The Gasconade County Courthouse was constructed from 1896-1898. It is thought to be the only courthouse in the United States erected by private funds. Charles D. Eitzen, the city's benefactor, willed the sum of $50,000 to the county government for the building. It was constructed of 400,000 bricks fired in the Vallet brickyard just east of Hermann. To give it a fine gloss and uniform color, the bricks were brushed with beer that was produced in the former Kropp Brewery (now Hermannhof Winery). Good vinegar would have served the same purpose, but as long as beer was cheaper, and readily available, the latter was used. While the courthouse was being treated, no workmen were permitted to indulge in the beer. Fire damaged the building in 1905. The present dome was reconstructed to somewhat different specifications than the original. (Take a few minutes to visit the courthouse, and view the lovely paintings and mural by local artists.)
The cannon on the front lawn of the courthouse played an important role in the history of Hermann. On the afternoon of Oct. 4, 1864, Confederate General Marmaduke's army made an appearance on the hills on the east side of town. A small militia company used the cannon to ward off Marmaduke's advance. Our gunners first fired on the intruders from the riverfront as they entered town around the bluff to the east. They then pulled the cannon to the hill where St. George Catholic Church stands and fired at the Confederates on the opposite hill, and from there they went into the vineyards at Stone Hill Winery and kept shooting until their ammunition ran out. The Confederates assumed that all of the western hills in town were fortified and checked their advance for more than an hour. Marmaduke sent several of his men out on horseback to find their attackers. What they discovered were a group of old men firing a beat up cannon. They threw the cannon into the river, but it was later retrieved by several local citizens.