At the height of activity at Fort Martin Scott, the post accommodated up to three hundred soldiers. Of the fort's twenty buildings, the sutler's store was among the most important to the soldiers. The sutler was a civilian merchant, licensed by the Army to sell goods at the fort.
With a limited stock of food supplies, a soldier's diet was often bland and boring. It consisted mainly of what the sutler could provide, or what the soldiers could grow in the fort's garden. The sutler typically stocked his store with such basics as ham, bacon, coffee, flower for bread or hardtack, salt, vinegar, molasses, tobacco, sugar, beans, eggs, and on rare occasions, fresh butter and beef, chicken or deer from local hunters.
The sutler's store served as a local gathering spot on an otherwise unexciting frontier post. Soldiers gathered on the sutler's front porch to trade gossip and spread rumors. Frequently, local Indians traded animal hides or bear grease for other goods. Bear grease was an important commodity as it was used for lamp oil, cooking, and greasing wagon wheels. The sutler also sold uniform items to soldiers, including boots, socks, trousers, shirts and hats.