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MERSFELDER, NICK

MERSFELDER, NICK (1858–1939). Nick Mersfelder, Texas Ranger and civil servant, was born in Bavaria on Christmas Day, 1858. His family immigrated to the United States during the Civil War. He was apprenticed to a barber in Cincinnati at fourteen and spent the next seven years at that trade. In December 1879 he moved to Texas and by January 1881 had opened a barbershop in Austin. In September 1881 he enlisted for one year in the Texas Rangersqv and was assigned to Capt. C. L. Nevill's Company E, Frontier Battalion, which was stationed a few miles southeast of Fort Davis and served the surrounding area and the Big Bend. When his enlistment expired in August 1882 Mersfelder remained in Fort Davis and opened a barbershop just south of the fort. By January 1897 he had built a large, roomy building closer to town that housed both his shop and home. The property is now in the possession of the Fort Davis Historical Society. Mersfelder's ledgers reveal his varied interests and enterprises. He made a considerable profit from cattle, kept chickens and goats, and sold eggs and milk. He also did repair work, mostly on guns. He was a musician of local renown; he gave music lessons and organized an orchestra that played at local dances. In 1910 he took up photography. Between 1910 and 1923 he made a fair amount of money as a photographer. He used a long-bellows accordion-type camera to shoot scenes of Fort Davis and the surrounding territory and a number of portraits, mostly of Mexicans. He also preserved several older photographic plates belonging to a barber and photographer who lived in Fort Davis before him.

Mersfelder was elected justice of the peace in 1890 and held that position on and off for forty-nine years. Even when he was not serving officially, he was often called on if no other justice was available; he was known for his gruff manner and swift decisions. He also served as county coroner from 1891 until 1939. He joined the International Order of Odd Fellows on January 9, 1899, attended the annual state convocation, and was appointed to the state board of trustees of the widows and orphans fund. In his will he bequeathed a sizable sum to this fund. He was the first man to own an automobile in Fort Davis, and one of his autos was displayed there for many years. After an extended illness Mersfelder died in Pecos on August 6, 1939.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Barry Scobee, Fort Davis, Texas, 1583–1960 (Fort Davis, Texas, 1963). Barry Scobee, Nick Mersfelder (Fort Davis, Texas: Fort Davis Historical Society, 1969).

Deborah Bloys Hardin

Citation

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

Deborah Bloys Hardin, "MERSFELDER, NICK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fme48), accessed November 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.