Sears Home in Terrell, Texas? A Mystery! UPDATED!!

UPDATED!!  A kind soul in Terrell has supplied photos of the Autrey’s home!  Scroll on down to see the house that Josephus built!

Judging by my email, there aren’t a lot of Sears Homes in Texas.  And yet, while reading the old testimonials in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog, I discovered that Josephus Autrey built a really big Sears House in Terrell, Texas (just outside of Dallas).

Josephus: What a great name! And I love the photo of his newly-built home that Josephus sent in to Sears. It’s the only photo that I have ever seen where the happy homeowner lined the whole family up in front of the house! Very endearing!

In late 1910 or early 1911, Josephus built his Sears Modern Home #118. According to the testimonials, it had some alterations. For one, it appears to have a bigger footprint and two dormers were added to the attic (on the side of the house). The porte cochere was added, and the porch was enlarged.

“Don” (see comments below) did some research and found that poor Josephus died in 1914, leaving behind a wife and five children, who apparently moved out of the house soon thereafter. Poor Josephus never really got to enjoy his beautiful Sears House.

Readers have told me that this is now known as The Felder Home. That seems rather curious, as Josephus must have toiled for many months to build this house from a kit. It must have taken many months to assemble a house of this size and complexity.

I’d love to learn more about this house and Josephus.

Josephus probably ordered his kit home out of this catalog.

Josephus probably ordered his kit home out of this catalog (1910-1911).


The Sears Modern Home #118.

The Sears Modern Home #118.


Josephus own words.

Josephus' own words.


Number 118 was also built in these cities.

Number 118 was also built in these cities.


Located in Alton, Illinois, this #118 is in decent shape.

Located in Alton, Illinois, this #118 is in decent shape.


This #118 is in Westfield, Illinois (near Mattoon).

This #118 is in Westfield, Illinois (near Mattoon).


And heres the house that Josephus built.

And here's the house that Josephus built.


Close-up of the Autrey fam.

Close-up of the Autrey fam.


UPDATED! Thanks to Jim Klenke, we now have a contemporary photo of the Autrey’s Sears House.

The House That Josephus Built - sometime in the early 1910s!

The House That Josephus Built - sometime in the early 1910s! Many thanks to Jim Klenke who provided the above photo! It's so fun to see the house in real life! (Photo is copyright 2012 Jim Klenke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. )


The roofline has changed a bit (perhaps a roof or attic fire?), but theres no doubt that this is the house that Josephus built in the early 1910s. Poor Josephus died in 1914, so he did not have many years in this house.

The roofline has changed a bit (perhaps a roof or attic fire?), but there's no doubt that this is the house that Josephus built in the early 1910s. Poor Josephus died in 1914, so he did not have many years in this house. BTW, look closely and you'll see a fireplace mantel on the front porch. I don't think that's original to the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Jim Klenke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. Don

    Terrell Daily Transcript, May 16, 1914 Joseph Autrey, a citizen of Terrell for the past five or six years, having moved here from Rockwall, died on Ninth Street today. He is survived by his wife and five children. He was born in Melton, Georgia, June 21, 1857. He and Mrs. Autrey had been married for thirty-three years. Interment tomorrow. Terrell Daily Transcript, May 18, 1914 – Josephus Autrey was buried Sunday in Oakland Cemetery. (1857-1914, for Oakland Memorial Park Cemetery.)

  2. Sears Homes

    Don, thank you SO much for finding this!!

    So dear Josephus died *very* soon after he finished building this magnificent house! And all those children were left fatherless? Wow, I wonder about *the rest of the story*.

    Thanks again for sharing this fascinating obituary.

    Surely there must be some “Autreys” still living in Terrell.

  3. Rachel Shoemaker

    What I am wondering is how it became known as the Felder house? I can not find anything on the internet about it other than the town websites but no explanation. I wonder if the family moved out or if she remarried a man named “Felder.”

    Since the address is 501 9th Str. my guess is he died at home.

    I hope someone from Terrell Texas finds this blog and tells us what happened with the family. I bet that the historical society there would love to see the family photo! I am also curious as to why the house has changed. It appears there may have been an attic fire at the front of the house.

  4. Rachel Shoemaker

    Unfortunately his widow had not remarried as of 1930 🙁 I found her (Londie or Landie).

    I found her in a directory from Dallas and she was in an apartment and listed as his widow.

    If anyone out there reads this and is interested I started a family tree on

  5. Rachel Shoemaker

    And my research in to this home just gets more interesting check out this video:

    THAT is the house! I pegged the address last night and there it is on the door. And look at the start of the video, that’s the house, most definitely!

