Located on US-87 near the Llano
abut ten miles south of Mason,
Hedwigs Hill was one of the earliest communities in Mason County and the store located there was a
significant center of local trade. Under the leadership of the remarkable
widow, Anna Henriette Mebus
Martin, it was also the location of one of the first banks in the area.
Hedwigs Hill, also known as Hedwig's Hill or Hedwig Hill is
one of the oldest communities in Mason
County. Rather than being a defined
place, it is a dispersed rural community in southern Mason
County off Interstate Highway 87
along the Llano River
approximately five miles south of Art and about ten miles south of Mason.
Hedwigs Hill was settled by Christopher Voges
and Louis Martin, who were among the German settlers from nearby Fredericksburg
that moved into the area in the 1850s. The town is believed to have been named
for Louis Martin's mother and daughter, both of whom were named Hedwig. The people
settling in the area were predominantly skilled German craftsmen, who
established a variety of enterprises, including a cooper, beer brewers, soap
and candle makers, tinners, sawmills, saddle and
harness makers, grist and flour mills, wheelwrights, blacksmiths and furniture
The prominence of Hedwigs Hill as a local source of supply
and a center of trade is evidenced by the Art-Hedwigs
Hill Road dating from the 1850s which is still in
use today. Hedwigs Hill was strategically located near a ford on the Llano
River, and the Military
Road from Fort
Mason to Fredericksburg
and San Antonio passed right by it.
In later times the San Antonio-El Paso Mail line ran through Hedwigs Hill. But
there were trails there before the military road and trade routes of the last
half of the nineteenth century. The military road utilized the ancient Indian Pinta Trail
which extended from San Antonio to
the Menard area.
John Kline was one of the early settlers along the Llano
River, and he established the store
at Hedwigs Hill. There are some indications that John Kline was builder of the
dogtrot house at Hedwigs Hill and that he later sold it along with the several
tracts of land to Louis Martin in 1858.
Louis Martin was a man of political influence who served as
sheriff of Gillespie County.
He also sold goods to nearby Fort Mason.
In 1853, Martin moved his family to the north bank of the Llano
River, where he operated a general
supply store and built a house. He named the new settlement Hedwig’s Hill for
his mother and also for his daughter, who was the first white child born in Fredericksburg,
In 1855, Martin bought several sections of land for $1,000
in what was then Gillespie County,
and he purchased cattle, oxen, other livestock, a wagon, farm equipment and
household items with an additional $1,200. Records indicate that he may be the
builder of his second home, the dogtrot-style house which is now preserved at
the National Ranching Heritage
Center. In 1858, he bought the store at Hedwig’s Hill operated by American
settler John Kline and, on June 29,
1858, Martin established the earliest rural post office in the
Hedwigs Hill was on the route of trail drives. Some of the
cattle from old Mexico
passed right by the settlement as they headed north. Hedwigs hill was also on a
trade route that served the local area. On January 22, 1858, Mason
County was established from a
portion of Gillespie County,
and Martin served as postmaster and freighted goods throughout the Hill
Country, East Texas and to and from Mexico.
Louis Martin and his wife, Elizabeth, lived in the dogtrot house
for a short time with their growing family of five children, whose ages spanned
twelve years. They later moved to a house on Elm Creek, which was renamed Martin
Creek after the youngest Martin
child, Alexander, age 7, drowned there in 1863. Louis rented the dogtrot house
to John and Kathryn Keller, who turned it into a store before moving the
business to another building about 30 feet away. The dogtrot house was a hotel
of sorts under both the Martins and the Kellers, with
one of the rooms reserved for paying guests. The breezeway was available for
travelers, some of whom slept there on bedrolls.
Robert E. Lee was probably familiar with Hedwig’s Hill,
since the settlement was on the military road that he used frequently for
travel while commanding Fort Mason.
Lee arrived at Fort Mason
on Dec. 23, 1860, as a
54-year-old lieutenant colonel and left in mid-February for San
Antonio on his way to Washington.
