The Watson Feed Store is an inseparable part of downtown Mart. Built over 100 years ago, it still stands proudly at its place along Texas Avenue. In 1903, Ruff Watson moved to Mart and purchased property in the middle of town. He constructed a building on the site and in 1906, the R. Watson Feed Store opened for business.
From the beginning, the building was more than just a place to buy feed. Watson sold a variety of products, from livestock and paint, to home appliances and flour. The business was one of seven approved to sell Purina products in the state of Texas. He also operated other businesses in the same building as the feed store, including slaughter and butcher shops as well as a leather goods store.
Ruff Watson was not only a businessman, but also an ambitious farmer. Money he earned from farming went back into the Feed Store business and vice versa. Mart was a railroad stop between Fort Worth and Houston, and Watson took full advantage of the railroad tracks which crisscrossed through town. During the years of the Great Depression, he purchased a corn sheller and a mill at the edge of the tracks. This addition brought people from miles around to Mart and the Feed Store. He also used the railways to ship crops he purchased from other farmers, such as corn, wheat and oats, selling them to other areas of the state. When the railroads became too unreliable, Watson switched to hauling crops to Fort Worth via trucks and even, at times, horse-pulled wagon.
The Feed Store, with its central location downtown, drew members of the Mart community as a place to congregate, chat, and catch-up with neighbors. During election years, local politicians used the store as a central meeting place to campaign. There was a dance hall in the upstairs of the building, and the Railroad Brotherhood and other fraternal organizations used this space for meetings. Watson even sold barbecue at the back of the store on Saturdays as a way to use up any leftovers from the butcher shop.
The Feed Store has always been a family business, and when Watson’s sons, Murray and Orlette, came of age, they worked alongside their father. Murray’s son, Murray Watson Jr., began helping at the store as a child, going every day after school to work with his grandfather. In 1940, Murray Watson Sr. bought out his father and brother, renaming the business, the Watson Feed Store. Ruff Watson died ten years later in 1950. Murray Watson Sr. continued to own and operate the Feed Store, working there almost every day until his death in 1990.
Murray Watson Jr. assumed ownership of the store until he passed away in 2018. In 2003, the Watson Feed Store was honored with its own Texas Historical Marker. The store remains much the same as it did over 100 years ago. For the community of Mart, the Watson Feed Store is much more than just a place to buy corn and birdseed. It is a significant part of their town history, a place to go for a friendly smile and a dose of daily gossip, and a reminder that the small town principles of neighborly kindness and kinship still exist.