  6. Jim K

    I just emailed you a picture of the house.

  7. Joseph Gaudet

    Rachel and Rose,

    It’s just amazing that you have been researching this house and came upon the video that I shot of my ex-wife, Donna Awtrey. Please allow me to tell you the story.

    I am a video production pro and was living in Dallas, with my girlfriend (at the time) Donna Awtrey. First of all, she is no relation to the original owners of the house, but strangely coincidental that except for a minor spelling alteration, the same.

    Donna was an aspiring singer/songwriter and when I heard her sing, part of my life took a change – to help her in any way that I could. As an aspiring video production guy at the time, helping her was also a way of helping myself.

    Anyway, she found this wonderful song together we decided to shoot a music video, to use a form of promotion for her career. I remember asking around – hoping to find an old house with a lot of character, preferably one with an artist’s loft.

    A good friend, and my accountant at the time – Shirley Flater (I believe that’s how she spelled her name – this is back around 1992) said she had a friend who was a known artist, that had a house exactly like what I was looking for.

    The next day I drove to the address she had given me and I met her and the artist and owner of the house, Bettie Hebert-Felder (

    Immediately, I was struck by Bettie’s calm demeanor and that something special that to me, few people have – but she had it. It was as if the spirit of God is within her and present for all to see.

    That was my impression of this sweet, kind and incredibly talented woman and artist. She signs all of her artwork: Bettie Felder “Thru God’s Grace.”

    What was so incredible about this entire situation are these unusual facts: Bettie’s artwork has a timeless quality, and are period looking pieces that reminded me of the movie, “Somewhere In Time” with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve.


    And that’s exactly what I was hoping to find.

    In addition, the Felder’s (Bettie and Bob) showed me some of the history of the house and we thought it was remarkable that the house was built by Joseph (Josephus) Autrey since my first name is Joseph, and my girlfriend (at the time) Donna was Awtrey – pronounced the same of course.

    The house was built in 1911, as I recall now reading about it in a framed article that sat on an easel just inside the front door of the house. And it was called “The Autrey House,” a fact that we just found utterly fascinating, to say the least.

    We shot Donna’s video in the house, on the front porch, in the attic “artist’s loft” and had Dallas actor David Cullinane as Donna’s love interest in the video. He can be seen “painting” one of Bettie’s paintings in the video at around 1:10, but when it came time for the close-up, where I wanted him to actually touch the brush to the canvas, he said he couldn’t do it, even though Bettie was there and said not to worry, she would fix it.

    So, that is my hand painting Bettie’s painting in the close-up at 2:45. But, the painting at 2:45 is different than the one we we used for the wide shot at 1:10.

    Days later, Bettie had agreed to paint a picture of Donna from a photograph that I had taken of Donna on the beach, in a turn-of-the-century dress that Bettie loaned to us. She said that she had many period dresses like that (several can be seen in the video, in the stairway hanging on the walls) and that she would often take pictures of children as models for her paintings, so that’s exactly what we did.

    Also, I was a photographer at the time, making the transition to becoming a filmmaker and that’s what God’s grace did for us, and it is one of the more special memories of my life, and always will be. It was something that was almost too good to be true in the way that all of the little details just fell in place, but it was all real and all very amazing.

    I’m sure that Donna still has, and cherishes that painting. You can see two of the photos that I took of Donna on the beach in Galveston – wearing one of Bettie’s period dresses, that Bettie she for the painting in the video here, on my photo site: Images 4 of 41 and 17 of 41:

    Donna and I eventually moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career. Unfortunately she never quite made it, and we eventually moved back to her home town of Birmingham, AL.

    We moved to Florida together in 2005, but she was not fond of Florida for some reason and moved back home thinking I would move with her yet again.

    I love it here but I did not realize that that would be the end of our otherwise wonderful marriage. Thank you for allowing me to go back to that time and re-live those precious memories. And now you know why that house is called “The Felder House.”
    That house was an amazing home back in 1992 when we filmed there, as can be seen in the video:

    When I originally posted this video I simply could not remember the correct date that the house was built, but I recall exactly now and of course, it’s as you stated – 1911, and I just changed it to the correct date.

  8. Sears Homes

    Joseph, thank you SO much for “filling in the blanks” and telling us a little more about you and the house! I’ve always said that Sears Houses are the *most* interesting houses! 🙂

    How fascinating that an old picture of an old house in a dusty old catalog had such a story to tell!

