Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh
See also: At the Museum
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. The June 8 topic is “Sober by Statute: The Prohibition Experiment in New Mexico” by Jeff Schwen. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or las-cruces.org/museums.
El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Dr. Kendra Moore, Community Outreach Interpreter at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, speaks on “Interpreting the Past to Inspire the Future: The History of Interpretation at Hueco Tanks.” Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or epas.com.
Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society and Haunted History — The nonprofit organization offers a variety of “ghost tours.” Age 13 and older welcome, unless otherwise listed. All children must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older. Private ghost tours of Downtown El Paso available with advance reservation. Information, reservations: 274-9531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet 2 to 4 p.m. the Monday, June 5, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. The program is “Timeline of Fred Harvey’s Business Expansion” with Pres Dehrkoop. Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326 or harveygirlselpaso.weebly.com.
Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, at Las Cruces Railroad Museum, 351 N. Mesilla in Las Cruces. This month’s program is “El Paso and Northeastern Rail lines” by Ron Leiman. Cost: $10 for program and dinner. Information: 540-9660.
‘Preserving Identities’ — The exhibit on how to digitally record and preserve cultural heritage sites runs through June 16 in the UTEP Library during regular hours. Admission is free. Information: 747-5835
The exhibit tells the story of the long history of decay and restoration of the monuments and sites in Rome by focusing on the attempts to conserve the public life of the Colosseum, the restoration of religious shrines in the mausoleum of Santa Costanza, the preservation of public obelisks, and the record of Roman city life on the streets of Ostia Antica. This interactive installation via smart device includes text, pictures, videos and links to online resources using QR codes.
Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831.
Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).
Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.
The Old Fort Bliss Wagon Trails’ Market runs 4 to 6 p.m. Fridays through August, with shopping and eating opportunities.
Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.
“Tales, Tails and Tots” stories visits with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.
El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at KTSMRadio.com). Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at EPHistory.com. Information: 833-8700.
El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or visitelpasomissiontrail.com.
Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.
Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.
San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.
San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or SanElizarioHistoricDistrict.org.
To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.
Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.
Fort Bayard tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society hosts walking tours of the historic fort 9:30 a.m. every Saturday through October at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, six miles east of Silver City, N.M. Meet at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26); opens at 9:15 a.m. Tour takes about 90 minutes; wear walking shoes, sun screen and a hat; water recommended. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 388-4477, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday). Admission is $3; (ages 16 and under free). Sunday admission for New Mexico residents is $1. Information: (575) 526-8911 or nmmonuments.org.
Fort Selden was a 19th-century adobe fort established to protect early settlers from Indian raids. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.
Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. The fort’s museum building, recently restored through a Save America’s Treasures grant, was originally a soldier’s barracks converted to serve as an Administration Building for the Public Health Service during the fort’s hospital era. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Living history tours offered the third Saturday of each month. Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, fortstanton.org or on Facebook.
Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month (May 2016, dates are May 7-8); call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or shakespeareghostown.com.
To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.
Pioneering woman bank president earned respect
Women have long been active in the growth of Texas. They not only raised families and supported their husbands’ pioneering efforts but often were trailblazers in their own right. One such lady was Anna Mebus Martin of Mason County, Texas.
Anna Martin came from Bremerhaven, Germany, landing at Galveston as a child with her family in 1858. She eventually became not just the first bank president in Texas, but one of the most respected as well. Asked how she did it, she replied, “I heard men say that she is only a woman, but I showed them what a woman could do.”
Martin passed away in 1925 at age 81. Her work ethic carried on in Mason County with her bank, the Commercial Bank of Mason, which remained in the family until 1958. In 2011 she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, recognizing her independence and courage.
Martin’s early years were loaded with hardship and loneliness. But they gave way to a life filled with comfort and companionship. Spending time with grandchildren and her sons, she would often be seen buzzing around in her black Cadillac going from bank conferences to visiting ranches.
Life was much lonelier growing up on the Texas frontier with her nearest neighbor miles away. Her only companions were family members and her cousin Charles Martin, who managed his uncle’s store. When a farm was available, the Mebus family and Charles Martin bought it and became partners.
Anna married her cousin and they worked hard on the farm doing everything to hold on and make a living: butchering, milking, plowing and planting. They did it all that while running the store where they sold meat to the soldiers and other families around Fort Mason.
Anna gave birth to sons Charles and Max. The family thrived for a time on the frontier until the coming of the Civil War. The Martins sided with the Union, which did not set well with their Confederate neighbors.
At the same time Anna became the support of her family. Anna’s husband was laid up in bed requiring constant care and young Charles had also become ill, which added to the family’s hardship and poverty. They were penniless because the Confederate money they accepted during the war became worthless at war’s end. They were looted twice, causing them to have to sell the store. Her husband eventually became the postmaster in Mason but died a few years later, in 1879.
Anna took over as postmaster and also operated a stagecoach station in Mason, where her house was located along the main route from El Paso to San Antonio. Business was brisk; she boarded travelers and built a new store selling groceries to people passing through.
With strong resolve Anna made up her mind that she would become someone or die trying. Growing the business with her older son, the store flourished, adding on the new goods she took in on commission. Cash was scarce so patrons paid her with whatever they had; oats, lumber, cattle, labor.
As the store grew so did Martin’s fortune. She built a large stone home, obtaining many acres of land and a large herd of cattle. She listed 217 people on her credit books. With this success and her background of managing her neighbor’s money through her store, it was only natural for her to open a bank.
On July 1, 1901, Martin — who was 58 by then — opened the Commercial Bank of Mason with the help of her two sons. She wasn’t the first banker in Mason County but quickly drew all the business because of her fair practices and trustworthiness. She took down the First National Bank that had preceded her by 10 years. Martin ran her many holdings until her death.
John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner and amateur
local historian. You can reach him
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