Texas' Last Frontier Museum

Life in the rural Texas Panhandle involved many daily manual chores before the arrival of electricity, as this diorama from the Texas' Last Frontier Museum in Morton illustrates.
Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour

THE 52-COUNTY TEXAS PLAINS TRAIL is the largest of the ten Heritage Trails Regions of Texas, an award-winning heritage tourism initiative of the Texas Historical Commission. We help you discover the real places that tell the real stories of Texas--places you'll want to explore on vacations, road trips, hikes, weekend excursions with your family and friends.
Morton TX
Check out J Coffman's YouTube video
of Morton's streetscape (and hey, did you
spot the two Texas Plains Trail blue signs
as the camera rolls along?)

We invite you to join us throughout 2015 for our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour--every Wednesday online, and in person whenever you're ready to hit the road! Follow along with a different county each week, from Armstrong to Yoakum. Visit us at TexasPlainsTrail.com to plan your adventure by city, site, theme, or event. Watch your e-mail newsletter weekly for fun facts, games, prizes, and travel ideas.

Download our THC regional travel guide here (pdf). And we'll see you along the trail!  
Cochran County TX Quanah Parker Trail arrow
Cochran County citizens and friends gather for installation of Quanah Parker Trail giant arrow marker, March 2013
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Cochran County

Cochran County, TX 
Click to download a map of the Texas Plains Trail Region (pdf) 

TEXAS' LAST FRONTIER  Cochran County, in the far West Texas panhandle adjoining the Texas-New Mexico border, earned this nickname due to the fact that the county, named for a hero of the Battle of the Alamo, Robert Cochran, was the last county in Texas to be officially organized (in 1924). Lying in the arid sandhills of the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains), Cochran County and the surrounding area remained sparsely settled and largely uninhabited until the 1930s. The history of Cochran County is, however, inextricably linked to the surrounding counties, the Llano Estacado region as a whole in the vast West Texas panhandle, and to far eastern New Mexico counties bordering the Texas-New Mexico border through the historical trails and trade routes traced by the earliest Native American inhabitants, Spanish explorers, buffalo hunters, the U.S. Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, as well as the wagon trails over which the early settlers and their families traveled to a land that offered them both great hardship and great opportunities.

Buffalo Soldiers reenactment, Morton, TX
Buffalo Soldiers reenactment, Morton, 2011 (from KCBD news)

Texas Historical Commission HISTORICAL MARKERS AND SITES   The Texas Historical Commission's online Texas Historical Sites Atlas  guides you to locations and information on museums, cemeteries, military sites, historical markers, national register properties, and more--including  20 listings in Cochran County.
Click and explore for history on your desktop! 
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Founded  1924   County seat  Morton
Population  3,127
Communities   Bledsoe   Morton   Whiteface
Mascsots  Morton Indians and Maidens; Whiteface Antelopes

Texas' Last Frontier Musuem 
Texas' Last Frontier Musuem, Morton
In 2006 the Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum in Morton was officially designated as the headquarters of the Trails of the Last Frontier segment of the statewide Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Trail. (Thanks to author Dr. Lu Ann Aday of the Cochran County Historical Commission  for this information and other background for this newsletter.)

Texas' Last Frontier Museum 
Life on the frontier wasn't all about the ranchers and the soldiers. Ladies' hats in the Texas' Last Frontier Museum tell the story of Cochran County's more prosperous eras.

Start your Cochran County visit at the Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum in Morton, housed in a 1957 Masonic Temple rehabilitated in 2003 by the county. This jewel of a museum has a series of engaging displays chronicling the history of the region as well as vividly documenting the development of the major ranches and other key community institutions (schools, churches, local businesses, the county hospital, and county and city governments). Other special exhibits include the important, but often unacknowledged, contributions of people of color to building and sustaining the life of the community, a large and growing collection of oral history interviews with early and long-time residents, and an engaging archive of photos as well as books and prints documenting early life and times in West Texas.


Pick up a brochure at the museum or access the link for a geocaching tour of the Buffalo Soldier Expedition of 1877. In the blistering hot and dry summer of July of that year, while in pursuit of a Comanche raiding party in the sandhills of western Cochran County and eastern New Mexico, Company A of the 10th U.S. cavalry unit of Buffalo Soldiers under the command of Capt. Nicholas Nolan became lost and were without water for eighty-six hours. A fascinating geocaching tour traces the route taken in 1877 by the soldiers and their buffalo hunter companions.

A Texas historical marker, standing sentinel on the dry Llano Estacado alongside four gravestones, tells the fate of the Buffalo Soldier Expedition of 1877. (photo by Lu Ann Aday) 


Just down the street south of the museum is Cochran County's Texas Plains Trail Quanah Parker arrow marker honoring Chief Quanah and his role in brokering the safe and peaceful return of the party of the Comanches being sought by Capt. Nolan and the Buffalo Soldiers to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. 


Minnie Veal School, Cochran County, TX
Dorothy Barker of the Cochran County Historical Commission at the Minnie Veal School building

Next to the giant arrow is one of the first school buildings in Cochran County, the Minnie Veal School, named for the eldest daughter of the largest rancher in Cochran County and erected in 1922 about two miles northeast of Morton, and which later served to house Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum prior to it being moved to its present location.


