Franklin Bradford Bearce, son of Zebulon Harlow Bearce and Harriet B. Bradford was born in Turner, Maine on March 4, 1847. Frank grew up on Turner and by 1881 he was working in Chicago as a wholesale clothing dealer. In January 1881, Frank and his brother in-law, Lothrop Hedge Faulkner, partnered to open L. H. Faulkner & Company clothing and shoe store in the Opera Block. In 1882 the business moved to 207 N. Broadway (currently the south 3rd of the USD 435 administrative offices) in the Knox Block. Mr. Faulkner was the managing partner while Frank stayed in Chicago and served as the buyer. L. H. Faulkner & Company occupied two store fronts on Broadway Street and carried clothing, shoes, boots, and furnishing goods. In the summer of 1884, the business leased an adjacent building, connected the spaces with a brick archway, and opened an expanded boot and shoe department.
Frank married Anna Dwight Faulkner, one of his business partner’s sisters, in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 15, 1886. The couple moved to Abilene in 1887 from Chicago, Illinois and purchased 904 NW. 3rd Street, which was the home of Dr. J. E. Herbst. Their home cost $3,000. The couple was blessed with the birth of their daughter, Nannie, in November 1888. However, joy quickly turned to tragedy when Anna died at home on December 3, 1888 due to an inability to recover from childbirth. Anna’s funeral was at the Trinity Lutheran Church and she is buried in the Abilene Cemetery.
Nannie died In Aug of 1889, while visiting family in Fremont, Ohio. That December, Frank purchased the home of W. G. Cowles on Grand Avenue for $7,000. Shortly thereafter he married his sister in-law, Elizabeth Cole Faulkner, who was the widow of Charles Amsden. They were married in Fremont, Ohio at her home on January 9, 1890. Elizabeth came to Abilene with her two children, Susan Hedge Amsden and William Faulkner Amsden.
In September 1890, the company officially changed the name to Faulkner & Bearce. In 1892, the company purchased the stock of competitor Hazlett & Hynds and sold it at a deep discount. Among the firm’s employees were William Henry Sunderland, Harold F. Bearce, William H. Hoon, Frank Parker, Harry Binder, Charles Schively, William Shellhaas, Henry Knoder, W. L. Hutchinson, Wesley S. Harley, and Will Seward. Faulkner & Bearce also had a store in Herington, which they closed in January 1893. The following year, the stock was condensed from two store fronts to one and the firm was dissolved when Frank purchased Lothrop’s interest. The new firm was called F. B. Bearce. In December 1895, the stock was being liquidated to satisfy the mortgagee’s. Frank retained the business and continued to sell high quality men’s ware and shoes.
Frank B. Bearce, Clothier moved from 207 N. Broadway to 211 N. Broadway, at the southeast corner of Broadway and NW. 3rd Street. Frank hired Mathias Witt, who was a stone mason by trade, to lay an intricately patterned tile floor at the new location. When the new location opened it features large display windows on 3rd Street, a handsome tin ceiling, new furniture, fitting room, and shoe department, and youth’s department. Electric lights were added to the store in September 1901.
Mr. Bearce decided to close the business in April 1902 and began a close out sale. The stock was for sale by the trustees with William Hoon continuing to sell the stock until December. Following the closing of the company, Frank moved to St. Joseph, Missouri to become a traveling salesman for the Hirschman Brothers & Company, which was a leading clothing manufacturer based in New York. The Bearce’s kept their house on Grand Avenue and had a number of renters, including United States Senator Joseph Ralph Burton.
Mr. Bearce was also keen on public matters. He was a candidate for the school district in 1897 and served on the annual Corn Carnival’s finance committee. He served as Treasurer at the Trinity Lutheran Church. He was also involved in the local baseball scene.
Elizabeth died while trying to recover from an appendicitis operation in Fremont, Ohio on February 16, 1904. She is buried in Fremont in the Oakwood Cemetery. Frank died on September 28, 1906 in Auburn, Maine.