Mercer, Asa Shinn (ca. 1839–1917)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Asa Shinn Mercer, publicist and newspaper publisher, was born around 1839. Apparently he received a formal education, for in 1861 he moved to Washington Territory to become the first president of the University of Washington. In March 1863 he left office to accept the position of commissioner of immigration for the territory. During his tenure as commissioner he traveled twice to New England and persuaded a number of young women to move to Washington as teachers. In reality, however, there were few teaching positions. Mercer hoped that the women would increase the female population of the territory and by so doing provide wives for the male settlers and begin permanent settlements. Once his intentions were revealed, the women became known as the "Mercer Girls." Shortly after this controversial plan, Mercer left Washington and moved south to Oregon, where he hoped to promote trade with East Coast merchants. He worked as a publicist for the territory in 1875–76, when he published brochures to attract settlers to the area. In 1874 he established the Oregon Granger. Two years later he moved to Texas, where he remained for seven years farming in Limestone County and published six newspapers-the Sherman Courier, Henrietta Shield, Wichita Herald, Vernon Guard, Bowie Cross Timbers, and Mobeetie Panhandle. None of the ventures proved financially rewarding, however, and Mercer left Texas in 1883. His next home was Cheyenne, Wyoming. There he published the Northwest Live-Stock Journal, which became a vehicle for Mercer to attack the cattle industry since he thought it threatened the state. Following the infamous Johnson County War he published The Banditti of the Plains, or The Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming, in 1892. His opposition to cattlemen led to an attack on his shop at Cheyenne. The plates of the book were destroyed as well as all the copies there. Shortly thereafter Mercer fled Cheyenne and moved to the Big Horn basin. For the next several years he worked as a guide at Yellowstone Park. He later worked as a real estate developer. On August 10, 1917, he died at Buffalo, Wyoming.

Dallas Times Herald, April 11, 1954.
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives

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

David Minor, “Mercer, Asa Shinn,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995