Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Monday, May 18, 2009

AND NOW THE FABULOUS HERRMANS

If it sounds as if I am introducing a circus act, I am not. It is indeed quite rare when a family makes a significant impact on their community in a relatively short period of time, but the Herrman family of Dublin and Eastman did just that, helping to transform the sleepy hamlets into thriving cities. This is their story. It is a story of hard work, dedication to serving others and what one family can do to make their hometown a better place to live.

Henry Herrman was born in Bavaria Germany about the year 1832.Henrietta Goodman Herrman, also a native of Germany, was born five years later in 1837. Henry and Henrietta left their families and friends behind in Germany and set out for America in 1849. They found a country torn between the rights of states to determine if one man could own another and subject him to slavery.

After a short stay in New York City, where they married, the Herrmans chose to make Dublin their home in the 1850s. Henry and his brother Julius purchased one of the four prime lots in the Town of Dublin from the Guyton family in the late spring of 1858. The Herrmans paid the handsome sum of $1250 for the entire city block on the south side of West Jackson Street and the western side of South Jefferson Street. The purchase included the store being operated by John J. Keen and excluded the doctor shop lot. Henry was a merchant. Like many of his fellow countrymen, Henry came to the United States to peddle his wares and to make a living for his family. Henry quickly improved his lots and buildings and opened his own shop on the busiest corner in town.

Henry purchased two town lots on the site of the old Piggly Wiggly grocery store, now the used car lot of Pitts Toyota, for his home on New Year's Day in 1859.

On the very day that the Confederate States of America adopted their constitution, Henry and Julius began to divest themselves of their real estate holdings. Julius had already moved to Alachua County, Florida. Whether the Herrman brothers knew that economic times would be bad is unknown, but they, along with everyone else in the country, knew on February 8, 1861, that a war between the North and the South was eminent.

The Herrmans sold a portion of Lot 90 to Malcom Coneley and Bryan A. Herndon, where they had been operating a grocery store. Sigmund Elenger, a fellow Eastern European merchant, bought Lot 91 to establish his own store. John J. Keen paid $250.00 for the southern half of the city block where he was then residing. Henry bought out Julius' share of the remainder of Lot 90, where Peter Sarchett kept a grocery and Henry and Joel Perry operated the store on the corner under the banner of Herrman and Perry.

Times were bad in Dublin during the war, really bad. In fact, the small hamlet virtually dried up and blew away. Henry loved his adopted hometown. He was inducted into the Laurens Lodge No. 75, F.&.A.M. During the Civil War, Henry, too old to serve in the regular infantry, enlisted in Company A of the 2nd Georgia Militia on May 26, 1864. He served in the defense of General Sherman's campaign against Atlanta and her defensive neighboring towns and communities.

On July 6, 1869, Henry Herrman was appointed by President U.S. Grant as postmaster of Dublin, making him the first and only foreign born postmaster the city ever had. Herrman was also the first and only postmaster of the Jewish faith to serve as postmaster of Dublin. Hermann served in the position until October 1870, when he was replaced by Maggie Hester, the city's first female postmaster.

In the latter months of 1872, Henry and Henrietta decided that if they were going to survive the turbulent times of the post Reconstruction era, they would have to move. Dublin and Laurens County were stagnant. With no railroad and no promises of one on the horizon, the Herrmans knew that they had to follow the business. After a brief time in New York, where their sons obtained a substantial education, the Herrman's moved to nearby Eastman, Georgia on the Macon & Brunswick Railroad. The infant county seat of Dodge County was on the verge of a boom and Henry wanted to capitalize on the trade coming into the railroad town.

In the early days of 1873, Herrman sold his home store lot at a very handsome profit to Seaborn L. Weaver. Hermann threw in with the deal, a prized and highly coveted tract of land along the Oconee River at the eastern edge of town, including the highly lucrative ferry lot.

Known for his uncanny financial ability, Henry Herrman opened his first store in Eastman in the Macon & Brunswick Railroad depot. But Henry's life would soon end for in February 1875, he died, leaving his wife and seven children. As he lay dying for eight days, Henry repeated the prayers he was taught by his Jewish forefathers. His body was buried with Masonic honors in Rose Hill Cemetery in the City of Macon, where he attended worship services in the synagogue. Henrietta survived Henry by nearly nineteen years until she died in the winter of 1894 despite the heroic and loving efforts of her son, Dr. Jefferson D. Herrman. The editors of the Eastman Times described her death, "Being very feeble, the morning sun ushered in another day. Her aged form was cold in death, and her gentle spirit had taken flight to the land where the sun never sets and pain and death never enter." Henrietta was buried beside her dear husband in Rose Hill.

Isaac, the oldest son, was born in New York about the year 1851. He was elected as the second Clerk of the Superior Court of Dodge County in 1874 and served one two-year term. It was said that in his brief time in Eastman he had more friends than in his whole life. He moved to Tennille to be closer to the family of his wife, Miss Annie Bashinski. Among the couple's children were Henry, Moses and Clara. Isaac died all too young at the age of thirty-four at his home in Tennille on March 30, 1885.

Elias was, on September 15, 1858, the first of the Herrman children to be born in Dublin. Elias was educated in the schools of Dublin and New York City before being admitted to the bar of Laurens County at a very young age. He practiced in Macon until 1877, when he moved to Cochran, where he enjoyed a successful practice. Elias was honored by the Cochranites when he was chosen to serve as the city's attorney for many years.

In 1888, Elias rejoined his family in Eastman, where he immediately became one of the leading citizens of the city. In 1891, Elias was the first of the Herrman brothers to be elected Mayor of Eastman. Two years later in 1893, Col. Herrman was appointed by Georgia governor William J. Northern as Judge of the County Court of Dodge County. In his personal life, Judge Herrman was married to Miss Josephine Heimer of Montezuma, Georgia, who bore him six children.

