Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A Unique Sears Mortgage in Trucksville, Pennsylvania

In 2016, I wrote a lengthy post about the "Great Sears Paper Trail". In that post I explained that while the original sales records for homes sold by Sears Roebuck no longer exist (per the Sears Archives), there's still a lengthy paper trail that exists in paper and digital formats that can assist us in finding Sears houses. I've written quite a few posts that touch on one aspect of that paper trail - transactions related to mortgages and deeds. While a lot of my research has been spent reviewing actual mortgage and deed records, quite a bit of that research has also been through newspaper references to mortgages and deeds. Back in 2020, a newspaper reference led me to a possible Sears house but with a most interesting twist. Let's take a look!

Sears offered financing for their "Modern Homes" starting in 1911 and continuing through the end of 1933 when losses due to nonpayment and foreclosures led Sears Roebuck to get out of the mortgage business. During those years, Sears financed thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of homes. In addition to the actual paper records that were filed in county court houses across the country, it wasn't unusual for local papers to print notices about these mortgages. In some cases, the reference was a detailed account of who, where and how much. In other cases, it might have been a short news-style write-up, like the one I shared in a recent post about the Sears Jefferson in New Britain, Connecticut

As you might expect, most of those references appear in newspapers from 1920s and 1930s when the sales of Sears houses and the financing of those houses was most active. Even after financing mortgages stopped in 1933, there was plenty of activity related to issuing deeds for paid-off mortgages as well as foreclosures and the resale of foreclosed houses. In the last few years that Sears was issuing mortgages, customers could get 15 year mortgages. From those mortgages, I've seen newspaper references in the 1940s as customers paid off those 15 year mortgages issued in the early 1930s. 

Knowing this time frame, I generally limit my newspaper searches to those time periods. It helps keep the search results focused on relevant content. But at some point last year, I must have done a broader search on "Edwards D. Ford", one of the trustees for Sears Roebuck whose name appeared on houses that were financed through the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office, and was rewarded with this article...

The actual article from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, The Evening News is July 22, 1970! That's right, 37 years after Sears issued their last mortgage, there was a reference to a couple of Sears trustees (although Ford's first name was misspelled) and the mortgage that Sears had issued for the house. That's the "Great Sears Paper Trail" at work decades after the fact. Pretty cool! 

Even better for me is that the article included the address for the house - 27 Orchard Street in Trucksville, Pennsylvania. Although Trucksville is a small community in northeastern Pennsylvania,  Google Streetview has been to town - but not down Orchard Street. From the aerial view, I could see that the house was still there and that it was two stories and likely either Colonial or Dutch Colonial style going by the rooflines. But there were no current or old real estate photos associated with the address. 

Reaching a dead end, I asked Judith Chabot, who helps manage the "Sears Modern Homes" Facebook page, to see if there was anyone in the area who follows the page who could help us track down the house, ideally with photos. It took a bit of time but one day Judith shared a couple photos taken by Julie Quick of the house in Trucksville - a Sears Van Jean! 

Sears Van Jean - Trucksville, Pennsylvania
Image courtesy of Julie Quick and may not be reproduced without her permission

Sears Van Jean - Trucksville, Pennsylvania
Image courtesy of Julie Quick and may not be reproduced without her permission

Catalog image of Sears Van Jean

As you can see, the Van Jean was a large, two story Dutch Colonial style house. The Van Jean is almost identical to its predecessor, the Sears Rembrandt. The major difference between the two models is the design of the front entry/porch. I haven't seen a lot of examples of the Van Jean so it was nice to see that this was the mystery house in Trucksville! 

While I don't expect to find too many houses that have decades old unresolved mortgages, this isn't the only example like this that I've encountered while looking for Sears mortgages. And while this is an outlier when it comes to Sears mortgages, it does highlight how we can use the information that's out there, in whatever format we can find it, to find and authenticate Sears houses even in small, rural communities like Trucksville. So follow that "Great Sears Paper Trail" and let us know in the comments if you find your own hidden gem like the Van Jean in Trucksville. 


  1. It's crazy that the house was being resold for decades without a clear title. ??

    1. I wonder if they purchased it from the original owner? Even so, still pretty amazing that it popped up after all those years.