The Riverfront Park was a new addition to Hermann in the 1990s, and is a popular spot to hold local events or just to take a casual stroll along the banks of the Missouri River.
Activity on the Missouri River at Hermann dates to 1819, well before the first German settlers arrived here. From 1836 to 1875, our “mountain pilots”, as the steamboat captains were called, were privileged characters and at the top of one of the highest paid professions in America. They received from $6,000 to $8,000 for a 2,300-mile trip to Fort Benton, Montana that lasted from 3 1/2 months to 6 months, and an eight-day trip from St. Louis to Omaha often earned them $1,000.
The worst boating disaster at the port of Hermann occurred at the wharf in 1843 when the steamer Big Hatchie blew up and killed some 70 people, mostly German immigrants seeking new homes in the Far West. Some 40 of these unfortunate people are buried on the top of the hill in the city cemetery in unmarked graves. At the time of the disaster, the Leimer Hotel (across Wharf St.) was converted to a hospital for a short time.
The first steam ferry boat at Hermann was the W.A. Knapp. In 1864, during the Civil War, this boat took most of the women and children up to Graf's Island, where they stayed while General Sterling Price's army went west through Hermann, burning railroad bridges and shooting up everything that did not strike their fancy. Before the steamer Knapp operated at Hermann, there was a hand-powered ferry boat business here.
In about 1880, the Hermann Ferry and Packet Company was started, and it operated out of Hermann on the Missouri, Osage, and Gasconade rivers. This little steamboat company was perhaps the most successful ever organized. At times it paid as much as 200 percent on its investment, and during the more than half century of its existence, it never lost a boat or damaged a cargo.
From 1845 until the early 1900s, it was river traffic that kept Hermann on the map. Historians believe that our city should go down in history as being the most successful river town on the Missouri. Some 40 steam and gasoline boats and some 30 barges were built here, and Hermann sent more boat men out on our rivers than any other place between St. Louis and Fort Benton.
Ferry boat business ceased in Hermann in about 1929, the year the Missouri River Bridge was completed. Prior to the construction of the bridge, ferries transported people across the river. In winter, when the river froze, they could walk from shore to shore. School children living north of the river often stayed with families in Hermann during the week to avoid daily river crossings.