Church

Mentone

Mentone Community Church

As the only town in Loving County, Mentone has been dubbed the Smallest County Seat in Texas.  The Community Church (above) is one of only five to six non-residential buildings in the town.  The church was moved to Mentone in 1930 after the Pecos River flooded nearby Porterville destroying the town.  This is the oldest building in Loving County.

James J. Wheat, St. (1871-1931) came to Loving County from Ward County in 1919 or 1829 after three crop failures and a stint as an irrigation project promoter in Grandfalls, TX.  Upon arrival he recognized the possibilities for oil production in the unexplored county bought several hundred acres of land as well as leasing mineral rights from local landowners for division into small drilling tracts.  He organized the Wheat Guarantee Company, selling shares to the public for $40 each in an effort to raise enough money to drill test wells.  With partner Bladen Ramsey, Wheat organized the Toyah-Bell Oil Company and leased acreage on the Russell ranch one mile east of the site of Mentone in southwestern Loving County.  Toyah-Bell, later renamed Ramsey Production Company, drilled two wildcats. Both wells were productive. Although the wells were plagued with problems, they attracted the attention of larger oil exploration companies. Wheat and Ramsey sold their interests in the wildcats to Hadlock Oil Company and Lockhart and Company, which developed Wheat field. J. J. Wheat’s discovery led to a long-producing field which yielded nearly 22,000,000 barrels of oil by 1989.

The town of Ramsey was laid out by Wheat and Ramsey in 1925, after they discovered oil nearby. The name was later changed to Mentone when the postal service rejected the name. The site remained unsettled until 1931, when a post office was authorized.  The actual town was preceded by two earlier settlements.  The first community, named Mentone by a French surveyor from Menton, France, was established in 1893 by a group of men who came to Loving County and formed the Loving Canal and Irrigation Company.  They organized Loving County, made their Mentone the county seat, and received a post office. Three years later they abandoned the town.  The post office closed, and the county was declared unorganized.  The second town was founded in 1905, when E. L. Stratton, head of the Stratton Land Company of Chicago, led a group of settlers to Loving County.  They called the town Juanita and later renamed it Porterville.  After the present Mentone was founded two miles to the northeast, most of the residents of Porterville moved to the new site.

The first business in Mentone was the Loving County Lumber Company, founded in 1930. In the spring of 1931 the county schoolhouse was moved from Porterville to Mentone, where it was replaced in 1935 by a brick building. By July 1931 Mentone had five cafes, five gasoline stations, two hotels, two drugstores, two recreation halls, two barbershops, a dance hall, a machine shop, and a dry cleaner. From March 1932 to September 1935 a weekly newspaper, the Mentone Monitor, was published. By October 27, 1933, Mentone reported a population of 600.

By the 1940s the population of Mentone had dropped to 150; only three businesses operated there in 1946. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the reported population remained at 110, and the number of businesses continued to decline. From 1972 until 1984 no business was open in Mentone. At the end of the 1980s about 100 people, employees of the county and of oil service companies, lived in Mentone, which had two businesses.

Mentone is on State Highway 302 twenty-five miles southwest of Kermit and twenty-five miles north of Pecos in southwestern Loving County.

REFERENCES:  Julia Cauble Smith, “MENTONE, TX,” Handbook of Texas online  (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnm33), accessed February 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Julia Cauble Smith, “WHEAT, JAMES JACKSON, SR.,” Handbook of Texas online  (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnm33), accessed February 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Enochs

Church - Enochs, TX

There’s not much left to see in Enochs, TX these days except the remains of a post office, store, cotton gins, and this pretty little church.  Buildings abandoned in the Texas Panhandle either get ravaged by storms or just quietly fall apart and Enochs has some of both.  I was particularly attracted to the church by its simple lines, unadorned facade, and pueblo-styled steeple.  Its setting in the middle of a field, a half-mile off the highway only accentuated its forlorn condition.  Enochs developed as a trading center for the surrounding farms and ranches beginning in the 1920s and reached a peak reported population of 250 in 1940, when it had five stores.  In the 1980 and 1990 censuses its population was estimated at 164, and the town had several businesses and a post office.  Enochs can be found at the junction of State Highway 214 and Farm Road 54, three miles from the Cochran County line in southern Bailey County.

