While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


David Minor

MERCER, ASA SHINN (ca. 1839–1917). Asa Shinn Mercer, publicist and newspaper publisher, was born around 1839. Apparently he received a formal education, for in 1861 he moved to Washington Territory to become the first president of the University of Washington. In March 1863 he left office to accept the position of commissioner of immigration for the territory. During his tenure as commissioner he traveled twice to New England and persuaded a number of young women to move to Washington as teachers. In reality, however, there were few teaching positions. Mercer hoped that the women would increase the female population of the territory and by so doing provide wives for the male settlers and begin permanent settlements. Once his intentions were revealed, the women became known as the "Mercer Girls." Shortly after this controversial plan, Mercer left Washington and moved south to Oregon, where he hoped to promote trade with East Coast merchants. He worked as a publicist for the territory in 1875–76, when he published brochures to attract settlers to the area. In 1874 he established the Oregon Granger. Two years later he moved to Texas, where he remained for seven years farming in Limestone County and published six newspapers-the Sherman Courier, Henrietta Shield, Wichita Herald, Vernon Guard, Bowie Cross Timbers, and Mobeetie Panhandle. None of the ventures proved financially rewarding, however, and Mercer left Texas in 1883. His next home was Cheyenne, Wyoming. There he published the Northwest Live-Stock Journal, which became a vehicle for Mercer to attack the cattle industry since he thought it threatened the state. Following the infamous Johnson County War he published The Banditti of the Plains, or The Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming, in 1892. His opposition to cattlemen led to an attack on his shop at Cheyenne. The plates of the book were destroyed as well as all the copies there. Shortly thereafter Mercer fled Cheyenne and moved to the Big Horn basin. For the next several years he worked as a guide at Yellowstone Park. He later worked as a real estate developer. On August 10, 1917, he died at Buffalo, Wyoming.

Dallas Times Herald, April 11, 1954.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, David Minor, "MERCER, ASA SHINN," accessed July 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fme22.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...