Located at the intersection of State Highway 125 and State Highway 214 in central Cochran County, Texas. The town was named in honor of Frank A. Lehman, general manager of the Santa Fe Railroad. It was originally called Ligon and was located approximately 4 miles north of the present site. Lehman is mostly gone today, but it played a major role in the early political intrigues of Texas’ Last Frontier.
In 1923, the first Ligon townsite was surveyed and mapped approximately 5.5 miles south of present-day Morton. Ligon was the first town in Cochran county. It had the county’s first service station, run by Hugh Knox. Bob Slaughter built a general store that was first operated by R.L. Crute, and then later by Alvin O’Pry. A wooden schoolhouse was built that had 12 students attending by 1924. Slaughters built a cotton gin, with Gage Knox and two cowboys operating it. A post office was established in Alvin O’Pry’s general store on January 21, 1924, and he became the town’s postmaster.
Ligon originated from a rivalry between the Slaughter family who owned vast ranch land in and around Cochran County and their land agent, Morton Smith, who founded the town of Morton. Each faction wanted its town to be the county seat. On March 17, 1923, an election was held, and Morton was declared the winner. But the Slaughters challenged the results and were upheld in court. On May 6, 1924, a second election was held and Morton was again declared the county seat.
When the South Plains and Santa Fe Railway was built across Cochran County in 1925, passing four miles south of Ligon, the town literally packed up and moved to the tracks, changing its name to Lehman. Residents Floyd Rowland, “Prof” Angley, and others helped move the town. John Henry Pierce promoted the new townsite. After the move, Alvin O’Pry retained his position as postmaster.
The Ligon school was moved to Lehman in the spring of 1925, and used for a year while a $30,000 brick school building was constructed. Later the wooden schoolhouse was used for community dances and other social affairs. The South Plains & Santa Fe Railway built a depot, agent’s and section foreman’s house, and section gang living quarters. The Lehman depot was a shipping and receiving point for cattle, and Mrs. W. E. Angley’s cafe was a favorite stop for the local cowboys. In 1936, the ranching community reported two businesses and ten residents, and by 1940 the population was estimated at 100. Several grain elevators were also built along the railroad tracks.
In 1945, the federal government bought the Slaughters’ Scrape-Out Ranch. Called the Lehman project, it was subdivided into farms and sold to twenty-nine veterans on forty-year loans. It was quite successful, for twenty-five of the loans were paid back in two years. In 1954, Tellepsen Petro-chem Constructors built the Lehman Gasoline Plant, Cochran County’s largest industrial operation not based on agriculture. As late as 1965, the plant operated in conjunction with a National Sulfur Company plant in Lehman. In 1976, the plant was shut down; subsequently, the site served as a compressor station for Cities Service Oil Corporation.
By 1982, the last year a population was reported, the number of Lehman residents had dwindled to fifteen. The railroad between Bledsoe and Whiteface was abandoned in late 1983. The Lehman depot was sold and eventually ended up in Levelland, where it now serves as a resident’s home. The steel grain elevators are still standing, though an older wooden-frame grain elevator has collapsed. There are a couple residences, but Lehman, for the most part, has all but disappeared. In 2000, the population was eight. In 2009, local officials estimated the population was six.
Sources: Cochran County Legacy: Texas Last Frontier 1924-1986 ( Morton, Texas: Last Frontier History Book Commission, 1986).
Elvis Eugene Fleming and David J. Murrah, Texas’ Last Frontier: A New History of Cochran County (Morton, Texas: Cochran County Historical Commission, 2001).