The healing touch


Courtesy Cochran County Historical Commission

County Memorial Hospital, Morton, Texas, 1948

Cheyenne Barnes, Tribe reporter

In March 1945, a group of citizens concerned about the lack of a medical facility in Cochran County met and formed the “West Plains Health Association”. Shortly after they held a membership drive, selling shares of stock at $50.00 each to citizens in Cochran County. The group sold 613 shares and were able to become a co-operative.

Construction of an eighteen-bed facility, with space for two physicians, began April 1946 in the 200 block of East Grant. Glenn Thompson, chairman of the West Plains Health Co-operative, along with Herman Abbe, who would become the first President of the Board of the new hospital, worked long and hard to get the hospital built. Thompson and Abbe drove all over Texas, at their expense, hunting for the first physician for the hospital. They found Dr. Wendell Dove in El Paso and convinced him to come to Morton.

The facility was completed and set to officially open on August 7, 1947 under the name West Plains Hospital and Clinic; however, the first patients, were admitted on August 2, 1947.

Berta Abbe, the first woman to give birth in the new facility, recounted her experience in 1985:

“I told Dr. Dove that I wanted to have the first baby born in the new hospital. He told me there were three women ahead of me, they were already admitted. I quoted him Matthew 19:30 ‘the last shall be first and first shall be last”, and sure enough at 6:00 p.m. on August 2, 1947, Mayland Lynn Abbe was born. He was the first baby born in a hospital in Cochran County. We brought our own bassinet for Mayland to be placed in. The other babies were put into dresser drawers as the new furniture had not arrived yet. My brother-in-law, Charles Abbe, had to drive to Amherst to borrow the equipment for Dr. Dove to be able to deliver the four babies.”

At the time the hospital opened, the dietary department, pharmacy, medical records, central supply and morgue were all operated in the basement.

The West Plains Health Co-operative operated the hospital for four and half years before selling the whole facility to Cochran County. Each shareholder was returned their $50.00 plus a dividend of $7.00 per share. The county began operation of the facility in February 1952 and the name was shortened to West Plains Hospital. The county leased the facility to physicians for $1.00 a year.

1967 a contract was let to build an additional eighteen beds, a new nursery, nurses station, dietary department, and staff dining room, as well as a new heating and cooling system and the Cochran County Hospital District was formed by the State of Texas. The new expansion was completed in the fall of 1968 and the hospital began operation under the name Cochran Memorial Hospital, which it is still known as today.

The original facility built in 1947, along with the 1968 addition are still in use today. The present-day facility is licensed for eighteen beds, which, along with the pharmacy (formerly the nursery), nurses station, nurses lounge, staff dining and dietary department, are located in the 1968 addition. The original facility houses the laboratory, radiology department, Morton Rural Health Clinic, emergency room (formerly the operating room) and business offices.


Source: Cochran County Historical Commission