Irion County is situated west of San Angelo (Tom Green County) in West Texas. Its county seat is Mertzon. It is sparsely populated but the origin of its name extends back to the early days of the Republic of Texas. It was founded in 1889 and was named for Robert Anderson Irion, a medical doctor. Dr. Irion was a friend and personal physician of Sam Houston.
Robert Anderson Irion was born in 1804 in Tennessee and graduated from Transylvania University in Kentucky. He was first married to Anna Vick in 1826 when he was living in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Together they had two daughters before she passed away in 1832. Following her death, he moved to the area around Nacogdoches,Texas, worked as a surveyor and later resumed his medical practice. At some point he became acquainted with Sam Houston and began serving as Houston’s personal physician.
Irion would go on to serve as Commandant of the Municipality of Nacogdoches and was elected to serve on the Committee of Safety and Vigilance for Nacogdoches in 1835 and 1836. He served as a senator from Nacogdoches in the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1836 and 1837. He was appointed to serve as Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas by Houston in 1837 and served in that capacity until 1838.
We don’t believe that Irion served in the Texas Army during the Revolution. Given his connection to Sam Houston, one might think that he was the doctor who attended Sam Houston while in the Army during the Revolution, but that was an Irishman named Alexander Wray Ewing, a slightly younger man who was appointed Surgeon General of the Texas Army and served in that capacity up to and around time of the Battle of San Jacinto. It was Ewing who attended Houston’s battle wounds at San Jacinto and accompanied Houston to Galveston where his wounds were treated.
Before his marriage in 1840 to Margaret Lea, Houston had once courted a woman by the name of Anna Wynkoop Raguet, the daughter of Henry Wynkoop Raguet. Henry Raguet had served with Houston in the War of 1812 and was a staff officer under Houston up to and including the Battle of San Jacinto. In his book Emily D. West and the “Yellow Rose of Texas” Myth, Phillip Thomas Tucker credits Sam Houston for advising Dr. Irion to pursue Anna Raguet, which he did. The couple was also married in 1840 and would have five children, the first of which was named Sam Houston Irion, born in 1842.
After the Revolution, Irion resided in Nacogdoches and practiced medicine until his death in 1861. He is buried there in Oak Grove Cemetery.
Irion County has always been sparsely populated but was occupied long before the days of the Texas Revolution by Tonkawa Indians. In the 1600s, Spanish explorers reported their presence. During the short life of the Butterfield Overland Mail, it was a leg of the route. Battles and skirmishes with local Indian tribes including the Kickapoo were reported until around 1870 when the area began to support Anglo settlements. It was originally part of Tom Green County until 1889 when Irion County was established by the Texas legislature.
Irion County is now home to between 1,500 to 2,000 people. Its main towns are Mertzon, Sherwood and Barnhart. Typical of the area, its income is derived from oil, discovered in 1928, crop farming and ranching.
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