In 1881 the Texas & Pacific Railroad laid tracks from Fort Worth to Sierra Blanca, following a route suggested by Capt. Randolph B. March of the U.S. Army. He and a party of soldiers scouted this area in 1849. The route was later surveyed by Capt. John Pope, a topographical engineer, in 1854.
Section houses were built every 10 miles along the route; the one here was called Grelton. A large well was dug and a big cypress tank erected. A pump station was near by. This was where the engines took on water for many, many years.
Until the railroad came, there was no civilization on these plains above the Cap Rock, except for the Indians who used it as their camping ground enroute to and from Mexico and settlements to the east. There were many springs along the Cap Rock, and Mustang Springs, to the west, was a spring-fed lake. This was the Indians' main camping site. Capt. Pope recorded that he saw many Indians and horses there as he passed through the area.
On August 15, 1881, four German Catholic priests and one layman of the Carmelite Order arrived at the Grelton section house to establish the first settlement here. They brought basic farming tools, a mule team and wagon and seeds to plant. They pitched two tents where the courthouse is today, one to live in and the other for worship. This was the beginning of a mission and monastery and a working community of German families under the guidance of Father Anastasio Peters. A town was surveyed and built, and the name was changed to Marienfeld, which means "Field of Mary." Only a few years before Indians and buffalo had roamed these plains, and there was still antelope and other wild game.
From 1884 to 1886 the county was organized, officers were elected and a courthouse was built. Many people came and large ranches were established. Other towns sprang up along the railroad. The land was fertile and tthe grass was tall and all prospered--farmers, ranchers, merchants and the railroad. But in 1886-87 a drought almost wiped out the inhabitants of the area. The first families of the Catholic settlement and a few others hung on. By 1888 the rains had come and prosperity was on the way again.
By 1890 the town and county had become more Protestant than Catholic and the name of the town was changed to Stanton. The name was chosed by the school children, in honor of Edwin M. Stanton who had been Secretary of War under President Lincoln.
In 1894 the Sisters of Mercy established a convent and boarding school in the old monastery (which had been closed a few years earlier). The Carmelite priests sold their property to the nuns, who built more buildings and named the school Our Lady of Mercy Academy. The school grew from an enrollment of 16 students to 150 at its peak, and it operated successfully for 44 years. A tornado destroyed some of the buildings in 1938, and the school never reopened. In 1987, Martin County Convent, Inc. was formed for the preservation of the convent and surrounding historic area.
The railroad is a big part of the history of Stanton and Martin County. This was one of the big cattle shipping stations along the line. Large stock pens held cattle for shipping and thousands and thousands of head were shipped north from this point.
Martin County has had its share of good years and bad years. It is primarily an agricultural county, but still has many ranches and shares in the oil production of the Permian Basin. To learn about the past, visit the Martin County Historical Museum when you come to Stanton for a visit.