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George Sears was one of the most successful merchants and one of the most extensive
stockmen in the southern part of Pueblo County during the late 1800s. “He was a man of great enterprise, as is shown by the fact that he began for himself without capital and has accumulated a competency, solely by his own exertions.”
George Sears was born on March 5, 1847 in Germany. When he was three years old, his parents, Jeremiah and Elizabeth (Manuel) Sears, brought him to America. By 1850, they had settled on a farm in Valparaiso, Indiana.
His father, Jeremiah owned a brickyard and mercantile store in Germany. His father lived in Valparaiso until his death at the age of eighty-eight, in the fall of 1897. His mother died in 1892, at sixty-eight. George was the only surviving child.
George was educated in the Valparaiso public schools. At the age of twenty-one he began railroading and for eighteen months he was a freight conductor on the Pittsburg & Fort Wayne Railroad.
In the spring of 1872, George shipped his belongings from Indiana to the end of the railroad at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He and his family crossed the plains in a prairie schooner to Colorado. He settled on a squatter's claim precinct No. 35 at Greenhorn and began ranching Texas Longhorn cattle. He later homesteaded the property.
In 1874, George Sears became the postmaster of the Greenhorn Post Office which had been established in 1866. More importantly, the same year the Austins (H. T. Austin with his sons, John, Thomas and Bush—or some combination, several accounts list one or more of the sons) helped Sears dig a well 37 feet deep at the side of the road on Sears’ property.
George was married to Bertha Jones. They lost two of their children: a son, “Little” Claudie born in 1873 who died January 23, 1875; and “Little” Earle who died in 1878. One son, Robert W. Sears survived. Robert spent his entire life on the Greenhorn property eventually becoming postmaster and taking charge of the stock business.
Robert recalled, “my father, George Sears, started a miniature department store, catering to the needs of grimy travelers on the Old Santa Fe Trail (Taos Branch) and to the scattered stockmen who had settled on the mountain streams. As Postmasters for thirty years, we passed out mail to an ever-growing patronage.”
In 1875, George built a store room and opened a general mercantile business on his property at Greenhorn. Above the store a large room became “The Odd Fellows Hall.” A hotel and barn were built next. The hotel became known as the 30-Mile House as it was roughly 30 miles from Pueblo, Walsenburg, La Veta and Gardner. It had rooms for a dozen guests. Travelers could buy supper, bed, breakfast, barn shelter and feed for a team of horses for one dollar.
Charles Goodnight passed through Greenhorn on his last big trail drive in 1875. “He left Texas with 20,000 head and turned them loose on the north side of the Arkansas River at Goodnight, the rock canyon west of Pueblo. It was an immense undertaking. The cattle strung out 10 abreast for two and a third miles or 13 miles Indian file. Forty trail herders fought this hungry, thirsty herd.”
During the winter of 1879 and 1880, snow stayed on the ground two feet deep until spring. It was known as the die-out year. Many open range herds were lost as the “doggies” drifted into settlements and died, thus ending the open range and large trail drives.