Hermann: Missouri’s German Village
November 30, 2022
(Photos and memories of June 3, 2015, and November 1, 2022)
Wilkommen! Welcome to Hermann, an old German settlement in central Missouri!
Hermann was founded in 1837 by a German settlement society known as the Deutsche Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft zu Philadelphia. Their purpose was to establish a self-supporting colony dedicated to perpetuating German culture, built around farming, commerce, and industry. You might say the founders succeeded — nearly 200 years after its founding, Hermann is the center of a thriving wine-making region and a popular tourist destination known for its Maifest and Oktoberfest celebrations. The town’s population in 2020 was 2,185.
A German-born organist and music teacher named George Bayer was the leader of the first group of colonists and is considered the town’s founder.
Under Bayer’s leadership, the colony cultivated wine grapes similar to those found in Germany’s Rhineland region. The area around Hermann is known today as the Missouri Rhineland.
The town was named for Hermann der Cherusker, better known under his Roman name Arminius, or colloquially as “Herman the German.” In 9 AD, Arminius defeated and destroyed three Roman legions at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, ending Roman designs to expand their empire into Germany and changing the course of history. In fact, to this day, the western boundary of the nation of Germany roughly follows the old border between the Roman Empire of the 1st Century AD and the lands of “Germania.”
As I walked around Hermann, I realized that nearly every building in the downtown area dates from 100 years ago. Along First Street, several wineries, distilleries, beer halls, German sausage shops, and festival buildings demonstrate that Hermann maintains its old Rhineland heritage.
My first visit to Hermann fell on a cloudy June day, but for my second visit, I made sure to arrive on a sunny fall day when I could capture some of the Autumn foliage around town. Below are some houses and residential streets from November 1, 2022:
The town’s history museum, the Historic Hermann Museum, is housed within the old German bi-lingual school building at the corner of Schiller and 4th Streets. Many of Hermann’s streets are named for German artists and composers such as Schiller, Mozart, and Goethe.
4th Street serves as a secondary commercial street in Hermann, featuring bars, restaurants, and festival space for the annual Oktoberfest. If you come here, try Wings-A-Blazin’ for some of the best chicken wings to be found anywhere!
Hermann is located on the banks of the Missouri River approximately 80 miles upstream of St. Charles, Missouri, where the Missouri meets the Mississippi River (St. Charles is a suburb of St. Louis). Such a place is a prime location for the county seat of Gasconade County, Missouri, and Hermann has fulfilled that role since 1842.
The Gasconade County Courthouse was built in 1889 on a bluff overlooking the Hermann town center and the Missouri River. A historical sign outside the building explains that the courthouse was funded entirely with private money and may be the only example of a public building in the United States that was financed in such a manner.
Here are some photos from inside the courthouse: the main courtroom, a chandelier hanging above the ground floor lobby, and a painting of a paddle-wheeler plying the Missouri River below the courthouse.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
All photos were taken by the author on June 3, 2015, or November 1, 2022.
My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
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