history, global significance: Sears got its start selling watches in old North Redwood depot

  • In 1886, when a Redwood Falls jeweler refused a consignment of watches, station agent Richard Sears asked the manufacturer’s permission to try to sell the watches out of the North Redwood depot....
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  • Richard W. Sears may well have been the first station agent at North Redwood, for in 1885, he lived with his parents and their family in Honner Township, Redwood County. Richard Warren Sears was born Dec. 7, 1863, in Stewartville, High Forest Township, Olmsted County, Minnesota, to James Warren Sears and Eliza Ann Burton. In 1886, when a local jeweler refused a consignment of watches, Sears asked the manufacturer’s permission to try to sell the watches. Permission was granted, and soon he had sold all of them to fellow agents. These watches were sold out of the North Redwood depot. Within six months, Richard Sears’ watch business escalated so much that he resigned from the railroad in 1886 and moved to Minneapolis, where he could devote full time to his growing mail order enterprise. That enterprise was founded that same year as the R. W. Sears Watch Company.
    He was only 22 years old. In 1887, Sears moved his company to Chicago, and he then placed an advertisement for a watchmaker in the Chicago Daily News. Sears needed to hire a watch repairman to handle many of the returns that needed repair. On April 1, 1887, Alvah Curtis Roebuck, a watchmaker in Hammond, Ind. answered the ad. Two days later Alvah received a reply from Richard Warren Sears, who wanted to hire him. Thus began the association of two men who would soon form one of the world's best-known business partnerships. The firm was incorporated as Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1893. In 1969, Sears, Roebuck and Company built the Sears Tower in Chicago, naming it after their founder, Richard Warren Sears. According to a story in the May 3, 1912 Redwood Falls Sun, “R. W. Sears, of Chicago, and his secretary, A. J. Lethen, arrived here Wednesday noon, and after partaking of dinner at the Gold home, in company with Mr. Gold and his son, Glen, they autoed to the Sears & Gold Redwood Stock Farm near Wabasso where they remained a couple of days looking over the fine Holstein herd and other business on that model farm. “ At one time Mr. Sears was a telegraph operator at North Redwood, but now a many-times millionaire, accumulated through shrewd business methods.” When Richard W. Sears moved to Minneapolis, the entire Sears family moved there, as well. Richard’s parents and his two sisters, Kate and Eva, are all buried in Lakewood Cem-etery, Minneapolis. Richard died Sept. 28, 1914 in Wisconsin at 51 years of age. Richard’s wife was Anna Lydia Meckstroth of Le Sueur. She died in Chicago, May 27, 1946. Both are buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Ill. Richard W. Sears and Anna L. Meckstroth were married June 23, 1895 in Racine County, Wis. and became the parents of four children: Sylvia, Richard, Serena and Wesley.
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