LOOKING BACK AT ... Anna Martin, banker


Anna Henriette Mebus was born in Rhineland, Germany on Dec. 10, 1843 into a wealthy and aristocratic family. She was educated in the best private schools in Europe. She was fluent in German and French. She was raised in comfort and luxury, and she experienced the very best the civilized world of the 19th century had to offer.

Then she came to Hedwig’s Hill in Mason County.

Anna and her family immigrated to Texas in 1858 after her father’s business failed. Their pride would not let them to stay in Germany. The embarrassment of poverty was too much.

They landed in Galveston on Anna’s 15th birthday with a few clothes and $150 cash. No one spoke a word of English.

From Galveston they took a steamship to Indianola where Anna’s Uncle, Louis Martin, met them at the dock. The entire group traveled by oxcart from the Texas coast to Louis Martin’s house at Hedwig’s Hill on the Llano River. They made the 350 mile trip in 14 days.

One can only imagine what went through Anna’s mind when she first saw West Texas. There are no words in High German or fashionable French that do justice to Hedwig’s Hill.

But Anna made the best of it. This daughter of a once wealthy father and aristocratic mother soon found herself killing rattlesnakes, milking cows and plucking chickens on the wild Texas frontier.

In 1859, Anna married her cousin, Karl Martin, Louis Martin’s nephew.

Karl built a store at Hedwig’s Hill, the first store west of the Llano River. But Karl was not healthy. He suffered from rheumatism and was an invalid by 1864. Anna worked her fingers to the bone taking care of Karl, running the store, and raising their two sons, Charles and Max.

Then Karl died in 1878, and the store closed. At age 35, Anna found herself with no husband, no money and no way to make a living.

She had nowhere to turn, so she went straight ahead.

She borrowed $150 from a friend and reopened the store. Fortunately for Anna, Hedwig’s Hill was on the San Antonio to El Paso stage route; an important road in this part of Texas. The stage passed through daily, and Anna catered to its passengers. She established a way station and a boarding house. She sold whiskey, guns and groceries. Suddenly things were going her way.

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