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The best 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, another 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 County." 

"Soon there were other stores. Some were sod and some frame buildings. Goods and lumber were sent by freight from Dodge City," said Gillick. 

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." 

Directions 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 Missler. 

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 to 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 Circuit." according to Fess Stalder in the book Pioneer Stories of Meade County. 

"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."  

Mertilla was located by Wild Hose Lake which was a main attraction in its day.

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." 

Gillick remembers 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 household purposes." 

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 county seat. 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.  

Many towns 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, 1886. "We hope to see the parties interested in Mertilla lay hold with determination to build up a good substantial town. We 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."  

"Mertilla didn't 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," said Sullivan. 

From Frank S. Sulivan’s "A History of Meade County Kansas": 

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 Mertilla.  

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.

Here we have spliced together two maps from the 1909 Plat Map book because Mertilla was built in four different sections and two different township / ranges. The highlighted quarter-quarter section just south of the town is Jim Gillick land... he also owned land in section 1-T31-R30 south of section 36. It looks like the Mertilla Post Office was on the Rexford land in 1909. Mertilla school was active well into the 1940's, perhaps it was built on section 28 after the school in the town burned down. On a modern-day map that school would be at the intersection of Roads E & 9... across the road east of present-day Plains View Mennonite Church.


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