Long-time Morton resident recalls historical highlights - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Long-time Morton resident recalls historical highlights

June Kennedy (Source: Ashlyn Tubbs) June Kennedy (Source: Ashlyn Tubbs)
Slaughter Ranch (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum) Slaughter Ranch (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum)
Kennedy's parents (Source: Kennedy) Kennedy's parents (Source: Kennedy)
The Busy Bee Tavern (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum) The Busy Bee Tavern (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum)
Morton J. Smith (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum) Morton J. Smith (Source: Texas' Last Frontier Historical Museum)

The town of Morton use to be land mainly used for Christopher Slaughter's cattle company.

But two years after Slaughter's death in 1921, one of his daughters employed a selling agent named Morton J. Smith, who had other plans for the area.

June Kennedy, a lifelong Morton resident, remembers the story well.

“As far as I know at this point, I'm the oldest person living in this county that was born here,” Kennedy said.

In 1923, before her time, Kennedy said her family set out on a trip to the West Coast.

"It wound up four cars leaving halfway between Blanket, Texas and Carrollton, Texas, where they all lived,” Kennedy said.

But somehow, this group missed the road to Muleshoe.

"Then all of a sudden, they rolled up into a little place that they didn't know where they were and there was just two or three little shacks,” Kennedy said. “Well then, a nice bow-legged cowboy came up and crossed the street and had said, ‘My name is Morton J. Smith, and I'm the representative from the Slaughter Ranch and we’re selling the ranch. You guys need to think about coming out here to live.’”

Kennedy’s father was tempted like the other farmers buying the Slaughter's land.

"Daddy said, ‘Just put my name on that, I may have to take it off,’" Kennedy said.

Around that same time, Smith fought for Morton to become the Cochran County seat and won in 1924.  

"When they came back, my mother and daddy left the crew up at Muleshoe,” Kennedy said, “drove back to Morton, and he signed on the dotted line that he'd take that farm.”

Kennedy’s mother told her she began to cry.

"[She] said, "I don't want to live here, I knew I didn't all the time and I just can't say I'm going to stay,’" Kennedy said. “There’s no trees and no water.”

However, in 1925, other citizens helped her have a change of heart. 

"They helped each other with farming and helped each other with growing/canning, and you know, anything they needed,” Kennedy said. “They worked together and they became bonded friends.”

Then, in 1929, June was born into this agriculture community.

"My Lord, they milked cows in the morning and at night,” Kennedy said. “My mother, of course, she was responsible for the chickens. That was her way of saving her tides for the church through the eggs because we didn't have anything.”

But the hard chores were worth it to Kennedy when they took weekend trips to town.

"We'd bring our eggs and cream and come in and sit at the courthouse square,” she said. “And another thing…the courthouse had indoor plumbing. All those bathrooms were in the bottom of the courthouse. Oh what fun to come to Morton!”

Morton continued to grow, and in 1935 it had 33 businesses and even a movie theater.

“We all went on Saturdays,” Kennedy said, “and you could buy hamburgers for a dime.”

From about 1938-1940, liquor and beer sales thrived in Morton at the Busy Bee Tavern. Kennedy said people would travel to Morton from Lubbock and other towns to drink.

"The day that the vote came and it was dry again, the booze was gone…we went to church on Sunday morning and the whole ground was covered with beer cans,” Kennedy said.

While Morton's growth has dwindled since the 1970's, Kennedy's role at the Texas’ Last Frontier Historical Museum is to show younger generations how far her hometown has come.

“We lived, and we survived,” Kennedy said. “Wow, what a life.”

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