D.C., where he was offered the command of the Union Forces at
the beginning of Civil War. Lee declined the offer and resigned from the
Army because Virginia had not yet
seceded from the Union and he could not allow himself to
fight against his native state. Brass military buttons and a bag of glass
marbles were found when the dogtrot House at Hegwigs
Hill was excavated when the structure was relocated to the National
Sympathy for the Confederate cause was prevalent in Texas
during the Civil war and many atrocities were perpetrated against the German
Settlers. Louis Martin, like other German immigrants in the Texas Hill Country,
was more interested in succeeding as a rancher and merchant than fighting for
the Southern cause. In his efforts to succeed and prosper he sold produce to
Mexican merchants, who subsequently sold it to Union ships in the Gulf
In June 1864, Louis Martin and Eugene Frandzen,
his niece’s husband, were hauling 2,800 pounds of bacon to Mexico,
with gold to purchase supplies at Piedras Negras hidden under the bacon. They were stopped near Eagle
Pass, Texas, by Confederate
deserters, who hanged the two Germans using Martin’s own rope. Robbery was
probably the motive for the hanging, but Martin’s sympathies for the Union
cause may have been a contributing factor. His murderers then rode to Hedwigs
Hill June 20, 1864, where they
informed Martin’s widow, Elizabeth, of the hangings. With their guns held on
her the they forced her to kill chickens and cook a
meal for them. Elizabeth was
fearful for the lives of her children and she never pressed charges against the
murderers. In December, rode to Eagle Pass
in a wagon, recovered the bodies of Louis and Eugene, and then stopped in Fredericksburg
on the return trip, where she bought two coffins for two dollars and fifty
cents. She and her children continued live in their home at Hedwigs Hill until
the fall of 1867, when she moved back to Fredericksburg
and reburied Martin’s body there. Elizabeth
never divulged the identity of the murderers.
The post office at Hedwigs Hill was one of the first in Mason
County. It opened in June 1858 with
Louis Martin as postmaster, and his nephew, Charles Martin, became postmaster in
Hedwigs Hill Store
In the late 1860s Charles Martin and his wife, Anna Henriette Mebus Martin, took over
the operation store at Hedwigs Hill. It was one of the best-stocked stores in
the vicinity, and the Martins traded over a wide area, and also conducted a
freighting business with San Antonio
and Austin. The main shipments from
Hedwigs Hill were cotton and livestock. The store became a regular stop for the
stage coaches, and Anna Martin boarded the horses, sold a few groceries to
travelers, made butter, sewed, and served as postmistress of Hedwig's Hill. The
community store was also one of the first to begin selling barbed wire when the
local ranchers began to fence the ranges in the late 1880s.
Charles (or Karl) Martin was the nephew of Louis Martin. He
married Anna Henriette Mebus
in December 1859. The couple turned the
store at Hedwigs Hill into a very prosperous enterprise. They used rooms in
their house as a local hotel to accommodate travelers. During the Civil War
Charles Martin, who was a staunch Republican and Union
sympathizer, lost the store at Hedwigs Hill, and subsequently contracted
inflammatory rheumatism which made him an invalid from 1864 to his death in
November 1879. Local tradition is that he suffered a
terrible death from an abscess near his ear that worked its way into his brain.
Following his death, his widow, Anna Martin, was left with the responsibility
to support her two sons, and had no apparent means of producing income.
Anna Henriette Mebus Martin
Anna Henriette Mebus
Martin was the daughter of Alvin (or Allwell) and Henriette or Henrietta Mebus. She
was born along the Rhine River
near Cologne, Germany,
on December 10, 1843, and
was the oldest of six children. In 1858 her father's business in Solingen failed, and the family
sailed from Bremen to Galveston,
arriving 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 Mebus family were city-bred Germans who knew nothing about farming.
They learned the necessary skills by experience and necessity and soon were
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 the small store at Hedwigs Hill. They had two sons.
