A Trailblazing Cowgirl’s History
Over a century ago, Anna Martin, a determined and courageous German immigrant, crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life. With little more than $150.00, Anna Martin, along with her mother and siblings, made her way to Galveston, Texas. There they joined their uncle, Louis Martin, and settled at Hedwig’s Hill in Mason County along the Llano River. Anna said the family was unprepared for the challenges of the Texas frontier. “None of us could speak a word of English; I had a pretty good education; I could speak French and German, but without English, it was awful for us. It was a horrible experience for a young girl, just growing into womanhood, who had seen all of the nice things young girls had in Germany, then having all of that taken away and being in the wilderness in Texas with no future,” she said.
Initially, the family of eight lived in a one-room cabin without windows or a floor. There was no real means of transportation, and the Indians were an ever-present threat. Here, Anna learned the meaning of “Comanche Moon”; for when the moon was full, Indians would make their raids, stealing horses, children, and anything else they could use. When the Civil War broke in 1861, the Martin family remained loyal to the Union, which meant the neighbors considered them the enemy. “Many times, my husband had threats on his life. If a stranger came to our door, I always greeted him, as I was constantly afraid the visitor would kill my husband,” Anna said. By the end of the Civil War, Charles and Anna Martin had lost almost everything, since they were required to accept Confederate money for payment of goods. The stress of the war and the Texas Frontier took its toll on Charles Martin, Anna’s husband, who fell ill with inflammatory rheumatism. On November 27th 1867, Charles Martin died, leaving Anna on her own with two boys, ages 16 and 18. In response to her tribulations, Anna made the most telling statement of her life — “I made up my mind that I would be somebody or I would break down.”
To provide for her family, Anna obtained a contract to maintain a stage station on the San Antonio—El Paso stage route, where she sold a few groceries and exchanged horses. With the collapse of the Confederate currency, there was little confidence in paper money. To alleviate the problem of lack of exchange, Anna began commission buying and in 1901, Anna Martin founded the Commercial Bank. The Martin family controlled the bank for 57 years, and The Commercial Bank is the oldest continuously operated bank in the United States founded by a woman. Overcoming poverty and a language barrier to become the president of a bank is a remarkable accomplishment. It is even more incredible when coupled with the fact that a woman achieved it at the turn of the 20th century.
Following Anna’s business adventures, the Martins acquired a family spread on the Llano River. In 1916, the Martin family home was moved via a team of horses to its current location. Until the late 1950’s, the ranch was used for cattle, and hunting was exclusive to family, friends, and people that did business with the bank. In 1958, the first cabins were built, and the ranch was opened to paying hunters. Five generations later, enters Anna’s great-great grandson son Homer Martin Jr. and family, Alana and Jonathan, proprietors of what is now known as the Homer Martin Ranch. These days, we are continuing to swing open the doors to the Homer Martin Ranch and offer the chance to share in the beauty and history of our 2,500 acre spread.