A Brief History of Schools in Cochran County

At the beginning of the twentieth century Cochran County, while sparsely populated, lacked enough families to establish the foundations of a permanent society, such as schools and churches.
Once pastures began to be enclosed and ranchers employed more cowboys, families began to appear at the ranch headquarters and line camps scattered around the county and schools became a necessity.

Privately supported schools located on some of the ranches were the first schools in Cochran County, with the student body consisting largely of the rancher’s own children. The Bird, Surrat, Ellington, Westheimer-Daube ranches were among the earliest schools in Cochran County. The Bar-X-Bar Ranch, ten miles west of the current townsite of Morton, owned at the time by Will Bird, was home to the first school in the county and the students consisted of the two Bird children taught by Miss Margaret Collins, who was hired in 1905. Over at the Surrat Ranch, Mrs. Sam Bell, the foreman’s wife, taught school in 1918, the student body consisting of her own two children. The school on the Westheimer-Daube ranch was called The Shipman School due to the fact that ranch foreman, Lem Shipman’s son, Clint, was the only student. The Shipman School teacher (1923-1924) was Lessye Jones.

On April 5, 1921 the first official act of the Hockley County Commissioners Court was the creation of Common School District No. 3 in Cochran County. At that time the district consisted of only one labor of land in the general vicinity of present day Bledsoe. That same day Common School District No. 5 was also created and would later become the Whiteface-Lehman district.
Source: Texas' Last Frontier: A New History of Cochran County by Elvis E. Fleming and David J. Murrah, 2001

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Clint Shipman and Lessye Jones c. 1923
Photograph courtesy Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum