Robert Lee, TX

By: Rachel Jenkins

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 3, 2022

Robert Lee, the county seat of Coke County, is at the junction of State highways 158 and 208 and the confluence of Mountain Creek and the Colorado River, thirty-one miles north of San Angelo in the central part of the county. It was founded by R. E. Cartledge and his father-in-law, L. B. Harris, who owned land at the site, and was named for Robert E. Lee. Cartledge and Harris pushed to move the county seat from nearby Hayrick to Robert Lee, arguing that Hayrick lacked an adequate water supply and was too far from the center of the county. Though at the time Hayrick was much more developed than its neighbor, in 1891 Robert Lee won the county seat election, and most of the Hayrick population moved immediately to Robert Lee. In the same year the post office opened, and by 1892 Robert Lee had a population of 570 and twenty businesses, including a bank and a weekly newspaper , the Coke County Rustler (later the Robert Lee Observer). A rock courthouse was built in 1891 and replaced in 1956. The town was incorporated in 1929.

From its founding until the early 1950s Robert Lee fluctuated in population between 500 and 700. Between 1952 and 1988 the population was over 1,000; it attained a new high of 1,391 in 1988. In 1990 it was 1,276. The population was 1,171 in 2000. Rattlesnake roundups have been popular events, but the town's importance has rested on its role as the commercial and legal center of the county. Schools, hospitals, and more than twenty businesses provide services, and Robert Lee is the region's oilfield supply center. A major recreational center for the area was the E. V. Spence Reservoir (formerly the Robert Lee Reservoir), two miles west of town, which was completed in 1970.

Jewell G. Pritchett, From the Top of Old Hayrick: A Narrative History of Coke County (Abilene, Texas: Pritchett, 1980). San Angelo Standard Times, February 25, 1980. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Coke County).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Rachel Jenkins, “Robert Lee, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 3, 2022

Robert Lee
Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: Yes
  • Is Incorporated: Yes
Belongs to
  • Coke County
  • Latitude: 31.89540430°
  • Longitude: -100.48563000°
Population Counts
People Year
582 1900
582 1920
490 1930
662 1940
1,070 1950
975 1960
1,119 1970
1,202 1980
1,276 1990
1,171 2000
1,049 2010
1,073 2019