As a lawyer in private practice, Col. Herrman was considered by some of his peers to be one of the best criminal lawyers in the state, a man of social instinct with many hundreds of friends. He was dubbed the Demosthenes of the Eastman bar in comparing the young barrister to the legendary statesman and orator of ancient Athens, Greece. Herrman, always considered earnest and zealous in the representation of his clients, was also a man who was considered kindhearted, generous and sympathetic. Judge Elias Herrman, at the age of only forty-three years, died suddenly at his home in Eastman on July 17, 1902. His body was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Eastman with full Masonic honors.

Solomon was born on August 20, 1859 in Dublin. He joined his brothers in traveling to New York to further their education. He moved to Eastman with his parents when the town was just beginning to grow. Following in the footsteps of his father, Solomon entered the mercantile business. In 1885, the voters of Eastman elected Solomon to serve a two - year term as city clerk, one year of which was under Mayor William P. Eastman.

His success in business led to his being asked to form the Merchants and Farmers Bank in 1905. He served as the vice-president of the bank until 1910, when it was reorganized as the First National Bank. The directors elected Herrman president of one of the town's most successful banks. Solomon was interested in the business of agriculture as well. He helped to form the Dodge Fertilizer Works and operated a large farm which employed 150 people.

In 1912, Solomon Herrman became the third son of Henry and Henrietta Herrman to serve as mayor of Eastman. This was a remarkable feat in light of the fact that there had been few Jewish mayors in the history of Georgia, and at the time, there had been an increase in anti-Semitic among some citizens of Georgia. Though Solomon was not a professional like his brothers, Elias and Jefferson, he was devoted to the improvement of education in Dodge County, serving on the board of education and being active there for sixteen years.

Solomon's first wife, the former Miss Hennie Oestrich of Lockport, New York, tragically died in October 1890. Solomon then married Sophie Bashinski of Tennille, Georgia, a daughter of Sam Bashinski. The Herrmans had four children, Joseph, Thelma, Julian and Jennie Claire. Solomon was a Royal Arch Mason and a founding member of the Eastman Masonic Lodge. He died on April 8, 1918 and was buried with Masonic rites in Woodlawn Cemetery beside his wife, who died in 1948.

Jefferson Davis Herrman was born in Dublin in 1861. There is an old tale that during the escape attempt of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the leader of "the Lost Cause" spent the night in the home of the Herrman family, who named their son in his honor. That anecdote could be true. But, if you consider the fact that Jefferson Davis Herrman was born in 1861, his parents would have changed his name to honor the ever popular Southern leader.

Jefferson attended and graduated from the Medical Department of the University of Georgia in April 1882 at the age of twenty-one. He performed his post graduate requirements at New York Polyclinic Hospital. For forty years, Dr. Herrman was recognized as one of the leading physicians of Dodge County. At one time, Dr. Herrman was president of the Georgia Medical Society.

Dr. Herrman served as an officer of the Masonic Lodge, the Knights of Pythias, and the Bank of Eastman. In 1910, he became the second Herrman brother to serve as mayor of Eastman and was succeeded by his brother Solomon.

Dr. Herrman married Nettie Hirsh of New York City in November 1889, just five days after the marriage of his brother Solomon. The couple had two children, Ferdinand and Hortense.

When the depression began to strike Dodge County in the early 1920s, Dr. Herrman moved to join his son, Dr. Ferdinand H. Herrman, who was practicing in Far Rockaway on Long Island, New York. Dr. J.D. Herrman, who came within three months of practicing medicine for fifty years, died of a heart attack at his home in New York on January 4, 1932. Only his brother App survived him.

Ferdinand H. Herrman followed in the footsteps of his father. Ferdinand graduated near the top of his medical class at Tulane University at the age of twenty-two. He served an internship at Grady Hospital before enlisting in the U.S. Army in World War I. As a surgeon of the medical corps of the Second Division, Capt. Herrman was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by Gen. John J. Pershing to add to his award of the Croix de Guerre by the French government for his heroic actions at Merde Ferme.

Captain Herrman was stationed in a dressing station just behind the front trenches of the American line. When a bomb struck the temporary hospital, Herrman climbed out the debris and proceeded to carry the wounded, along with the aid of a sergeant, back to a cave some 200 yards behind the lines. He set up a new hospital and remained at his post caring for the wounded until he was relieved.

Carrie Herrman, the youngest child, was born on January 23, 1868. She married Sigmund Harris, who was eighteen years her senior. The Harrises lived in Eastman. Carrie, like many of her siblings, died at an early age, fifty-three, on October 3, 1921. She is buried beside her husband in the family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery. Their son, Herrman Hirsch Harris, was the first graduate of Eastman High School.

Albert, or App, Herrman lived for a while in Eastman where he was engaged in the insurance business and served as an alderman on the city council around the turn of the 20th Century. He married Gertie Harris, sister of his sister's husband Sig Harris. He died on November 27, 1939 as the last of the Herrman children who came to Eastman with their parents in the early 1870s.

The story of the Herrman family is a true American success story. Henry and Henrietta came to America to find freedom and a better way to earn a living for their family. By educating their children to learn as much as they could and to give back to their communities, the Herrmans were really and truly fabulous Americans.

1 comment:

fredman said...

This is a terrific post. My father was William Harrison Herrman, the younger son of Dr. Ferdinand H. Herrman and Florence Herrman. I will go visit the cities of Dublin, Macon and Eastman, Georgia someday to see where it all began. - Fred Herrman, Burbank, California.