What’s in a name?


Courtesy Cochran County Historical Commission

The Slaughter Boys L-R: E. Dick Slaughter, Alex Slaughter, George Slaughter, C. C. Slaughter, Jr. & Bob Slaughter the founders of Ligon.

Blayne DeBusk, Tribe reporter

In 1921, two years after the death of prominent cattleman Christopher C. Slaughter, Slaughter’s heirs dissolved his cattle company and divided his Cochran County land among the stockholders. Slaughter’s oldest daughter, Minnie Slaughter Veal, almost immediately began to colonize her part of the land. By the end of 1921, some land had been sold for farming by her selling agent, Morton J. Smith, who founded and named the town of Morton. Smith selected his town site in 1922 and showed it to prospective buyers who came to see the farmland. In June 1923 Smith and Lee Secrest staked out the actual town site, and Smith built a small land office, which could still be seen in the 1980s on the east side of the public square. On May 6, 1924, Morton won the position of the county seat by seventy-nine to twenty votes, defeating Ligon, a town the Slaughters founded and supported as county seat.

Courtesy Cochran County Historical Commission
Morton J. Smith, founder of Morton.

In the middle of the 1920s, a number of settlers moved to Morton because of the division of ranches into farmland. Among them the Winder family, a family so large that it doubled the population of the settlement. The general store in the town later served as the post office, and Mrs. Mary Winder served as its first postmistress from 1924 to 1943. The first structure used as a church in Morton, called the Mule Barn because of its dirt floor and tow-sack curtains, was built in 1928 and used by various denominations. In 1933, Morton was incorporated and a city government was established. Henry Cox served as the first mayor. In 1941, with the Civilian Conservation Corps camp that moved from Littlefield to Morton. 175 young men, mostly Texans, worked against wind and water erosion by building fences, planting trees, and developing farm and pasture lands. The most famous resident of Morton was Lt. Col. George Andrew Davis, Jr. A World War II fighter pilot and ace who was killed in the Korean War.

Despite the fact that the South Plains and Santa Fe Railway and major highways bypassed Morton, the town has remained the county seat. Farms in the area surrounding Morton produce cotton, cattle, and grains, mainly for feed. The town serves as a banking and supply center for these farms. Its industrial activities include meat packing and gas and sulfur refining. In 1980 Morton had 2,674 residents. In 1990 it had 2,597. The population was 2,249 in 2000.

For more Morton history visit https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgm08