In the early 1830s, members of the Philadelphia German Society, who were saddened by how quickly German immigrants were losing the culture and ways of the old country determined to start a town on the frontier all their own to retain their German way of life. They hired a school teacher, George Bayer, to find a suitible piece of land for the town they would call Hermann. So in 1837, Bayer traveled to Missouri and purchased 11,000 acres of very hilly land on the banks of the Missouri river. Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the Hermann city planners, who were under the mistaken impression that the land was flat drew up a map of their new town with wide boulevards and large market squares. When the first 17 settlers of the town stepped off the last steamboat of the season, they were dismayed to discover that the plans for their flat town would have to be scrapped, and they would have to settle what they referred to as a “howling wilderness”. Making the best of a bad situation, they realized that the hilly rocky land, so called “vertical acreage”, would be good for little else but growing grapes, and so that’s what they planted – everywhere.
Ten years later, Hermann held its first “Weinfest”, and visitors came via steamboat from St. Louis.
By the turn of the century, Hermann was producing over 3 million gallons of wine annually. Steamboats bearing cargo and visitors arrived regularly from St. Louis. A train line was built from Hermann to the state’s capital, Jefferson City. But hard times were just around the corner. First, Prohibition decimated the wine industry.
And then anti-German sentiment arose with the coming of WWI. A state edict forbade the use of the German language. In 1920, Hermann sank into an economic depression that would last until WWII.
Nearly 50 years after prohibition, Hermann started to produce wine again. Today there are 7 wineries, producing a third of the state’s total production. Wineries are the main tourist attraction for Hermann, just as it was before prohibition. Because Hermann’s citizens could not afford to modernize their buildings during the depression, Hermann today contains many lovely 1800s buildings, more than 150 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hermann also has the largest number of B & B sites in the state. And the tradition of the annual “Weinfest”, first held in 1847, has continued to this day, as each October Hermann celebrates its Oktoberfest.
We didn’t have enough time to visit all that Hermann has to offer, but we definitely plan on going back sometime.
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I loved learning about the school teacher that was hired to seek out and purchased 11,000 acres. What a responsibility that was!! And then, they were disapointed to boot! yowza…wonder how he must have felt about that! It really looks like a beautiful, quaint town! Ocotberfest must be a blast there!
Can you imagine what a tall order that was? At that time, eastern Missouri was the “frontier”. He made that trip, not an easy one in those days, and bought the land, only to be hated for his choice later. I’ll bet he didn’t volunteer for a task like that ever again.
What a fascinating history for that town! Thanks for digging up that information. Very interesting.
Hi Lee Ann,
You’re welcome, and thank you for visiting!
You’ve caught the essence of the historic town through your lovely photographs and words. The long shot ‘aerial’ view of the town in the first colour pic is the best! Old buildings do have a lot of character, don’t they?
We’ve found on our travels that the prettiest towns with the old buildings just couldn’t afford to modernize. Love the look of the old buildings. Much prettier than a lot of architecture today.
You always amaze me, you capture the best of every town you visit. It is now on my “Bucket List” of towns to go see!
I’ve been following your blog for a while and let me tell you, you always have the most awesome informative posts. It’s a total adventure reading your blog. I learn so much. Especially on farmlife!
I will say one thing on today’s post, there’s nothing in Southern California that even comes close to Hermann, Missouri. =)
Mia @ City Girl to Country Girl
Hi City Girl to Country Girl,
Well thank you so much. I’ve been to southern California a few times. Love the ocean!
Lovely town! If I ever do a drive back east, will have to swing through that way to take it in. Love the photos, captures the quaintness.
Wow. I’ve been telling everyone how much I am learning about history on your site. I always hated history in school, you have made me love it now. Told a history teacher at church a few weeks ago about the National orphanage train museum. She didnt know about it either.
What another amazing story. Very disappointing for the people there. So much work and then to have it lay dormant.
Being a farmer, I couldnt imagine that. Sad. Beautiful town. I want to go there.
I never liked history in school either, but learned to love it after I got out of school. Go figure.
Oh, forgot to tell you. i made your roast chicken w/homemade stuffing and your refridgerator pickles last monday. Outstanding. We all loved it. The pickles have been getting made everyday. So yummy. made them for my riding group last wed. and everyone wants the recipe. The chicken in a bag was a new thing, how the heck they make a plastic bag to roast something in the oven is beyond me? It worked and was outstanding. Thanks for the recipes.
So glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes! More to come – Next I’m making homemade peach pie, with a crust from scratch too.
Beautiful town with an amazing history! It is very interesting.
Thank you for stopping by!
Many a summer day was spent as a young man running my boat up the Missouri River from Washington to Hermann to pick up a few bottles of wine, push off the bank, cut the engines and float our way back down. It was a Great day trip where many fond memories were made. I hope to take my beautiful wife on that trip some day.
Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you can make it back someday soon.
This history lesson was so enlightening as my married name is Wiens and we are part owners of a family winery in Temecula, CA called Wiens Family Cellars!!! I’d love to visit Hermann one day, you’ve piqued my interest! Thanks!
I grew up near a tiny town by the name of Wien, which I’m told was German for Vienna.
Do visit Hermann if you get to Missouri sometime. It’s worth it.
My four sisters, 2 sisters-in-law, mom and grandma rented a B&B for a weekend just south of Hermann in a TINY town that I can’t remember the name of now. We had a great time, and did some antiqueing and even some Christmas caroling, since it was in December. You just made me think about that again, even though it was just a few years ago.
Oh, I’ll bet that area is beautiful during the holidays. Never been there then.