Loving County, Texas

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Loving County, Texas
Mentone Courthouse.JPG
Map of Texas highlighting Loving County
Location in the state of Texas
Map of the United States highlighting Texas
Texas's location in the U.S.
Founded 1931
Named for Oliver Loving
Seat Mentone
Largest community Mentone
 • Total 677 sq mi (1,753 km2)
 • Land 669 sq mi (1,733 km2)
 • Water 7.8 sq mi (20 km2), 1.1%
 • (2010) 82
 • Density 0.1/sq mi (0/km²)
Congressional district 23rd
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Website www.lovingcountytexas.us

Loving County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 82,[1] making it the least populous county in the United States. Owing partly to its small and dispersed population, it also has the highest median per capita and household income of any county in Texas.[2][3] Loving County has no incorporated communities; its county seat and only community is Mentone.[4] The county was originally created in 1887, although after being disorganized, it was finally reorganized in 1931.[5]

Part of the Haley Ranch, founded by the father of Texas historian J. Evetts Haley, is in Loving County, with another portion in neighboring Winkler County.


Exploration and incorporation[edit]

Prehistorically, the area had many springs with potable water that supported wildlife and nomadic hunters. Antonio de Espejo visited the area in 1583 and crossed the Pecos River. Having surveyed the area in 1854 for a railroad company, John Pope returned in 1855 to start a camp in northwestern Loving County and establish artesian wells in the area, but the venture was unsuccessful and was abandoned in 1861.

From 1837 to 1874, the area of modern Loving County was part of the Bexar land district. In 1874 it was separated from Bexar County, becoming a part of Tom Green County.

Loving County is named for Oliver Loving,[6] a cattle rancher and pioneer of the cattle drive who, along with Charles Goodnight, developed the Goodnight-Loving Trail. He was mortally wounded by Comanches while on a cattle drive in 1867 in the vicinity of the county.

Loving is the only county in Texas to be incorporated twice, first in 1893 and again in 1931. Its initial organization was effected by a canal company founded in Denver, Colorado, and appears to have been based upon fraud and willful misrepresentations made by the founders to state officials.[7] After a local landowner hired a New York firm to investigate alleged improprieties in county government, the company's organizers fled, taking with them all the county records. The state legislature subsequently disincorporated Loving in 1897, attaching it to Reeves County.

Oil was discovered in 1921, leading to a population increase in Loving County. By 1930, there were 195 residents, mostly living in what would become the town of Mentone, which became the county seat when Loving was reconstituted in 1931. By 1933, the population had peaked at 600, only to begin a steady decline which continues to the present day.

Loving County 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. Later she would return as a county district clerk, a job she held from 1965 to 1986. After retirement she lived on a ranch near Mentone[8] until 22 January 2009 when she died in Del Rio.[9]

2006 Takeover attempt by the "Free Town Project"[edit]

In February 2006, Loving County became the focus of an article in The New York Times detailing an alleged attempt by Lawrence Pendarvis, Bobby Emory, and Don Duncan to "take over" Loving County and its county seat, Mentone. 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.[10]

According to a website for Pendarvis' movement, their objectives were to "remove oppressive Regulations...and stop enforcement of Laws prohibiting Victimless Acts among Consenting Adults" 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, and other Victimless 'Crimes'."[11]

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 said that he had a canceled 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.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 677 square miles (1,750 km2), of which 669 square miles (1,730 km2) is land and 7.8 square miles (20 km2) (1.1%) is water.[12]

The Pecos River is the county's western boundary, forming the Red Bluff Reservoir along its northwestern border with Reeves County, Texas and Eddy County, New Mexico. The terrain of Loving County is described as flat desert, with a few low hills. Desert shrubs, range grass and cacti abound, with salt cedars along the river. Elevations vary from 2,686 to 3,311 feet (1,009 m) above sea level.

Loving is the smallest county by area in the Permian Basin region.

