Hermann was founded in 1836 by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia. Concerned because of the English influence on their children and the loss of their German traditions and customs, the society had a grand vision of founding a city where German culture could flourish in the New World. In early spring of 1837, the settlement society sent a scouting committee to visit locations in the Midwest for their new city, which was the first planned community west of the Mississippi River.
They deputized George Bayer, a teacher, to lay claim to the land that is now Hermann because the geography reminded them of the Rhineland in Germany. Bayer purchased over 11,300 acres at a cost of about $15,600. The town was bordered by hills on three sides and the Missouri River to the north. Bayer was later appointed as General Agent for the new city at a salary of $600 per year.
The first group of settlers, nine adults and eight children, arrived in Hermann in December of 1837 on the last steamboat of the season from St. Charles, Missouri. Bayer started with the 17 settlers, but he became ill and was delayed many weeks in Pittsburgh. His delay in arriving caused problems because he was the only person with the authority to lay out and assign lots to people. Another group of colony members planned better. Instead of showing up in the wilderness in the middle of winter, they came as far as St. Louis, looked for temporary work, and waited for Bayer. They moved to Hermann in the spring of 1838, along with Bayer.
Developing their town was more difficult than the organizers had expected, in part because they asked too much from Bayer. He was to survey all the land, assign property to the colonists, furnish food for all the settlers, arrange for sawmills and gristmills to be built, and deal with complaints. And the settlers had many complaints. In fact, they complained so much that the Society lost confidence in Bayer and released him from his duties. His health had suffered under the demands placed on him, and Bayer died (some say of a broken heart) in March 1839 at the age of 39. He was buried in the remotest part of the Hermann Cemetery on East Hill, and it was declared that no one could be buried within 75 feet of his grave.
During Hermann's sesquicentennial celebration in 1986, a court of inquiry was formed to hear Bayer's case. It was determined that all the tasks that were assigned to him were impossible to carry out, and, therefore, he was exonerated.
Today, Hermann is a thriving community, although the Germans had hoped to build a city that could rival Philadelphia. We do have one claim to fame, however, and that is that our Market Street is 10 feet wider than Market Street in Philadelphia.
Hermann has two official historic districts, the area surrounding Stone Hill Winery and the part of town near the Missouri River. We have more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Hermann's population is approximately 2,750. Its main industries are tourism and agriculture.