Drive about half a mile north of Morton on SH 214 to visit the historic Morton Memorial Cemetery.At the front of the cemetery view the state historical marker acknowledging the Buffalo Soldier Expedition of 1877, as well as the four memorial markers honoring the four soldiers who perished in that tragic expedition. Toward the back of the cemetery, in a quiet location looking out over the sandhills west of Morton, take time to visit the beautiful stone memorial to the Native Americans who first inhabited this remote region of Texas.


From the cemetery, return to SH 214 drive and south to SH 125. Take SH 125 west to the historic railroad town of Bledsoe, at one time reportedly the largest cattle shipping point on the Santa Fe Railroad line. Or take SH 125 east to the town of Whiteface, a historically important cattle shipping and now oil-producing hub in Cochran County. Plan to visit the Whiteface Historical Museum, housed in the former Whiteface Hotel, built in 1926 to accommodate prospective farm buyers in the area.


If time permits, plan to drive by the headquarters of the Slaughter Ranch, just south of Morton off of SH 214, and/or the "Old Surratt Territory" Ranch, about 20 miles south of Morton, 2 miles west of SH 214 on FM 1585. Both prominent Cochran County ranches have been honored with Texas Historical Commission markers. 



For a great opportunity to step back into the early life and times on Texas' far western frontier, plan to attend the annual Texas' Last Frontier Celebration in Morton, June 26-28, 2015. Check the museum's Facebook page closer to the event for details.
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  Cochran County card
Our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Deck of Cards is a sweet deal to help plan your trip. Pre-order yours now--each face summarizes a different county's travel highlights. $5.95 per deck (plus tax & shipping), in custom tuck box. Keep a deck in the glove compartment. Or use them in your favorite game of Texas Hold 'Em or Fifty-Two-Card Pickup!

Retailers and Texas Plains Trail partners, please contact us at 806.747.1997 or info@TexasPlainsTrail.com for bulk sales and shipping.

Flat 52 Car Cutout As you travel the 52 counties of the Texas Plains Trail Region, take our Plains Trail kids and dog along with you -- in our #C52NTX 1952 DeSoto Ragtop (pdf). Download and print the graphic on heavy paper on your own color printer. Cut along the dashed line. Then glue a stir stick or popsicle stick to the back -- and feature it in your photos of destinations all around the region. Along the way, share your pix to www.Facebook.com/TexasPlainsTrail
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TX Highway 52 "52" TRIVIA TIME

Fifty-two as a mathematical number: 52 is the 6th Bell number and a decagonal number. It is an untouchable number, since it is never the sum of proper divisors of any number, and it is a noncototient since it is never the answer to the equation x - φ(x). (From Wikipedia)  

Cochran County license tag
Like us on Facebook for regular event and travel updates. "See 52 in Texas" and discover great destinations by following our #C52NTX hashtag on Twitter, and statewide travel info on #TexasToDo. For driving and weather conditions, visit www.DriveTexas.org. And please with your Texas traveling friends!
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Texas Time Travel posters
It's quiz time! We've got great prizes to share.

To win a full set of these attractive 24 x 30 Texas Heritage Trails posters, suitable for framing, be the first to email us with the correct identification of this place, located in next week's featured county.

In next week's county, Bonnie and Clyde took the plunge in 1933. Name the county and the location in which this episode took place, to win a set of posters!

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Partners, do take this opportunity to review your community, site, and event information on our Texas Plains Trail website as well as your own sites. We'll want to add your photos, update any obsolete contact info, add your events, and enhance your text content before your week comes up.  Consult the Texas Fifty-Two-Step schedule (pdf), and email with me with updates or questions.

Did you know you can add your own events to the TexasTimeTravel.com website? You'll need event name, date and time, location and address, and contact info -- and for best results, a photo. Post your festivals and heritage events now!

Like those Texas Fifty-Two-Step county license plate graphics? They are available free to partners for promotional use. Click and scroll down to select, then download your desired images. Please credit Texas Plains Trail/Tomato Graphics.

Our campaign has been designed by a team of creative minds. Our thanks go to Rock Langston of Tomato Graphics, Amarillo, for the design of campaign components and to Stephanie Price of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, for the #C52NTX concept. Barbara Brannon is responsible for copywriting and the weekly newsletter. Photo credits: 1952 blue Chevy Styleline, Hemmings Motor News; 1952 red DeSoto, Daniel Schmitt & Co.; 1952 blue Chevy rear 3/4 view, Walt Pinkston.

Be watching for an announcement about our May 2, 2015 (5/2, get it?) tourism event to kick off National Travel & Tourism Week, focusing on the value of tourism to our nation, state, and region.

Every week's issue is archived on our website. Click here and scroll to search and download your county!
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Texas Plains Trail Region | 806.747.1997 | E-mail | Website
Barbara A. Brannon, Executive Director

Copyright 2015 Texas Plains Trail Region. All Rights Reserved.