Loving County, Texas
|Loving County, Texas|
Loving County Courthouse in Mentone, Texas
Location in the state of Texas
Texas's location in the U.S.
|Founded||February 26, 1887|
|Named for||Oliver Loving|
|• Total||677 sq mi (1,753 km2)|
|• Land||673 sq mi (1,743 km2)|
|• Water||4 sq mi (10 km2), 0.56%|
|• Density||0.0996/sq mi (0.0384/km²)|
Loving County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas. With no incorporated municipalities, its seat and only community is Mentone. With a 2012 population of 71 residents, it is the least populous county in the United States.12 Owing partly to its small and dispersed population, it also has the highest median per capita and household income of any county in Texas. 34
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.
Loving County is named for Oliver Loving, 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.5 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 Mentone6 until 22 January 2009 when she died in Del Rio.7
Loving County has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1972, except in 1992 when the county backed third party candidate Ross Perot. The county also backed a third party candidate in 1968, supporting George Wallace.
In February 2006, Loving County became the focus of an article in The New York Times detailing an alleged attempt by Libertarians 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.2
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, such as Dueling, Gambling, Incest, Price-Gouging, Cannibalism, and Drug Handling." 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'."8
Although Pendarvis, Emory and Duncan claimed to have legally bought 126 acres (0.510 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, Loving County has a total area of 677 square miles (1,753 km²), of which 673 square miles (1,743 km²) is land and 4 square miles (10 km²) is water.
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.
These are the only through-routes in Loving County.
- Lea County, New Mexico (north)
- Winkler County (east)
- Ward County (southeast)
- Reeves County (south & west)
- Eddy County, New Mexico (northwest)
Texas Almanac: 1850-201010
US Census 2000
|Population||Households||Families||Population Density||Housing Units||Housing Unit Density|
|67||31||19||0.1/sq.mi. (0.03/km2)||70||0.1/sq.mi. (0.04/km2.)|
Of the 67 residents, 60 were White, 6 of "some other race", and 1 person of two or more races. There were 7 residents who were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Loving County 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 are married couples living together, 2 had a female householder with no husband present, and 11 are 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 between 2000 and 2004. However, the county's population increased 22.4% from 67 residents in 2000 to 82 residents in 2010.
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.14 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's economy is based almost entirely upon oil and gas drilling, ranching, and county services.
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.
- "1 Cafe, 1 Gas Station, 2 Roads: America's Emptiest County" - New York Times, February 25, 2006
- Loving County - at Austin Community College
- "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
- "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
- Loving County - Handbook of Texas
- Odessa American Includes details on Edna Dewees, first elected female sheriff in Texas
- Free Town Project
- U.S. Decennial Census
- Texas Almanac: County Population History 1850-2010
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Retrieved March 30, 2013.
- Fact Finder at Census.gov
- Texas Association of Counties
- CNN: voting results for Texas counties
- Lyrics to the song "Loving County"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Loving County, Texas.|
- Loving County from the Handbook of Texas Online Contains valuable information on early history of Loving County.
- Loving County Texas Almanac Page
- 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.
- Loving County at Davickservices.com Numerous photos and stories about Loving County and Mentone. A small picture of the "wanted" poster for Mssrs. Pendarvis, Emory and Duncan may also be seen here
- Inventory of county records, Loving County Courthouse, Mentone, Texas, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
||Eddy County, New Mexico||Lea County, New Mexico|
|Reeves County||Winkler County|
|Reeves County||Ward County|