- Mentone, Texas
Mentone — Unincorporated town — Coordinates: Coordinates: Country United States State Texas County Loving Elevation 2,684 ft (818 m) Population (2010) – Total 19 Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6) – Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5) ZIP codes 79754 Area code(s) 432 FIPS code GNIS feature ID
Mentone is an unincorporated area in Loving County, Texas, the least populous county in the United States. As the county's only community, it serves as the county seat and has a 2010 population of 19, almost one-fourth of the county's 82 people. It is the least populated county seat in the United States. Designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1967 as the "Smallest County Seat in Texas", Marker number 9461.
Mentone is located at Odessa.at an elevation of 2,684 feet (818 m). It is situated on State Highway 302, seventy-five miles west of
Named after Menton, France by a French surveyor, present-day Mentone is actually the second such named community in Loving County; an earlier Mentone was founded south of the current town in 1893, but was abandoned in 1905. A second town on that site was called Juanita and then Porterville, but was deserted anew when Mentone was reestablished in 1931, with most residents moving to the new town. The town on the current site was named Ramsey before being renamed. During its heyday, Mentone boasted five cafes, five gas stations, two hotels, two drugstores, two recreation halls, two barbershops, a dance hall, a machine shop and a dry cleaner. It also had its own newspaper, the Mentone Monitor, which published from 1932 to 1935. After reaching a high population mark of approximately 600 residents in the 1930s, the population has declined ever since, and in 2000 there were only 15 people, "more or less", according to National Geographic magazine (the total population of Loving County itself (as of 2010) is 82.)
Today, according to National Geographic, Mentone contains a courthouse, two stop signs, gas station, post office, school building (Mentone schools were closed in the 1970s and merged with nearby Wink schools, because enrollment had fallen to just two pupils), a cafe (known as the Boot Track Cafe), and little else. A volunteer fire department serves the town, but there are no hospitals or cemeteries, and no doctors or lawyers. The local cafe allows smoking, but does not accept credit cards. Until 1988, Mentone had no potable water of its own; local wells yielded water with a high mineral content that clogged pipes and killed grass. Drinking water was trucked in from Pecos, 23 miles (37 km) away, until recent improvements guaranteed the potability of Mentone's water.
Mentone's tiny church (the oldest building in Loving County) is visited every Saturday by a minister from a nearby town who holds interdenominational services there.
Mentone was the home of the first elected female sheriff in Texas, Edna Reed Clayton DeWees. DeWees was appointed to the job in January 1945, then won an election to continue in the office through 1947. She never carried a firearm, and reported only two arrests during her entire term. This is not unusual in Loving County; since the inception of the county, there have been fewer than 200 criminal cases filed in District Court. Later DeWees would return as county and district clerk, a job she held from 1965 to 1986. In Loving County, the posts of county clerk, probate clerk, and of district clerk are managed by the same official. DeWees died January 22, 2009, having survived her husbands George Clayton and Lawrence DeWees.
Alleged takeover attempt by the "Free Town Project"
In February 2006, Mentone became the focus of a New York Times article detailing an alleged attempt by libertarians Lawrence Pendarvis, Bobby Emory and Don Duncan to "take over" the town and Loving County. According to the article, Pendarvis and his associates, part of the Free Town Project, planned to buy parcels of land in the county, then move in enough of their supporters to outvote earlier residents and take control of local government.
According to a website for Mr. Pendarvis' movement, their objectives were to "remove oppressive Regulations...and stop enforcement of Laws prohibiting Victimless Acts among Consenting Adults, such as Dueling, Gambling, Incest, Price-Gouging, Cannibalism, and Drug Handling." Additionally, the group sought "to ensure that the Sheriff's Office or the Town Police are never allowed to waste valuable Town resources...to oppress our residents by the investigation or enforcement of violations of Laws that punish Truancy, Drug Trafficking, Prostitution, Obscenity, Organ Trafficking, BumFights, and other Victimless 'Crimes'."
Although Pendarvis, Emory and Duncan claimed to have legally bought 126 acres (0.51 km2) in Loving County in 2005, and registered to vote accordingly, the county sheriff, Billy Burt Hopper, determined that this land had been sold to a different buyer. Misdemeanor charges were filed against the three men, who had left the state by this time. Pendarvis claimed to have a cancelled check to prove his purchase of the land in question, but no deed was ever produced, and the original landowners denied having sold land to Pendarvis or his associates. The three were subsequently featured on a "wanted" poster issued by Sheriff Hopper and the local Texas Rangers (displayed at Hopper's office), and threatened with arrest should they return to Loving County.
Although Mr. Pendarvis' website remains operational, his project does not seem to be active at this time, due to lack of funding and participation.
Mentone is served by the Wink-Loving Independent School District. Loving County's school system was closed and consolidated into Wink's ISD in 1972 because the enrollment had fallen to two students. The abandoned school building's gymnasium is still occasionally used for local events.
- ^ Mentone at Texas Almanac
- ^ "Smallest County Seat in Texas - Mentone - Mentone, Loving County, Texas". William Nienke, Sam Morrow. http://www.9key.com/markers/marker_detail.asp?atlas_number=5301009461. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- ^ "End to Mentone's water woes may be near - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |". Kwes.com. 2010-06-30. http://www.kwes.com/global/story.asp?s=6216900. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- ^ http://www.austincc.edu/kseago/pcm/lovingcty.html
- ^ "The Free Town Project". The Free Town Project. http://freetownproject.com. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Mentone from MyWestTexas.com Brief but detailed report on life in Mentone and Loving County. Includes several videos of Mentone and interviews with the local sheriff and judge.
- National Geographic profile Includes a few photos of Mentone buildings and people.
- Loving County at Davickservices.com Numerous photos and stories about Mentone. One story gives details about the smoking & credit card policies of Mentone's cafe. A small picture of the "wanted" poster for Mssrs. Pendarvis, Emory and Duncan may also be seen here.
- Mentone, TX at texasescapes.com More photos of Mentone buildings.
- Odessa American Includes details on Edna Dewees, first elected female sheriff in Texas.
- Mentone, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- "1 Cafe, 1 Gas Station, 2 Roads: America's Emptiest County" - New York Times, February 25, 2006.
- The Free Town Project Website for Lawrence Pendarvis' "Free Town Project." Contains the material quoted above.
Municipalities and communities of Loving County, TexasCounty seat: Mentone Unincorporated
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