Census-designated place (CDP)
|Elevation||2,684 ft (818 m)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central (CST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
Mentone (//) is a small town in Loving County, Texas, United States. As the county's only community, it serves as the county seat and has a 2010 population of 19, almost a quarter of the county's 82 people. Mentone was until recently the least-populated unincorporated county seat in the United States, but lost that distinction with the 2010 census to Gann Valley, South Dakota, which has a population of 14. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1967 as the "Smallest County Seat in Texas".
Mentone experiences an arid desert climate with hot summers and cool winters. Due to Mentone's aridity, the diurnal temperature variation is substantial, and helps lower nighttime temperatures. Most precipitation falls in the summer and early fall.
|Climate data for Mentone, Texas.|
|Record high °F (°C)||86
|Average high °F (°C)||61.6
|Average low °F (°C)||28.0
|Record low °F (°C)||5
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.41
|Source: The Western Regional Climate Center|
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 it had only 15 people, "more or less", according to National Geographic magazine (the total population of Loving County itself (as of 2010) was 82.)
Today, according to National Geographic, Mentone contains a courthouse, two stop signs, a gas station, a post office, a school building (Mentone schools were closed in the 1970s and merged with nearby Wink schools, because enrollment had fallen to just two pupils), and little else. A volunteer fire department serves the town, but no hospitals or cemeteries are there, and no doctors or lawyers. 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, fewer than 200 criminal cases have been filed in District Court. Later, DeWees returned as county and district clerk, a job she held from 1965 to 1986. In Loving County, the posts of county clerk, probate clerk, and district clerk are managed by the same official. DeWees died January 22, 2009, having survived her husbands George Clayton and Lawrence DeWees.
Free Town Project
In February 2006, Mentone became the focus of a New York Times article detailing an alleged attempt by 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 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'."
Although Pendarvis, Emory, and Duncan claimed to have legally bought 126 acres (51 ha) 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.
As of 2017, Pendarvis' website is no longer operational.
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. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011. Marker number 9461.
- "Seasonal Temperature and Precipitation Information". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. 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. Retrieved 2010-07-29.[permanent dead link]
- Blumenthal, Ralph (February 25, 2006). "1 Cafe, 1 Gas Station, 2 Roads: America's Emptiest County". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
- "The Free Town Project". The Free Town Project. 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
- The Free Town Project Website for Lawrence Pendarvis' "Free Town Project." Contains the material quoted above.