REFERENCE:  “ENOCHS, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hle23), accessed December 15, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Maple

Maple Methodist Church

Maple, named for Maple Wilson, an early settler, is on Farm Road 596 in southern Bailey County.  This is almost a “blink and you miss it town”, for not much exists there anymore.  It was established after local ranches were subdivided for farms its post office opened in 1926. In 1940 Maple had six businesses, a school, and 600 residents.

Bailey County is a part of the Southern High Plains and has an altitude of 3,800 to 4,400 feet above mean sea level.  The county was marked off from Bexar County in 1876 and named for Peter J. Bailey, an Alamo hero.  Settlement of Bailey County did not come early, since the XIT Ranch held most of its land from 1882 until the division and sale of the ranch in 1901.  Bailey County land fell within the Spring Lake, Yellow House, and Bovina divisions of the XIT.

A severe drought in 1910 drove away many of these early settlers, but others moved in to take their places, particularly after the Santa Fe Railroad extended its tracks through the county in 1913. Hoping to establish a taxing authority that could provide schools and roads for the area, residents decided to organize the county. They raised $1,500 to send delegates to Austin to lobby for a revision of the minimum county-voter requirement to seventy-five. Despite the opposition of ranchmen who feared that organization would bring taxation, the delegates succeeded.

During the 1920s and 1930s new conditions helped to transform the county’s economy from ranching to farming.  Ground water was discovered at depths of twenty to forty feet, and large ranches were broken up and sold as farm tracts.  While many of the new farmers grew wheat, corn, and forage crops, a rapid expansion of cotton farming was responsible for much of the development of the county during these years.  It has been said that Bailey County “is one of the few areas in the United States that can produce varying crops such as cotton, wheat, corn, grain, sorghum, soybeans, castor beans, hay, peanuts, cabbage, lettuce, peas, and beans.” About 40 percent of agricultural receipts derive from livestock. Manufacturing income in 1980 was almost $2 million, from farm tools.

REFERENCE:  “MAPLE, TX (BAILEY COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlm25), accessed December 11, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; and William R. Hunt and John Leffler, “BAILEY COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online, (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcb01), accessed December 11, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Katemcy

Katemcy Church

Located near Katemcy Creek off  U.S. Hwy. 87 about halfway between Brady and Mason, the community of Katemcy (and the creek) was named after a Comanche chief named Ketemoczy who signed a treaty with John O. Meusebach in 1847 near the town’s current location.  Meusebach was the founder of Fredericksburg and notable for his success in making peace with the Comanches.

Lured by cheap land and plentiful water, settlers arrived and built a community along the creek.  By the early 1800s, the town was well established and included a sawmill, gristmill, and cotton gin built by brothers John, Elias, and Alfred Cowan, the latter of whom ran the general store and served as the town’s first postmaster.  The church pictured above was either the Friendship Baptist Church or the Methodist Church (confirmation needed).  At its peak in the early 1920s, Katemcy was an active community on the San Antonio-San Angelo highway.  Its population of nearly 150 was supported by two blacksmith shops, two general stores, two doctors, three churches, and a school with three teachers.

Largely an agricultural community, Katemcy began to decline in 1925 due in part to two economic impacts.  The increased use of tractors on Central Texas farms enabled the farming of larger tracts of land and resulted in higher yields per acre.  This led to decreased reliance on small-acreage tenant farmers.  Additionally, as consolidated school districts were created, small-town schools became less necessary and were ultimately closed.

Read more about Katemcy in The Texas Handbook Online and at TexasEscapes.com.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kathryn Burford Eilers, A History of Mason County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939). Mason County Historical Book (Mason, Texas: Mason County Historical Commission, 1976). Mason County News, June 19, 1958. Stella Gipson Polk, Mason and Mason County: A History (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966; rev. ed., Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1980).