MENTONE, TEXAS. Mentone, county seat of Loving County, is on State Highway 302 twenty-five miles southwest of Kermit and twenty-five miles north of Pecos in southwestern Loving County. It was laid out by James J. Wheat, Sr.,qv and Bladen Ramsey, oil prospectors, in 1925, after they discovered oil nearby. They first called the town Ramsey but changed its name to Mentone when the postal service rejected the name. The site remained unsettled until 1931, when a post office was authorized.
Although Mentone was named the county seat when the county was reorganized in 1931, and although it is the only town in the county, two earlier settlements contributed to it. 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.qv 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. The 1990 United States census reported a population of fifty in Mentone, which remains the county seat of the least populous county in the United States. The population dropped to fifteen in 2000.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Robert W. Dunn, The History of Loving County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1948; condensed in West Texas Historical Association Year Book, 1948). Robert L. Phifer, Petroleum Review: Reeves, Loving and Culberson Counties, Texas (Houston: Phifer Petroleum Publications, 1958). San Angelo Morning Times, October 27, 1933.
Julia CaubJulia Cauble Smith