MART, TEXAS. Mart, once known as Willow Springs, is a small incorporated city eighteen miles east of Waco on State Highway 164 in the eastern corner of McLennan County. Settlement in the area began shortly after the Civil War. The community was known as Willow Springs in the 1870s, but the name was changed to Mart when a post office was granted in 1880. Residents chose this name because they expected the community to become an important commercial center. In the mid-1880s Mart had two steam gristmills and cotton gins, a church, two schools, and 150 residents; cotton and wheat were the principal cash crops grown in the area.
The International and Great Northern Railroad completed the section of track between Marlin and Waco shortly after 1900, bringing increased job opportunities to Mart and making outside markets more accessible.
Though the State Bank merged with First National in 1931, the transition went smoothly, and patrons experienced no interruption in service. Economic hardship made itself felt instead through the decision of the railroad company to discontinue its passenger service through Mart and leave only limited freight operations. Many residents left to find jobs in larger cities. The number of residents in Mart fell from a high of 3,800 in 1929 to 2,853 in the early 1930s.
The Missouri Pacific acquired a shorter Waco-to-Marlin route
from the Southern Pacific in the late 1960s and completely abandoned
its tracks through Mart, depriving the community of its remaining
rail service and removing a sizeable payroll from the local economy.
The Mart population dipped to 2,031 in the late 1970s but was
2,324 in 1982. It was 2,004 in 1990.
Text from the Handbook of Texas Online