Augustine Herman

Augustine Herman

Infobox Officeholder
honorific-prefix =
name = Augustine Herman
honorific-suffix =

imagesize =

office = First Lord of Bohemia Manor
term_start = September 1660
term_end = September 1686
predecessor = new title
successor = Ephraim George Herman
birth_date = about 1621
birth_place = Prague, Bohemia
death_date = September 1686
death_place = Cecil County, Maryland
spouse = Jannetje Varleth

residence = New Amsterdam
Cecil County, Maryland
alma_mater =
occupation = merchant
profession =
religion = Dutch Reformed

Augustine Herman, First Lord of Bohemia Manor (about 1621 – September 1686) was a Czech explorer, merchant, and cartographer who lived in New Amsterdam and Cecil County, Maryland. In the employment of Lord Baltimore, he produced a remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay regions of North America, and established the enormous Bohemia Manor plantation in southeastern Cecil County, Maryland. Chroniclers spell the name differently: Herman, Herrman, Harman, Harmans, Heerman, Hermans, Heermans, etc. Augustine Herman himself usually spelled his name "Herman," which is now the accepted way of spelling his name. He frequently added “Bohemiensis” as a suffix.

Early life and family

According to the most reliable evidence, Augustine Herman was born about 1621 in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia; the location he himself stated in his last testament. The claim that he was born in 1605, as the son of Augustine Ephraim Herman, and Beatrice, the daughter of Caspar Redel, has never been established, nor has the belief of some that he may have been the son of Abraham Herman, the evangelical pastor of Mšeno. Accordingly, the claims that his father was a wealthy merchant and councilman of Prague, who was killed in 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years' War, remains hearsay. What can be said with certainty is his arrival in New Amsterdam in 1644.

Herman married December 10 1651, while he was in New Amsterdam. His wife was Jannetje Marie Varleth, the daughter of Caspar Varleth and Judith Tentenier, of New Amsterdam. They had five children, Ephraim, Casper, Anna, Judith and Francina. Jannetje died before 1665, and sometime after that Herman married again, this time to Mary Catherine Ward from Maryland. Herman was trained as a surveyor, and was skilled in sketching and drawing. He was also conversant in a number of languages, including Latin, which he successfully applied in his diplomatic assignments with the British.

Undocumented stories

There has been a lot of speculation about Herman's past. It has been asserted that he made a trip to America in 1633, when he allegedly signed his name witnessing the Dutch purchase of lands from the Native Americans near the later the site of Philadelphia. Some also claim that he made voyages to the Dutch Antilles and Surinam and that he claimed to be "the first founder of the Virginia tobacco-trade," which began in 1629. All these claims are undocumented and highly questionable. The witnessing cited above may have been a mistranslation of the original Dutch document, and all these events would have required him to have been born about 1605, married at 45, and lived to over eighty.

New Amsterdam merchant

According to the documents, Herman arrived in New Amsterdam in 1644. He was agent for the mercantile house of Peter Gabry and Sons of Amsterdam, and was one of the owners of the frigate "La Garce," which was engaged in privateering against Spanish commerce. In partnership with his brother-in-law, George Hack, he became the largest exporter of tobacco in America. Trading furs and tobacco for wine and slaves, he quickly became wealthy and the owner of considerable real estate, including most of what is now Yonkers, New York. Now one of the most influential people in New Amsterdam, he was elected in 1647 to the “Board of Nine Men,” a body of prominent citizens organized to advise and guide the Director-General of New Amsterdam. In time he chaired this Board and came into conflict with the new Director-General, Peter Stuyvesant. He was one of the signatories of a complaint, the “Vertoogh,” which was sent to Holland in July 1649 “to represent the poor condition of this country and pray for redress.” Stuyvesant could not let this challenge pass, and proceeded to take measures to assure Herman’s financial ruin. By 1653 Herman was briefly imprisoned for indebtedness.

Dutch diplomat

Herman’s talents were such that he soon became useful again. Stuyvesant soon sent him on a diplomatic mission to New England to resolve concerns about rumors of a Dutch and Native American alliance against the English. Of greater lasting importance, in 1659 he was sent to St. Mary’s, Maryland with Resolved Waldron to negotiate the dispute between New Netherlands and Maryland’s proprietor Lord Baltimore over ownership of the lands on the western shore of the Delaware Bay, that were claimed by both parties. Herman first articulated the argument that Baltimore’s charter was only good for lands that had not been previously settled, and that the short-lived, 1631 Swanendael settlement, at present day Lewes, Delaware, gave the Dutch prior rights to the whole Delaware River watershed. Baltimore rejected the argument completely, but subsequently the English successors to the Dutch title, the Duke of York and William Penn, were successful in making the case, ultimately leading to the separate existence of the state of Delaware.