After the death of her husband in November 1879, responsibility
for the family's finances fell on Anna Martin. She borrowed $150 to purchase
groceries and reopened the store. Soon the store became a regular stop for the
stages. With her small amount of capital, Anna added dry goods to her stock of
groceries and began to exchange them for cattle. She also hauled freight and operated
a business as a wool and cotton buyer. Anna preferred to buy directly from
cattle and sheep ranchers, which gave her an advantage over those who waited
for the ranchers to come to market. Anna also sold the first barbed wire used
for fencing in Mason County,
and she reputedly sold more of the wire than any other firm in West
Texas. In time she became wealthy and was able to acquire some
50,000 acres in Mason, Llano, and Gillespie counties.
Her success made her one of the wealthiest German-Texan
citizens, and Anna Martin gave up her store to establish the Commercial Bank of
Mason on July 1, 1901. She
operated the bank very successfully with the help of her sons, and her
financial skill and her trustworthiness were key to
her success. She was probably the only woman chief executive officer of any
bank in America
in those days, and she remained president of the bank for twenty-four years. For
the first fifty-seven years after its founding, the bank was almost entirely
the property of the Martin family.
In a letter to a New York
banker interested in her history, Anna Henriette Mebus Martin 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.
A Methodist Episcopal church was established at Hedwigs Hill
in 1870 and soon there were three churches in the area, including the Art Methodist
Church, and the Hilda Methodist
Church, both of which are still standing and in use. In the late 1800s and
early 1900s the community also had a school.
The Dog Trot House
Hedwig’s Hill dogtrot house was a dwelling with a multiple
uses, including a post office, a store, a tavern, a boarding house, a church
and a polling place. The building is characteristic of many built by
Anglo-Americans throughout the Southern states. The dogtrot house at Hedwig’s
Hill was initially two cabins under a common roof separated by a breezeway,
called a dogtrot. The two limestone rooms, one behind each of the cabins, were probably
added later, as the family grew, or as more space was needed to accommodate
travelers or supplies. All of the rooms were constructed to open onto the
dogtrot area, which permitted the structures to be cooled in warm weather by
the air flowing through the breezeway. The sleeping loft was accessed by a
wooden ladder. The builder used a broadax to notch, plane and fit each native
live oak log. No nails were used except on door facings and other details. The
floors are made of hewed logs for floor joists with planks laid over them. “V”
joints were used to fit the logs at the corners, and gaps were chinked with
limestone rocks from the original site then filled with a mixture of sand, lime
and earth. The inside walls were originally covered with muslin, which was later
removed, and the walls were plastered with mud and grass. A limestone
open-hearth fireplace was constructed at each end of the house.
In the house, the northwest room was used for bulk food
storage. The family’s hired man, Christian Johnson, a
Danish farmer, probably slept on a bedroll in that room. Upstairs the Martin
daughters slept on one side of the loft, while the other was for the boys and
their live-in teacher, Mr. G.H. Fuchs.
The last person to live in Hedwig’s Hill Dogtrot House was
Ike Henry, who ran a service station. He moved out in the 1930s, when U.S.
Highway 87 came through only 400 yards from the house.
The dogtrot house was moved to the Ranching
in Lubbock at Texas
The Decline of
With the establishment of better local roads, which
facilitated travel to larger towns, Hedwigs Hill declined. Its post office
closed in 1907, and its estimated population from the 1930s through the 1950s
was only ten. The community had at least one store in the early 1960s, and by
1968 its reported population had grown to sixty-three. By 1974 the reported
population of the Hedwigs Hill area had grown to eighty-five, but by 1990 it
had dropped to ten. The population remained the same in 2000.
Compiled from various sources by
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Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Hedwigs Hill, Texas"
(accessed December 26, 2007).
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Martin, Anna Henriette
(accessed December 26, 2007).
All Business.com, Texas
Banking, August 1 2001,
"Texas' first woman bank