MERKEL, TEXAS. Merkel, off Interstate Highway 20 seventeen miles west of Abilene in northwestern Taylor County, was founded in the early 1880s when the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived; it was first known as the "Windmill Town." The community, a shipping point like many other towns in the area, was renamed in 1881 for its first settler, S. M. Merkel. J. L. Vaughan, the railroad agent, became postmaster and telegraph operator in June 1883, when the post office opened. In 1882 the widow Rollins built the first general store. The population was twenty-five in 1885 and 400 in 1890, when the town had four churches and a school. The Methodist church was built in 1882 and organized by Rev. R. F. Dunn. The First Baptist Church was built in 1885, Grace Presbyterian in 1886, and the Church of Christ in 1903. The first school, conducted in the train depot, was taught by Mrs. A. M. Thornton; seven children enrolled. In 1887 a school building was built on county land donated to accommodate the growth. In the 1897–98 term there were 178 children in the Merkel school district. A college opened in 1887 and enrolled about 100 the next year. This institution lasted only four years. The 1897 population was 600.
On June 26, 1906, Merkel incorporated. In the first election, on August 4, 1906, G. W. Johnson was elected mayor and S. F. Harris was elected city secretary. The town had only seventeen mayors in the seventy-five years following incorporation; Henry West held the office for eleven terms at four different times. In November 1904 the Farmers and Merchants National Bank was organized. In 1926 Dr. Robert I. Grimes opened the first hospital, which closed in the 1960s. Farming and ranching were the primary economic factors in Merkel's early development. Though agriculture continues to play a significant role in the town's economic health, residents also rely on oil-production jobs and military-support jobs at Dyess Air Force Base. The population was 1,848 in 1933, 2,005 in 1940, and 2,314 in 1950. The weekly Merkel Mail has been published since 1890. In 1992 Merkel had 2,469 residents. The population grew to 2,637 by 2000.
Abilene Remembered: Our Centennial Treasury Book, 1881–1981 (Abilene: Abilene Reporter-News, 1981). Paul D. Lack et al., The History of Abilene (Abilene, Texas: McMurry College, 1981).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Shelly Slyker and Angela Thomas, "MERKEL, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjm14), accessed December 26, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.