Regardless of the success of the negotiations, Herman had made a good impression on the Calverts. Undoubtedly still smarting from Stuyvesant’s rough treatment and remembering the fine lands he crossed in the upper Chesapeake Bay, Herman offered to produce a map of the region in return for a grant of land. The offer was accepted and the grant made in September 1660. It stated that as compensation for his services Lord Baltimore would grant him “Lands for Inhabitation to his Posterity and the Privilege of the Manor.” Wasting no time, Herman moved his family to Maryland by 1661.

Bohemia Manor

Herman called his first grant “Bohemia Manor” after his homeland. It included much of the land east of the Elk River and north of the Bohemia River. The manor house was built on the north shore of the Bohemia River, across from Hacks Point, and just to the west of present day Maryland Route 213. Herman become a naturalized citizen of Maryland in 1666, and once he completed the map of Maryland and Virginia in 1670, additional grants were made. They became known as “Little Bohemia,” south of the Bohemia River, and “St. Augustine Manor,” stretching to the Delaware River between St. George's Creek and Appoquinimink River. In all he owned nearly 30,000 acres (120 km²) and became one of the largest landowners in North America. For added insurance he then successfully negotiated a purchase agreement with the Susquehanna American Indians, who also viewed the land as theirs. In 1684 he conveyed a tract of 3,750 acres (15 km²) to a group of Dutch pietists, who established a community of Labadists upon it.

For the remainder of his long life, Herman managed his plantation and enjoyed the life of a country squire, occasionally engaging in mercantile activities and official duties. He was a member of the governor's council and a justice of Baltimore County which then included all of the upper Chesapeake Bay. In 1674 Cecil County was created, and the first courthouse was built near the Sassafras River. In 1678 Herman was appointed a commissioner to treat with the Indians. Currently, there are two schools that are named in honor of Bohemia Manor; Bohemia Manor High School, and Bohemia Manor Middle School

Death and legacy

Herman was 65 years old when he died September 1686 on Bohemia Manor in Cecil County, Maryland. He is buried there. During his last years he was disabled by paralysis, and according to one source, by an “inattentive wife.”

His eldest son, Ephraim George Herman, who became Second Lord of Bohemia Manor, was born in New Amsterdam in 1652. He lived in New York City in 1673, and was in New Castle County by 1676 where he was at various times Clerk of the Courts of New Castle County and Upland County and Surveyor for St. Jones County and New Castle County. About 1680 he became a Labadist, but was taken sick, lost his mind, and died on Bohemia Manor in 1689, surviving his father by only three years. He had married Elizabeth van Rodenburg, who survived him, subsequently marrying Major John Donaldson, a member of the provincial council of Pennsylvania. They had four children, but it is believed that all of Ephraim's children died before reaching maturity, and the Lordship passed to his brother when he died.

The second son, Casperus Augustine Herman, who became the third Lord of Bohemia Manor, was born in New Amsterdam in 1656 and died on Bohemia Manor in 1704. He lived in New Castle for a number of years and represented New Castle County in the general assembly of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties from 1683 to 1685. He was later a member of the legislature of Maryland in 1694.

It was his son, Ephraim Augustine Herman, who became the fourth Lord of Bohemia Manor. He was born on St. Augustine's Manor, in New Castle County, and died on Bohemia Manor in 1735. He was a member of the legislature of Maryland from Cecil County in 1715, 1716, 1728, and 1731.

Casparus Herman, son of Ephraim Augustine, became the fifth and final Lord of Bohemia Manor in 1735. He died four years later without any children and so the title became extinct. His elder sister, Mary Augustine Herman, was his primary heir, and she married John Lawson, who secured the inheritance. Eventually most of this passed to Richard Bassett through his step father, Peter Lawson, and his mother, Judith Thompson, a granddaughter of Augustine Herman, the first Lord, through one of his daughters.

The Living Legacy

Notwithstanding his numerous accomplishments during his lifetime, part of Augustine Herman's legacy have been the numerous distinguished descendants he left. Some of them are listed below.

Richard Bassett, Daniel Brewster, James A. Bayard, James A. Bayard, Jr., Richard H. Bayard, Thomas F. Bayard, Thomas F. Bayard, Jr., Francis Beverley Biddle, Henry W. Collier, Lucius Q. C. Lamar, Edmund Jennings Randolph, and
Joseph Tydings.Fact|date=June 2007

External links

* [ Augustine Herman Bohemiensis - Life, Accomplishments, Living Legacy]
* [ Bohemia Manor and Augustine Herman]
* [ Descendants of Augustine Herman]
* [ Descendants of Augustine Ephraim Herman ]
* [ Exploring Maryland's Roots]
* [ Mapmaker Came to State As Enemy]
* [ Maryland's Forgotten Bohemian]

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