Established in 1869, Cochran Blair and Potts Department Store in Belton is a family business that has endured for more than 140 years, earning the honor as the oldest department store in the lone star state. It requires a strong foundation for a business to remain intact through the Civil War, the Spanish American War, two World Wars, and The Great Depression.
Originally located in Centerville, the store was moved to Buffalo, Texas to operate closer to the railroad. Belton became the store's final home in 1884.
The store was founded by Colonel Henry Mansfield Cook; a Mississippi veteran of the Civil War. Stocked with dry goods, hardware, drugs, coffins, and included a lumberyard, the store was first known as Cook Mercantile Company.
Why the Name Change?
In 1874, Cook established the firm H.M. Cook and Company with his son-in-law, Thomas W. Cochran. Cook's son, Thomas A., joined the firm in 1896 and the business became known as Cook, Cochran & Company. In 1904, Cochran's son, Harry T. and his son-in-law, Jesse S. Blair purchased Thomas Cook's interest in the firm and the business became known as T. W. Cochran and Company. T.W. Cochran died in 1910 and his son-in-law, Arthur H. Potts became a partner in the company. As various sons and sons-in-laws joined and left the business over the years, the name changed several more times until 1917 when it became Cochran, Blair & Potts Department Store.
In 1929 the store became under the management of J. S. Blair, H.T. Cochran, A.H. Potts, H.E. Blair, and Roy Campbell Potts. The corporation was dissolved in 1938 and the business became a partnership owned by members of the Cochran, Blair, and Potts families. In 1970, the firm became solely owned by Roy and Jean Potts; descendants of Roy Campbell Potts. It is now co-owned and managed by their son, Rob Roy Potts Sr. (sixth generation) and his son Robert Roy Potts Jr. (seventh generation).