Sailor Antiques resides in the impressive, two-story, brick and stone building, located on the prominent northeast corner of Will Rogers Boulevard and Missouri Avenue, in Claremore, Oklahoma’s downtown business district. Built by entrepreneur George W. Eaton in 1902, a lingering “ghost sign” advertisement, painted on the western exterior wall of the building, gives a clue as to the building’s original use. More indications can be discovered inside the store.
Impressive, original pressed-tin tiles embellish the high ceilings, and a central, wide, wooden stairway leads to a mezzanine/balcony space sandwiched between the first and second floors. Labeled cubby holes built under the stairs, once organized all sorts of hardware store paraphernalia. Sailor Antiques’ store proprietress, Brenda Thompson-Reno loves to share the building’s history and has created a display in the hidey-hole space under the stairs to tell the story.
When John C. Barrett of Claremore, Oklahoma, sold his harness and carriage business to James T. Wilson & Co. of Bolivar, Missouri, in 1902, The Claremore Progress welcomed the new firm and wished them
“unbounded success”[ClaremoreProgress,9-27-1902]. Moving into their new headquarters in the first floor of the G.W. Eaton building, enterprising businessmen, J.T. Wilson and sons Landon and William immediately added a stock of hardware and farm implements to the already established bargain buggy business[CP,10-18&25-1902].
An intensive advertising campaign initiated in the local newspapers promoted J.T. Wilson & Sons’ new company. “We will receive a (train) carload of buggies, wagons, and farm implements… which we invite you to call and inspect.” “When you buy a Blizzard ice cream freezer of J.T. Wilson & Sons, you get the best.” “We would enjoy a social chat with you whether we trade or not”[CP,11-1-1902&05-23-1903; CM,09-08-1905].
As J.T. Wilson & Sons’ business grew, a large warehouse was constructed in the rear of the store in 1910[CP,09-16-1910]. Neither water damage in the warehouse from a downtown fire in 1910 nor an attempted robbery in 1913 could stop the successful forward momentum of the hardware business[CP,11-18-1910 &09-05-1913].
December 1920, The Claremore Progress reported, “The firm of J.T. Wilson & Son has built up a favorite trading place in Claremore in the hardware and implement lines, also carrying a snug stock of staple groceries. Automobile supplies are here and sewing machines are sold. The stock of harnesses is most complete and furniture is a feature so that the Wilson & Son store may be considered a depot of supplies for farms and households, generally. Wagons and farming implements are bought in (train) car lots also other heavy goods, including a line of stoves, sewing machines, etc., for the household. Spacious decks and a large wareroom are in service. This business and firm have been serving the public 18 years, and a steady growth evidences that they have made satisfied customers, and from a small beginning have become a popular supply house in Claremore”[CP,12-09-1920].
The Claremore Progress’s 1902 well-wishes for “unbounded success” were bountifully granted. According to the History of Rogers County (1979), J.T. Wilson continued as co-owner of this business for some 30 years. At least five generations of Wilsons worked in J.T. Wilson & Sons Hardware during its more than 80 years’ existence. In 1987, Recollections of Early Rogers County stated, “The Wilson Hardware Store has the distinction of being the longest family owned business in Claremore… The business remained in the Wilson family until 1985.” Though Wilson Hardware departed Claremore more than 30 years ago, many still recognize the name, and fond memories return when entering Sailor’s Antiques, the place where Wilson Hardware once was.