Anna Henriette Mebus Martin, Mason County rancher and banker, daughter of Alvin (or Allwell) and Henriette or Henrietta (Martin) Mebus, was born on the Rhine near Cologne, Germany, on December 10, 1843, the eldest of six children. In 1858 her father's business in Solingen failed, and in October the family sailed from Bremen to Galveston, where they arrived on Anna Mebus's fifteenth birthday. They settled in Mason County at Hedwig's Hill, which was named by Anna Mebus's maternal uncle after his mother. The genteel, city-bred Germans knew nothing of farming but soon found themselves plowing, milking cows, raising hogs, and contending with the constant threat of Indian depredations. In December 1859 Anna married her cousin Charles (or Karl) Martin, a merchant who ran a small store at Hedwig's Hill; they had two sons. During the Civil War Martin, a staunch Republican, lost his store and contracted inflammatory rheumatism that left him an invalid from 1864 to his death in November 1879. Responsibility for the family's finances fell on Anna Martin, who borrowed $150 to purchase groceries and reopened the store. The San Antonio-El Paso Mail line passed by the Martin house, and in 1866 Charles was appointed postmaster. Soon the store became a regular stop for the stages; Anna Martin boarded the horses, sold a few groceries to travelers, made butter, sewed, and served as postmistress of Hedwig's Hill.
With her small supply of capital, she added dry goods to her stock of groceries and began to exchange them for cattle; she also hauled freight and carried on an extensive business as a wool and cotton buyer. She preferred to buy directly from cattle and sheep ranchers, a practice that gave her an advantage over those who waited for them to come to market. She sold the first barbed wire used for fencing in Mason County. She reputedly sold more of the wire than any other firm in West Texas. In time she was able to acquire extensive holdings-some 50,000 acres-in Mason, Llano, and Gillespie counties. Now one of the wealthiest German-Texan citizens, Anna Martin gave up her store and established the Commercial Bank of Mason on July 1, 1901; she ran it with her sons. Her financial acumen and trustworthiness led ranchmen to trust her. As president of the bank she was perhaps the only woman chief executive officer of any bank in America in her day; she remained president for twenty-four years, and for fifty-seven years the bank was almost entirely the property of the Martin family. In a letter to a New York banker interested in her history, she wrote, "I heard men say, o, she is only a woman, but I showed them what a woman could do." Anna Martin died on July 10, 1925, and is buried in the family cemetery at Hedwig's Hill.
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James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas (4 vols., 1929?). Stella Gipson Polk, "Savvy Pioneer Banker Earns Her Spurs," West Texas Business, November-December 1984. Sarah Thaxton, "Woman Bank President Dies," Texas Bankers Record, August 1925.
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranchers and Cattlemen
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Deborah S. Large,
“Martin, Anna Henriette Mebus,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 15, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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