information we have found on the old ghost town of Mertilla
showed up in all three Meade County newspapers in the fall
of 1979… we don’t know who wrote it.
MERTILLA SPRANG UP IN THE NORTHWEST MEADE
early-day settlement in Meade County, grew rapidly and
reached some prosperity in her age.
"In the fall of
1885, the town of Mertilla began. A small one room house, in
which Sam High started the first grocery store, was moved in
by the power of four oxen," according to Jim Gillick as told
to Marlene Brown in the book "Pioneer Stories of Meade
"Soon there were
other stores. Some were sod and some frame buildings. Goods
and lumber were sent by freight from Dodge City," said
Mertilla was to
become "a town of considerable prominence," according to
Frank Sullivan in the book A History of Meade County, Ks.
While at the
height of prosperity, Mertilla contained a hotel, livery
barn, blacksmith shop and drug store. In addition, a weekly
newspaper, “The Mertilla Times” was published by H. L.
Bishop. The following appeared in the newspaper on April3,
1886. "Mertilla was located 35 miles southwest from Cimarron
City at the crossing of the West Plains, Cimarron, Meade
Center and Garden City roads on the Wild Horse flats, within
one mile of the famous Wild Horse Lake."
appeared in the paper also on how to arrive in Mertilla.
"Come to Cimarron on the A.T.& S.F. railroad and take the
southern stage line, which runs daily through Mertilla to
West Plains. This line runs large commodious stages and the
traveling public will receive courteous treatment at the
hands of Messrs Plymell and Leighton, the proprietors."
The Mertilla Town
Company was established with Joseph E. Sherrill as president
and Henry C. Shuey as secretary in a co-partnership.
About 50 acres were platted on November 6, 1886, with two
additions platted later. The town was located 730 feet east
of the southwest comer of the northeast quarter of Section
30, Township 30 and Range 29. Mertilla was toward the
northwest part of the county and about due north of
It early became a
town of promise, according to Sullivan. Most towns were not
complete without a school, church and post office. Mertilla
contained each one. "Later a school house 12x24 feet was
built. Fully equipped, this building cost $75 and stood one
mile south of what used to be Bill Glinter's place but is
now the home of Al Dierking."
"There was no
floor in the school and only one chair. That was for the
teacher, Dave Pane. There were many pupils that year and
sometimes the younger students had
wait," said Gillick. Reverend
John Nelson Stamper with his family came to Meade County in
1885, to the old town of Mertilla where he drew the people
together in a Methodist congregation called the Mertilla
according to Fess Stalder in the book Pioneer Stories of
"In later years,
as a young man, Jim Gillick opened the Mertilla Post Office
in his home at the farm," said Brown.
In order to draw
settlers, many wonderful attributes of Mertilla were
promoted in the newspaper. "Visitors at once,
upon their arrival here, see at a glance, that Mertilla is
situated in the midst of the finest and largest agricultural
district in Meade county or the Southwest. The beautiful
rolling prairies, which rewarded the plow man so abundantly
last year has inspired the farmer to make a ten-fold greater
effort the coming season. Pure, clean soft water in
abundance at a depth of from 40 to 100 feet can be had with
certainly all over these prairies. Mertilla has no saloons,
no gambling houses, no dives. Her citizens in general are
moral, industrious and enterprising and her social status
averages with the towns of the eastern states."
located by Wild Hose Lake which was a main attraction in its
A description was
printed as follows in the newspaper.
"The aged like the youth
is anxious to enjoy a hunt after the feathered tribe that so
numerously infest the noted Wild Horse Lake,
which only a few months ago was the favorite watering place
of the numerous herds of wild horses that roamed the sunny
slope of what is now the home of the domestic animal and the
ladies favorite driving horses."
that the lake wasn't very large.
"Water wells were scarce, although Wild Horse Lake held
enough water for the cattle, there wasn't enough for
Politics were a
hot issue to the pioneers and they took elections seriously.
Gillick recalls an election in the settlement of Mertilla.
"I remember the first Democratic election which was held at
Wild Horse Lake in Mertilla Township.
They said if any Democrat
voted Republican, they would hang them. The Democrats won."
"During my father's
first year in the county, Mertilla was the main contender,
and putting up strong competition with Meade Center for
Apparently later on Mertilla must have been influenced to
join in and help Meade to get the county seat," according to
John J. Stalder in Pioneer Stories of Meade County.
without county seats or railroads to bring in trade or
passengers found it hard to remain in existence. The
following appeared in the newspaper on April 3,
"We hope to see the
parties interested in Mertilla lay hold with determination
to build up a good substantial town.
have the resources and all we need is to have them
developed. The elements of a thrifty town are here but lying
dormant. All we need is confidence and enterprise. Let those
who are interested take hold, put life in their work and
inspire the public with confidence and Mertilla will boom."
boom however, and in March, 1886, the Mertilla Circuit
Church was changed to the West Plains Circuit Church. In
late 1887, buildings were moved away and by 1889, there was
practically nothing remaining to make the town site which
was vacated by an act of Legislature of 1893,"
From Frank S. Sulivan’s "A History of Meade
The Mertilla Town Company, Joseph E.
Sherrill, President, Henry C. Shuey, Secretary, was a
co-partnership. They filed the original plat of Mertilla
November 6, 1886, which included about fifty acres,
described as follows: “Beginning at a point 730 feet east of
the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of Section 30,
Township 30, Range 29; thence north 730 feet; thence west
1460 feet; thence south 1460 feet; thence east 1460 feet;
thence north 730 feet, to place of beginning.” Two additions
were platted later.
Mertilla early became a town of considerable
promise. “Red” Jim High was proprietor of the first store.
In addition to this there were two other stores, a hotel,
livery barn, blacksmith shop, drug store, etc. Dr. Ostrander
originally owned a drug store in Carthage.
After Meade Center had been selected as the
county seat in 1886, the evacuation of Carthage commenced,
and Dr. Ostrander moved his drug store, building and all, to
In the latter part of 1887, Mertilla
commenced to go the way of Carthage and other defunct
towns; most of the buildings were moved away, and in another
year or two there was practically nothing remaining to mark
the town site, save the schoolhouse, which afterwards burned
down. The drug-store building was moved to the farm of J. N.
Stamper, and at the present time the schoolhouse in the
Boyer district is the old drug store of Carthage and
Mertilla, somewhat remodeled. The barn now on the Rexford
farm, in Mertilla Township, was built of lumber from the old
Mertilla hotel. The town site of Mertilla was vacated by act
of the Legislature of 1893.