    And I bet that there’s more yet. I’m still wondering about Josephus and his family. Rachel and I have found that he must have built this house in late 1910/early 1911 (which jives with your dates), because his testimonial first appeared in a 1912 catalog (which was published early spring 1912).

    And that makes this one of the FIRST Sears Homes ever built.

    Sears did not sell many houses before “The Great War,” and in fact, they didn’t sell any houses in 1908 (the first years they opened their Modern Homes Department), and only a few in 1909.

    So if Josephus ordered his house in 1910 (which seems most likely, as it took several weeks for the order to arrive), he was one of their first buyers. And Josephus ordered a customized version of Modern Home #118, which was one of their largest homes.

    And – this was in the days *BEFORE* pre-cut kits were an option. In other words, when his house arrived it was a big pile of lumber that had to be cut down to size. All of this makes me suspect that it took SEVERAL MONTHS for Josephus to turn all this lumber into a BIG HOUSE.

    It’s a wonderful story, and yet it appears likely that it had a sad ending. Josephus apparently had five children. What happened to all those kids when Josephus died? And Josephus passed on in May 1914. If the house was completed in 1912 (when its photograph appeared in the catalog), he didn’t have much time to enjoy the fruit of his labors.


  9. Rachel Shoemaker

    I find this home extremely fascinating and when there is a family put with one of the houses I enjoy researching even more. I spent a good part the day yesterday researching the Josephus Autrey family.

    I created a family tree for him a I can trace his family back but not forward any farther than his children.

    I know he had six children and one of them, Clara, seems to vanish sometime after 1900.

    I also know that his wife, Londie, and two of the children were in another house in Terrell by 1920. Did the Felder’s buy the house from his widow?

    I am hoping to find heirs but I am not so sure there are any. If so I am sure they would be fascinated by this family catalog photo and the story. If any one out there has any more info, please leave a message here or on ancestry ( at his tree.

  10. Rachel Shoemaker

    There is a Sears #118 at 884 Route 82 East Fishkill, NY and there is also one at 240 Blue Heron Lane Mathews, VA. The one in Matthews, Va is absolutely gorgeous!

  11. cassie manning

    I have found a sears kit home in Crosby, texas! I have admired this house forever, just recently found out about its origin. it is empty now and starting to deteriorate. It’s Sears Modern Home #167, The Maytown. It has been so hard to find anything on it except for the old sears catalog picture.

  12. Hilda Hilpert

    I have the book

  13. Homes in A Box
  14. and it’s a reprint of the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

    The book mentions a Sears House being built in New Braunfels, TX, just up the road from me.

    There was a Sears House in McQueeny, and I think it was The Sunbeam. The upper porch wasn’t enclosed.The house was moved, but to where I don’t know.

    I need to get out and check a few of the old houses in mcQueeny as well as new Braunfels, etc. I once saw in San Antonio off of Blanco Road, a house that came from the

  15. Ladies Home Journal book, Journal Bungalows.
  16. There is an Aladdin Shadowlawn near New Braunfels right on the IH35 North access road. Maybe over a period of time i can get photos of these places.

  17. Rachel Shoemaker

    The Dixon, Iowa home built by Charles Dahms is still there. The address is 4910 296Th St New Liberty, Iowa.

    His address was listed as “farm” but I was able to get the 1905 land map and with that Mark pinpointed the area. I got the address off of Scott County assessor website. It’s in great condition!

  18. linda mills allen

    @Rachel Shoemaker
    Rachel: It is 2 years later than your post but just got interested and thought I would reply.

    Josephus and Londie Jane Autrey were my great grandparents. Clara Autrey Mills was my grandmother. I might be able to fill in some of your blanks.

    I would be interested in the family tree you have assembled. However, I do not access facebook.

    Look forward to hearing from you. Linda Allen

  19. Carol Eugenia Graham

    i have enjoyed reading about the #118.

    My family had one on a farm outside of Wheeler, IL. John and Dora Wolf were my grandparents and they had one built in 1912.

    We loved that house and it was never modernized except for the kitchen in the 50s.

    Sadly, it was taken down just a few years ago. Long story.

    It had all the original moulding. Can I send you a picture?

  20. Ralph Isham

    My family is selling a well cared for Sears Kit Home built in the late 20s in Premont Texas.

    My father purchased it in 1960 but we are not sure who was the original owner.

    It is an extended and modified Columbine plan.

    If anyone is interested in the history or ownership it is listed on, at 104 S. Bernice, Premont TX 78375.