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 3
1900 33 1,000.0%
1910 249 654.5%
1920 82 −67.1%
1930 195 137.8%
1940 285 46.2%
1950 227 −20.4%
1960 226 −0.4%
1970 164 −27.4%
1980 91 −44.5%
1990 107 17.6%
2000 67 −37.4%
2010 82 22.4%
Est. 2014 86 [13] 4.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
1850–2010[15] 2010–2014[1]

As of the census of 2000, there were 67 people, 31 households, and 19 families living in the county. The population density was 0.1 people per square mile (0.03/km²). There were 70 housing units at an average density of 0.1 per square mile (0.04/km²). Of the 67 residents, 60 identified as White, no person identified themselves as Black, African American, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander. 6 identified as "some other race", and 1 person identified as belonging to two or more races. In addition, 7 people identified as being of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin of any race. It is one of only a few counties in the U.S. — outside of the Northeast — where the largest self-identified ancestry group is Irish American.

There were 31 households out of which 5 had children under the age of 18 living with them, 17 were married couples living together, 2 had a female householder with no husband present, and 11 were non-families. Ten households were made up of individuals and 2 consisted of someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. Average household size was 2.16, while the average family size was 2.65.

In the county, the population was spread out with 13 people under the age of 18, one between 18 and 24, 18 from 25 to 44, 24 from 45 to 64, and 11 who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 10 females there are 11.61 males. For every 10 females age 18 and over, there are 12.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $40,000, and the median income for a family was $53,750. Males had a median income of $25,833 versus $0 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,084.

Loving County's population has been rapidly declining in recent years, with a decline of over 35% between 1990 and 2000, and another 22% of its population lost between 2000 and 2004. However, the county's population increased 22.4% from 67 residents in 2000 to 82 residents in 2010.

Loving County was the only county in the United States with no people below the poverty line as of 2000.[16] However, as of 2010, this is no longer true.[17]

The county is the least populous county in the United States, with a 2010 census population of only 82 persons (an increase of 22.4% over the 2000 figure of 67 residents). However, during the early part of the 21st century, the population declined before increasing, with a 2007 estimate of 55 and a 2008 estimate of 42, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 2008 presidential election, the county recorded 79 votes, suggesting the population had risen since the 2007 estimate.[18] The 2010 census figure confirms that the population had increased since 2000.

With an average as of 2010 of only 0.0467 inhabitants/km² (0.1211/sq mi), the county is also the least densely populated county outside of Alaska. (Lake and Peninsula Borough and North Slope Borough in Alaska are both lower, as is the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, which is not a county.)


Loving County has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1972, except in 1992 when the county backed independent candidate Ross Perot. The county also backed a third-party candidate in 1968, supporting George Wallace. In 2015 Watchdog.org announced that the county had far more registered voters than the number of all residents.[19]


Loving County's economy is based almost entirely upon oil and gas drilling, ranching, and county services.[citation needed]


Loving County is served by the Wink-Loving Independent School District. The county's school system was closed and consolidated into Wink's ISD in 1972 because the enrollment had fallen to two pupils.[citation needed]


Census-designated place[edit]

Ghost towns[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

"Loving County" is the name of a song written and performed by Charlie Robison. It appears on his 1998 album Life of the Party.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  3. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Texas: Individual County Chronologies". Texas Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. The Newberry Library. 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 191. 
  7. ^ Loving County - Handbook of Texas
  8. ^ Odessa American Includes details on Edna Dewees, first elected female sheriff in Texas
  9. ^ http://delrionewsherald.com/story.lasso?ewcd=5d7ce5b73f13a119
  10. ^ Loving County, Austin Community College
  11. ^ Free Town Project
  12. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 3, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Texas Almanac: Population History of Counties from 1850–2010" (PDF). Texas Almanac. Retrieved May 3, 2015. 
  16. ^ Fact Finder at Census.gov
  17. ^ Texas Association of Counties
  18. ^ CNN: voting results for Texas counties
  19. ^ "8 Texas counties list more voters than residents". Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Lyrics to the song "Loving County"

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°50′N 103°34′W / 31.84°N 103.57°W / 31.84; -103.57