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MERTENS, TEXAS. Mertens is at the intersection of Farm Road 308 and State Highway 22, thirteen miles east of Hillsboro in far eastern Hill County. The first permanent settler near the site was J. K. Walling, who arrived from Tennessee in 1884 and bought 135 acres on Richland Creek. In the late 1880s A. L. Coleman arrived from Mississippi and bought 100 acres in what is now Mertens; there he built the first house and the first business, a blacksmith shop. When the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas line was built from Corsicana to Milepost 35 in 1887, the station, called Mertens for the wife of the engineer on the first train, was built near the Walling place. Walling opened a general store, acted as station agent for the railroad, and served as postmaster when Mertens received a post office in 1888. By 1890 the community had some seventy-five residents and a number of businesses, including physicians, carpenters, general stores, a blacksmith shop, and a gristmill and cotton gin. In 1902 the First State Bank of Mertens opened; it was joined by a second bank in 1910. The International and Great Northern line reached the community in 1902–03, making Mertens a railway crossroad. On January 12, 1914, Mertens was incorporated, and E. W. Bookout was elected the first mayor. That same year a large brick school building was constructed in the community. In 1915 Texas Power and Light was given a franchise to supply electricity to the community, and the next year cement sidewalks were installed. By 1914 Mertens had four churches, two cotton gins, and a weekly paper (the Mertens News); cotton and grain were shipped on the two railroads. The population of Mertens reached a peak in the 1920s at 342. During the 1930s a waterworks was established and State Highway 22 was built through town. At that time the population of Mertens was 338, and eighteen businesses were reported in the community. Later, however, the community declined. In 1978 the last cotton gin at Mertens closed. The railroads also ceased service to the town. In the 1980s only one brick building remained; it housed the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star Chapter. At that time the community had a volunteer fire department, a city park, a general store, and a filling station. The population of Mertens was estimated at 104 in 1990. The population grew to 146 by 2000.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Hill County Historical Commission, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1853–1980 (Waco: Texian, 1980).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.