‘This is a pretty good place to spend some time,” James Sudderth says softly.
He got into the feed business in 1961.
“A fellow had come over from Paris and put in a feed business here. His name was Harris, I believe. He wasn’t here but about six or eight months until he was homesick and wanted to go home to Paris. I came along one day to buy some feed and saw the situation and just bought him out.”
Sudderth was running a dairy farm then. He hired John McKenzie to keep shop for him. McKenzie retired about 15 years ago and Sudderth took over the day-to-day business of running the store by the railroad tracks.
‘‘The first few years I was here, it was nothing uncommon for an oldtimer to come in and say, ‘I just want to look around. I got off the train in 19 and so and so from Tennessee. Got off the train right here!”’
Sudderth smiles at the memory of voices.
Out-of-town oldtimers don’t stop by to talk anymore, he says.
Most of his visitors nowadays are neighborhood kids who come to sell pecans and farmers and ranchers seeking seed or feed.
In February, chicken customers come around.
“One of the businesses I enjoy the most is selling baby chicks,” Sudderth says, running his hand over an empty brooder.
The first of 4,000 baby chicks will begin arriving by mail on Febuary 4.
Their chirping choruses swell the building, he says, drawing would-be bird ranchers like the smell of freshly baked bread lures the hungry.
“Old people come in and hear those baby chickens cheeping and they’ve just got to have some. It reminds them of the farms they grew up on.”
Sudderth has heard that the days of the Depot Feed Store are numbered.
Union Pacific Railroad recently deeded the building to the Fannin County Historical Museum Society. The society plans to restore the depot and use it as a museum.
A 1916 La France firetruck is already parked in the depot’s weighing room, awaiting restoration.
Sudderth isn’t certain when the store must close. He says he will retire when the business closes.
“Oh goodness yes, I’ll miss this place,” he says, scratching an ear.
“I’ll miss talking to the people who come in.
“Well. . . I don’t know what I’ll do to keep busy. Course, I’ve still got plenty to do out at the farm. Forty cows. Six registered horses.”
The cow bell jangles as a visitor prepares to leave.
“This building may be old, but it’s sound,” Sudderth says, holding the door.
“Thick walls. Good concrete floors. Coolest place in town in the summer.
“It was good to be here, all right. Good to be here.”
Photography courtesy the Bonham Public Library.
The Texas and Pacific Railroad was built eastward to Bonham in 1873. A small wooden depot erected that year was replaced by this larger brick structure in 1900. Damaged by fire in 1918, the depot was rebuilt the following year and continued to serve customers until 1950. The structure's Romanesque revival style reflects 19th century architectural trends, while elements such as the knee-brace eave brackets reveal 20th century influences.
Location: 1 Main Street, Bonham
The following is from an undated newspaper story.
BONHAM — James Sudderth listens to the cool and the quiet of the room.
Once, he says, the depot roared with sound — the sizzle of fire in a pot-bellied stove, the shuffle and shouts of passengers boarding trains to towns like Dodd City, Paris, Fort Worth.
The chipped walls heard conductors chant, train whistles shriek, babies scream, folks cry their goodbyes softly and whoop out helloes.
Now and then a freight train tears by on tracks just outside the old Bonham Depot's walls. Sudderth’s store is in the 86-year-old depot’s main waiting room.
Open the door and a cow bell jangles loudly.
In between customers’ jangles and trains — and both are few and far between on a mid-January afternoon — the building is cool and quiet, comfortably muffled with time and dust and dozens of sacks of Evergreen feed.