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George Sears and the Greenhorn Settlement
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By the early 1880’s the small Greenhorn settlement had a blacksmith shop, drug store, grain-grinding mill, lumber yard, saloon, and a wagon-making business. Dr. T.D. Baird opened an office; J.H. McDaniel was the druggist and notary; and C. C. Stein served as the settlement’s attorney.

In 1881 or 1882, George Sears and James Thomas become business partners. They moved the Post Office and Supply Store from David Nichol’s ranch on Table Mountain into Rye, “next to the big bluff on Captain William Meredith and Major Sheet’s place.” The Thomas and Sears General Store was the first business to appear in what will become the town of Rye.

By 1882, George moved the Barlow & Sanderson Greenhorn Swing Station from the Hicklin property where it has been since 1867 to his settlement. (Please see the related story about his friendship with Estefana Hicklin.) The stages were drawn by four horses and arrived daily. Leaving Pueblo it stopped at Muddy Creek and reached Greenhorn at noon for a 15-minute stop, just enough time to change horses and for passengers to get lunch before continuing on to Huerfano. Leaving from Trinidad, the stage arrived at Greenhorn around 7 pm. Just in time for dinner.

Mail came from Canon City through Wetmore by horseback with the round trip completed in one day with a fresh mount from Greenhorn. Mail was placed on the stage coach three times a week.

On November 7, 1883, George Sears married Sarah Jane Meredith, of Rye, daughter of Captain William Meredith. (His first wife, Bertha must have died by this point.) They had five children: George Meredith, Edna Celestine, Carl Aubrey, Myrtle Elizabeth and Marion Monroe. Marion was born on August 22, 1898 and died July 5, 1899.

Bert Sears, a California banker in 1936, (and son of George) wrote about the Greenhorn Store where he worked throughout his childhood: “What with poker games on horse blankets scattered about in the oak brush . . . the jingle crackalue of silver quarters vying for nearness to cracks of the saloon board floor . . . matched cow pony races scattering dust down the road . . . the Greenhorn was a hot spot in those days. It was the old West.”

All arranged around a pot-bellied stove, Sears’ General Store stocked buckshot, black gunpowder, candles, flat-heeled cowhide boots, bolts of unbleached muslin, bright-colored bandanas, buckshot, calicos and ginghams, cashmere shawls, cheap jewelry, cotton stockings, cowhide boots, cravats, fine-toothed combs, cheap jewelry, green coffee beans, leather hat bands, red flannel underwear and thread.

High heel shoes for the ladies and copper-toed, hobnailed boots for the gentlemen were displayed above the large bins of rice, coffee, beans, brown sugar, cane sugar and tea. Large burlap bags held peanuts with small buckets of lemon drops, peppermint sticks and molasses hoar hound.

Rope, coiled in the basement was pulled through openings in the floor and sold by the pound. A tobacco section contained a variety of cigars, Star and Climax chewing tobacco, nickel bags of Bull Durham and rolling paper. Nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice were sold whole to be ground at home.

The drug store sold calomel, camphor, castor oil, Epsom salts, quinine, peppermint and turpentine in bulk.

Local ranchers traded potatoes, bacon and lard for store merchandise. With good credit they paid their accounts once a year. Sear’s large steel safe held many of his neighbors’ property deeds and other valuable papers.

In season quilts, blankets and clothing were sold upstairs in the Odd Fellows Hall. In the winter, Sears served what became legendary oyster suppers in the Odd Fellows Hall. For $2.50 each, guests had dinner and danced until dawn. As the crowd increased, they were divided into small groups, given numbers and allowed to complete their quadrilles and squares when their number was called on the small floor.

For less fortunate guests, Sears built a bunkhouse. They could lay their blankets on the bunks of rough boards for free. Many of these travelers were Mexican families going north in the spring to shear sheep and work in the fields. Returning in the fall they would spend much of their summer’s savings at Sear’s stores before heading south for the winter.

In the 1870’s, the Denver & Rio Grande railroad began to lay track south of Denver to Pueblo and into the San Louis Valley. Eventually, the train stopped a few miles to the east of Sears’ Greenhorn Settlement. Plagued by bandits, and loosing passengers to the train the Stage Line stopped in the mid-1880s.

Travelers still stayed in the 30-Mile House and ox-driven freight wagons became common on the road. Settlers continued to flock to the area and the store had more local customers than travelers.

In 1895, leaving the stores and stock with his son, Robert, George to his wife to Texas, hoping that the change would cheer her up. He worked for the few months they were there in the stock business.

In 1897, the Greenhorn Post Office changed from Huerfano County to Pueblo County. Robert Sears became Postmaster. George moved his family into Pueblo. His wife's health was poor health and he wanted a better education for their children. They lived at 1118 Lake Avenue, but George spent most of his time on the ranch at Greenhorn.

It wasn’t too much longer until the new noisy horseless carriages made an appearance on the Greenhorn Road. Bert Sears remembered when “a little red two-cylinder Brush came chugging down the wagon-track road and expired with a groan at the old well. Range cattle lounging nearby stampeded through the oak brush, saddle horses broke loose from the hitch rack and a scared pup ran under the warehouse and howled.”

George Sears relinquished the holdings he built up at Greenhorn in 1904 and moved to San Diego, CA where he died four years later.

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The Greenhorn Valley View is a weekly newspaper serving the communities of the Greenhorn Valley in Southern Colorado,
including Colorado City, Rye, San Isabel, Beulah and Hatchet Ranch.

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