September 30th, 2014
Having lived in Cecil County for nearly 20 years, I’ve often wondered who Augustine Herman was and why he had such an impact on the region. A school, a river, and numerous developments in the south county area bear the name of his estate, and Augustine Herman Highway (Route 213) is a major thoroughfare connecting north and south ends of the county.
It turns out this Czech merchant has a fascinating history: he was an explorer, statesman, mapmaker, and land baron who established the Bohemia Manor plantation in Cecil County in 1661.
Herman was born in the eastern European region of Bohemia (now called the Czech Republic). He later settled in the Netherlands and eventually sailed to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (present-day New York City.)
In 1659 New Amsterdam’s governor sent Herman to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to gather information on a border dispute that was occurring between Maryland and Dutch settlements along the Delaware Bay.
Maryland must have appealed to Herman as he returned in 1660. He made a deal with Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore that he would draw an accurate map of the colony (Herman was trained as a surveyor and was skilled in sketching and drawing) in exchange for ownership of land on the Eastern Shore.
Augustine Herman received 6,000 acres of land for his map. He named the property “Bohemia Manor” after his homeland. In addition to the land grant, he was also named a naturalized citizen, the first of the colony. Along with holding many county offices, Herman spent years charting the colony and eventually drew what was then the most accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay. Many people living in England first learned what Maryland looked like from Augustine Herman’s map.
If you are interested in learning more about the life of Augustine Herman, the Cecilton Branch Library is hosting a program on October 21 at 6:30 pm. To register, stop by any branch, call, or register online.