It was during the period that spanned from 1820 to 1860, when income was rising and the population was growing, that many general stores began sprouting up at crossroads and on the outskirts of new settlements. In those years, the growing population across the state created a demand for more and diverse goods. This in turn attracted traveling peddlers, and if the peddlers accrued enough money, they'd open a general store or trading post. Though it was often the case that a general store was one of the first businesses in a new town, it wasn't uncommon for a general store to come before the town!
But more than just a site for goods and services, these spaces have played a consistent and essential role in our growing society, offering jobs, food, necessities, and often, a third space away from home and work where people could drink, dance, learn, or socialize. Indeed, general stores and other mercantile spaces like it were foundational to the practice of democratic thinking in small town society. Commonly serving as the post office as well, these general stores were usually the town's only link to the outside world, so naturally, news that arrived from far away places prompted opinionated conversations between neighbors and strangers alike.
Yes, our humble little general stores loom large in Texas history and were once the anchors of society and civilization. Little did these shop owners know they were building the history, culture, and authentic identity of their community.