NOCONA, Texas (AP) - H.J. Justin traveled from Gainesville to Spanish Fort in the northern part of Montague County in 1879, having honed his craft of boot making before providing a serve to drovers pushing cattle northward along the Chisholm Trail.
The Wichita Falls Times Record News (https://bit.ly/2jf1bxK ) reports cowpokes would stop off at the last station before crossing the Red River to get measured and fitted for a new pair of hand-crafted Justin boots that they would pick up after the drive was complete.
The railroad slowly sapped that life out of cattle drives, forcing Justin to look elsewhere to set up shop and continue Justin Boot Company. Nocona became the new location of his boot-making venture when he moved his operations and his family to the small North Texas town in 1889.
From that time on, the name Justin and leather goods became synonymous with the town.
Almost 130 years later, the town is working to save the building where the original Justin Boot Company was housed, and later Justin Leather Goods.
“It (the building) was donated to the city about five years ago,” said local businessman and City Councilor Bob Ferguson. “At that point, we were trying to raise through donations just to do something, and we’ve spent a lot of time in committees, with architects and designing stuff, but we really didn’t raise enough money to do what we wanted to do.
“We just received a $500,000 grant.”
The city learned in November that it would receive a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture to help with costs to turn the original building located at 100 Clay St. into a community activity center and farmers market.
Dan Fenoglio, a general contractor in Nocona who has been a big part of the town’s downtown revival, said the first order of business for the old structure was to replace the roof and prevent further damage from the elements.
“We went into the old building to try to save it,” he said. “We had engineers come look at it. What happened was the old roof had leaked for so long that the concrete deck on top of it, water would stand on top of it and then it would freeze. The top of the cement would just break off and it was in such bad shape and they told us it wasn’t structurally sound.”
Armored Roofing in Wichita Falls completed the roof work for the project.
The goal is to keep as much of an original look to the building as possible, including the new addition on the south end of the block that would serve as the farmers market area. A timeline for completion of the project has not been set as of yet.
Those involved with the project hope the revived building will become the focus of a variety of events for the town and welcoming structure for visitors. The facility will have an open air concept for part of it as well a large open meeting area. It will also have public-access restrooms.
H.J. Justin set up shop on the east side of Clay Street in Nocona when he moved in 1889 to take advantage of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad that was bypassing Spanish Fort. At one point, he moved into the building that is now known as the Justin Building.
Business was booming in the early 1900s, Ferguson said, and the elder Justin made his oldest sons, Earl and John, full partners in the family business. H.J. died in 1918 and the brothers took over the boot making operation. In the 1920s, the factory was moved across the street and Justin Leather Goods replaced the boot company in the original location.
The brothers were enticed by the big city and potential for more business and workers and moved to Fort Worth in 1925. The leather goods operation would remain until the 1950s.
Information from: Wichita Falls Times Record News, https://www.timesrecordnews.com
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