Founder Anna Mebus Martin and Sons Operates The Commercial Bank for 57 Years
Anna Mebus, a German immigrant, was from a well-to-do family. She arrived in Galveston in late 1858 with her parents and five siblings on her 15th birthday. The family was encouraged to come to Texas by her uncle, Louis Martin after their family business failed in 1858. The family had $150 in cash and their belongings. Louis Martin and the newly-arrived Mebus family traveled 350 miles over fourteen days to the home he had purchased on the Llano River in Mason County. The property had a store on it and sat on the Pinta Trail. Today that location, Hedwig’s Hill, is on Highway 87.
Anna Mebus and her family spoke only German and French and were unaccustomed to wilderness life. Anna married Charles Martin on her 16th birthday. She helped her husband farm and run the store. Eventually, she became the postmistress of Hedwig’s Hill. The store and community were stable with commerce coming from travelers on the Pinta Trail and nearby Fort Mason, but the war between the states changed everything for the couple. They turned the store back over to Louis Martin for their safety, and that of children Charles and Max. The Llano River had become a hideaway for outlaws, marauders, looters and Indians.
Things worsened when in 1864 Charles was stricken with inflammatory rheumatism that rendered him unable to work. Anna contracted to operate the San Antonio-El Paso stage route and found that she was a natural businesswoman. Her store flourished and by 1881 she owned all the merchandise in her store, from canned lobster to window panes and woman’s hats. To accommodate it all, she built a new store bearing her name- A. Martin & Sons.
Anna Martin, being the fine businesswoman she had become, began “commission buying” at A. Martin & Sons, something that alleviated all the problems with barter and credit. Her first commission was on cattle. In 1891, Anna and her sons purchased 5,000 acres to accommodate the business that grew through her “commission buying” of livestock. By 1897, they owned 50,000 acres and thousands of heads of cattle. As commerce from longer distances came to the area, Anna Mebus Martin became the ‘local banker’ for many buyers and sellers in the area.
In 1897, Anna sold the store and moved to Mason. In 1901, she and her sons along with Alfred Vander Strucken of Fredericksburg, W.J Moore and T.J. Moore of Llano established an unincorporated partnership, The Commercial Bank. Anna Martin, the original bank President, bought out her partners’ interests shortly after that. Anna, with sons Charles and Max, operated the Bank. In 1903, they bought out F.W. Henderson’ s interest in the Bank of Mason and moved to their location, just off the corner of Mason Square where Hinckley’s Country Store now operates. Anna Mebus Martin remained President of The Commercial Bank until 1925, five months short of her 82nd birthday. Anna’s grandson Walter was the last Martin to be President of The Commercial Bank from 1941 to 1958.
Illness Spurs Sale of The Commercial Bank in 1958 to Non-Locals
Walter Martin’s declining health, and no Martin successor was the catalyst for The Commercial Bank’s sale to three Fort Worthians: Ed Winton, Victor Thornton and Lloyd Thornton in 1958. In 1966, The Commercial Bank was incorporated for the first time, chartered with the State of Texas and became a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Company.
Ed Winton was President during that time from 1958 to 1967 and again from 1985 to 1992. Bob Chapman was President in the interim from 1967 to 1985.
The Commercial Bank Is Purchased by Mason Locals in 1970
A group of local investors, whose names are still familiar today, purchased controlling interest in The Commercial Bank in 1970. Headed by Marvin McMillan, Jr., the group of investors included Jack Lee, a well-respected Mason attorney, Walton Lehmberg, a highly successful cattle and businessman, and Bob Chapman, the current bank President. At Marvin McMillan’s passing, son Lee became Chairman of the Board. In 2007, Jack Lee sold his stock giving control to the McMillan family. Bobbie McMillan worked at the bank for forty-four years. For twenty-two of those years, she followed in the footsteps of Anna Martin as President and CEO of The Commercial Bank.
Several locals, especially members of the Durst family, worked at The Commercial Bank as far back as 1901, last of which was Brenda Durst Comer whose tenure ended in 2014.
The Commercial Bank Changes Ownership in 2015
In 2015, a group of investors from Mason purchased controlling interest in The Commercial Bank. Headed by Executive Vice-President Michael Cope, the group included Julio Ramon, Sr. and wife Beatrice Ramon, both of Mason, and Kenneth Burow, a community banker from Comfort with close ties to Mason. Laura Lehmberg Austin Tallent retained her stock and remains a major shareholder.
Their goal was to continue the bank’s operation as a locally-owned, independent community bank. Community banks have dwindled in number as larger banks have continued to acquire smaller banks throughout the country. The Commercial Bank’s new owners were intent on remaining close to their community and providing the service on a personal level to which the citizens of Mason are accustomed.