Driving into Lenorah, Texas, it’s hard to imagine that a town of over 1,000 used to reside in the barren desert landscape. The town that now has a scattered number of old houses, long-abandoned concrete lots, and mesquite trees. Now an unincorporated area within Martin County, the community now resembles many of the ghost towns that litter the West.
My uncle has always lived in the area, and I grew up visiting him in the tiny town. Even twenty years ago, all I remember seeing was a small office and a scattering of farms and houses. The stories he told were of a town that used to be as large as Stanton, a small town 14 miles to the south, with its own school building, a local grocery named Springer Bros, blacksmith’s shop, and cotton gin.
These days, the few children that still reside within the small town go to the Grady Independent School District. This school also serves the nearby community of Tarzan. There is a small gas station near the school that sells some staples. Otherwise, you drive to Midland to get supplies. Like most of West Texas, there are still several churches that operate within the community. The school building, the store, the blacksmith’s shop and the cotton gin are closed. This is due both to the poor economy and the multiple tornadoes that decimated the town during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
My father talked about his mother placing all six of the children under a mattress as a large tornado ripped through the town right after V-Day in Europe. In 1957, their tiny house was decimated when a category three ripped through the town. When he was in the army in 1965, another category three ripped through the town, causing damage that is still seen in the area today. Some of the locals say that the area never really came back after the last storm.
After the massive layoffs at the local cotton gin in the 1980s and early 90s, locals traveled to Midland or Big Spring to find work and many never returned. Looking online, the population ranges from a population of 250 to 70. The 2000 census had it recorded as 70, which seems more of a realistic number as you drive around the area.
The New Landscape
As you drive through Lenorah today, you will see a new phenomenon dotting the landscape — windmills. You’ll also still see abandoned oil derricks, miles of cotton and mesquite trees. Windmill farms can be seen from almost every direction. This new technology has brought a boost to some of the local landowners who rent out the land to the utility companies that run the turbines. This has generated extra income for some of the local inhabitants but has cluttered up the view for others.
For a region that grew when the old oil company and cotton gin resided in town, the new wind power technology could help revitalize the region.