Home » Missouri » Hermann

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Strongly Republican
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 2063 0
1950 2523 5*
1960 2536 0
1970 2658 0
1990 2754 6
2000 2674 6

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


* All 5 blacks in the 1950 census were female, indicating that they may have been live-in maids.

“Hermann, Missouri was a sunset town. Very sadly and utterly, unforgivably pathetic. It started as a radical German colony and was an antislavery center in the heart of a slave state. I have no idea what happened to it.
I was born and raised in Washington, downriver…a liberal Democratic labor town in a rural conservative Democratic area.
Hermann began in the 1830s, an extension of a planned colonization by student radicals. At the time, the other river towns…like Washington…were essentially plantations that had attracted small clusters of neighbors. In the case of many, like Washington, those neighbors became increasingly German, which saved the area when the Civil War came. There was never any question about Hermann though. It was antislavery and became the only real Republican stronghold in the state outside of St. Louis.
Without getting to deeply into its rather interesting Civil War history…Napoleonic veterans and all…the town also witnessed a very gutsy defense organized by its schoolteachers (even the militia had been ordered out) against a Confederate division in 1864.
This continued into the 1870s, 80s and 90s to some extent. There were Knights of Labor and Single Tax clubs there with very little else between St. Louis and Jefferson City. Generally, though, the town stayed Republican right into the 20th century.
This would tend to focus the shift around the turn of the century when the Jim Crow laws were coming in. Perhaps it began as a Republican attempt to get the race issue entirely off the plate of the Democrats who became a rising force elsewhere in Gasconade county….
As I say my family settled in adjacent Franklin County in the years before the Civil War. What I know of Hermann is mostly from History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford, and Gasconade Counties, Missouri (Chicago, 1888).
There probably weren’t many blacks in Hermann before 1900, maybe none. These river towns are long and strung out with neighborhoods relatively easy to “read” given a modest understanding of the history. There were several black neighborhoods in Washington, each clustered around the original centers of black population, the plantations of the McLeans, Owens, etc. In contrast, Hermann never had plantations or even the central Missouri equivalent. There existed no reason for blacks to live there, maybe not until the felt the postwar pressures to move.
Various titles in German history touch on the Burschenschaften and the plans of Muensch and Karl Follen to establish a community in America. After they fled Germany and reached America in the early 1820s, Follen married a Boston family and introduced gymnastics to New England universities, but he was one of the radical of the radical abolitionists. His son is mentioned prominently in connection with the Sea Islands colonies of freedmen. Muensch moved to Warren County, Missouri, and became a mainstay of the antislavery movement; the family were all doctors down the line, his great grandson was our family doctor.
Old student radicals they interested in the project clustered among the older Pennsylvania “Dutch” and formed a German Resettlement Society. According to the county history, it first met in 1836 and decided to colonize what became Hermann the following year. p. 658 59. The area was ardently secularist, something not stated but evident in the dates that churches organized…some while after you had a sufficient population for them. In the 1860 election, Gasconade county cast 433 votes for Lincoln, 157 for Bell, 51 for Breckenridge, and 188 for Douglas. p. 636. Not a usual return for a county in a slave state.”
The 1860 census website at says that Gasconade county had 8,727 whites, of whom 28 owned 76 slaves, and the entire county had only 9 “free colored”. Probably the entire black population at the time was outside of Hermann.”

“The dominant conventional wisdom [at the Gasconade Historical Society] is that Hermann was a sundown town: “didn’t allow them to stay over night; could come and shop, ok, but don’t stay.” On the other hand, there are reports of a black man living in Hermann, well respected, German speaking in the early 20th century, and several free blacks during the civil war. There was a vote, according to one source, in which the German School constituents voted not to integrate the schools in the early 20th century, and that the margin was just one vote.
There are also reports that there was a powerful enough pro black sentiment in the community after the civil war that blacks in the general area used Hermann as the site for celebration of Emancipation Day for a number of years. Still, the conventional wisdom is that it was a sundown town; a well established black community of ex slaves just across the river, but not in Hermann.”

A small black community near Hermann learned German to get along with their neighbors.
[Russel L. Gerlach, Immigrants in the Ozarks (Columbia: U MO P, 1976), 37.]