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James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Mentone is located in eastern DeKalb County in the northeastern part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government.
Old Union Crossing Covered Bridge
Local legend claims that the area that now includes Mentone was visited by Welsh Prince Madoc around 1170; historians state that it is highly implausible that such a person ever existed and is merely folklore. In addition, conquistador Hernando De Soto allegedly camped near Mentone in 1540 on his expedition through what would become the southeastern United States, and several landmarks in the Mentone area are named after the Spanish explorer. The Mentone area was settled by whites around 1854, when the area was known as Ellison's Precinct after a local grist mill owner. During the Civil War's Chickamauga Campaign, which took place in the summer of 1863, thousands of Union soldiers camped on Lookout Mountain near present-day Mentone. MiniƩ balls (a type of Civil War-era rifle ammunition) have been recovered from various sites around Mentone. The Old Union Crossing Bridge, now located on a local resort, was constructed by Union troops around 1863.
Riverside Hotel
The town itself was founded in the late 1880s by John Mason. His son Edward, a surveyor, began promoting the area. It was named Mentone by Alice O'Rear, John Mason's daughter, after a French town whose name meant "musical mountain spring." The mineral springs at Mentone were considered to have healing powers, so investors built resort in the town. The Mentone Springs Hotel was built in 1883-1884 to take advantage of the tourists coming to enjoy the mineral springs. Thousands of tourists flocked to Mentone to visit the springs during summers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The area also became known for its many summer camps for boys and girls. The first youth summer camp in this region, Camp Juliette Low, was established in 1920 and named after the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. The town incorporated in 1935. The Mentone Springs Hotel remained a landmark in the area until it burned to the ground on March 1, 2014. Two of the original mineral springs in Mentone still exist, but another was destroyed in the construction of Alabama State Highway 117.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Mentone recorded a population of 383. Of that number, 91.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 7.0 percent as two or more races, 1.0 percent as Native American, and 0.5 percent as Hispanic or Latino. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $52,679, and the per capita income was $39,098.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Mentone was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.0 percent)
  • Manufacturing (16.0 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (15.2 percent)
  • Retail trade (12.8 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (11.2 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (11.2 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (4.8 percent)
  • Construction (2.4 percent)
  • Public administration (2.4 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (2.4 percent)
  • Information (1.6 percent)
Schools in Mentone are part of the DeKalb County school system; the town has approximately 130 students and 10 teachers in one K-6 elementary school.
State Highway 117 goes through Mentone, first entering from the southwest and paralleling the town's western boundary, then turning sharply to the southeast and leaving the town through its eastern town limit.
Events and Places of Interest
DeSoto Falls
Howard's Chapel (Salley Howard Memorial Baptist Church, ca. 1934), the Mentone Inn (Hal's Hotel/Desoto Lodge, ca. 1927), the Windward Inn (ca. 1900), and the Moon Lake Club (ca. 1945) are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Dr. J. A. Gorman House (ca. 1917) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as was the Mentone Springs Hotel (ca. 1884).
Since the early 1980s, the Mentone Area Preservation Association (MAPA) has sponsored its Colorfest, which features arts and crafts vendors, live music, and food to celebrate the fall season during the third weekend in October. MAPA also holds a Rhododendron Festival the third weekend in May. The city sponsors a Christmas parade and choir singing called "Musical Mountain Christmas," and a JulyFest and Music Festival the weekend after July Fourth. Mentone is just north of DeSoto Falls and DeSoto State Park, which offers numerous outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, and swimming. Also nearby to the south is Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Additional Resources

DeKalb County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of DeKalb County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Strayhorn, Zora Shay. Mentone, Alabama: A History. Mentone, Ala.: Mentone Area Preservation Society, 1986.
Published:  February 6, 2017   |   Last updated:  February 6, 2017