Baltimore Colony" to Oregon
Submitted by: Lisa Marie Sumner
In 1857 a depression hit the country and business failures and bankruptcies
prevailed. By early 1858 a group of old friends, business associates, and
local professionals, mostly of German decent, met in Baltimore, Maryland to
discuss the prospect of venturing toward Oregon. It was decided that Oregon
promised new financial hope, and that it would be a far better place to
raise their children.
However risky going to Oregon might have been, these were not people who
took risk lightly. These shrewd business people decided they needed more
accurate, and more personal information about the land that they were
considering to move to. Thus they chose the reliable Dr. Henry Hermann
(1812-1869), one of their number, to proceed them to the Pacific, and there
by personal observation acquire such details of Oregon as would be
convincing to those in Baltimore. They considered Dr. Hermann to be a
learned man of wide experience because he had graduated from the University
of Marburg and after occupied the chair of Professor of Anatomy and
Demonstrator of Surgery there, and as a physician and surgeon in Baltimore
City, he was the family physician of most of the assembled crowd. For years
he had studied the progression west and the development of new territories.
Though he had been tempted to join the California Gold Rush, he decided to
stay in MD. Then in the Mexican war he was chosen as regimental surgeon for
the troops from Western Maryland, and would have gone, but family
In 1840 he had married Elizabeth Hopkins (1821-1900), who would mother the
Hon. Binger E. Herman, Theobald Mannell Hermann, Amalia Thursnelda Hermann,
Washington Polk Hermann, Jefferson Kazzuth Hermann, Cass Mazzeny Hermann,
Otillie Thursnelda Hermann, Franklin Pierce Hermann, Henry Hopkins Hermann,
Sophia Maria Ellen Hermann, and Ernest William Hermann. Born on Mar. 1, 1821
in Tredegar, Monmothshire South Wales, England, she had come to the US in
1837 with her father, David Hopkins, who had built the first iron furnace in
the US near Cumberland, MD. She would come to live and die on the old
Hermann home stead on the South Fork of the Coquille river, abt. 6 miles
from where Myrtle Point, OR would eventually sprout.
About the time Dr. Hermann was preparing the trail that the Baltimore
Colony would follow, Oregon was being voted on for admission as a state and
a bill for its membership was pending in Congress.
In order to lay the way for himself in Oregon, Dr. Hermann visited the
capital and met with the then Delegate of the Oregon Territory, General
Joseph Lane. From Lane, who was also the US Senator elect for Oregon should
it become admitted, he obtained prepared letters, addressed to prominent
people who lived on the Pacific Coast, acquainting them with the Dr.s
purpose in visiting and requesting that they extend to him the full benefits
and charities of their good offices.
Dr. Hermann's son, the young Binger Hermann, came to Washington with his
father to meat Lane, and having just finished with the Home Academy courses
he wrote in his notes his elation at having visited the capital for the
first time. He was fascinated by politics and in awe of the politicians that
his father would bring him in contact with.
Binger went on to start the first public school in the Coquille Valley in
1860, also serving Douglas County as a school teacher at Yoncalla in 1862,
and in Canyonville in 1864. Then having studied law he was admitted to the
Oregon State Bar in 1866 and started his first practice in Roseburg.
Eventually he was elected to the state legislature representing Douglas
County, and two years later, he was elected state senator for Douglas, Coos
and Curry counties. He also served as deputy collector of internal revenue
for the state of Oregon.
In 1884, Binger Hermann was elected to the United States Congress as the
first representative in Congress for the entire state of Oregon. He was
instrumental in many river and harbor appropriations for Oregon and for the
establishment of lighthouses along the Oregon coast. And he was the author
of the Indian Depredation law, which provided payment for property damage
committed by hostile Indians during the Indian Wars.
In 1897 he was appointed the US Commissioner of the General Land Office.
When Vice President Theodore Roosevelt assumed the office of president, he
appointed Ethan Allan Hitchcock to the office of Secretary of the Interior.
Hitchcock and Hermann butted heads over policy. Roosevelt supported Hermann.
Hitchcock would go on to accuse the Hon. Binger Hermann of fraud against
the government, claiming that information on land fraud in Oregon had been
sent to Hermann and had been ignored, and that further Hermann had removed
and disposed of several files and letters from the General Land Office
concerning certain fraud investigations.
In a letter to his children entitled 'A Review of 75 years in Sunshine and
in Shadow,' written in 1918, Binger Hermann detailed his life and joys,
including those shadow years. After his death, in 1932, Harold Ickes, the
then Secretary of Interior under Franklin Roosevelt's administration,
exonerated Hermann of any wrongdoing.
But I digress to an earlier time of Binger Hermann's childhood. Just Prior
to the departure of his father to Oregon, Baltimore was abuzz with
continuous talk of the voyage that Dr. Hermann and a few of his most loyal
friends were about to take.
From New York City the group of early pioneers embarked on a Pacific Mail
steamship to Aspinwal, the Atlantic port at the Isthmus of Panama; and then
on rail they crossed the land to the old Spanish City of Panama, where a
steamship waited for the trip across the Pacific to San Francisco, which
then was a small town within the Golden Gate. From there they separated,
some of the companions wanting to visit old friends on the Coast. The Dr.
proceeded northward to the Sacramento Valley, promising to report his
findings back. On horseback he came into Oregon and traveled through the
once prosperous mining towns left from the Gold Rush of '48-'49. He also saw
camps of Chinese workers who had claimed plots that others had left and
found unprofitable or unworkable. Also there were vast pasturing lands for
cattle, horses, and sheep, industries that were replacing the search for
gold in that region.
Dr. Hermann crossed the Siskiyou Mountain Range and then went on over the
tributary streams of the Rogue River. After coming from arid Northern CA, to
the lush greenery and sparkling waters of Oregon country, he could not help
but to fall in love with Oregon. Already spacious barns had begun to dot the
verdant landscape along his trail.
He found cordial welcome in Jacksonville, where one could find superior
livestock for that region. While in Jacksonville he was made several
tempting offers urging him to move the Baltimore Colony there, and to enter
into physician and surgical practice there. However he went on to the Umpqua
Valley and found the little village of Roseburg, much of which had recently
been moved there from Winchester. There, in Roseburg he found Colonel L. F.
Mosher, the Register, and the son-in-law of General Lane, and Colonel
William J. Martin, the Receiver of Public Moneys. At the time Roseburg and
Oregon City were the only land districts for the territory. But Dr. Hermann
found refreshing civility in the company of the Kentucky born Colonel
Mosher, who had received classical education and studied law, and who would
become the Circuit Judge for that District. A typical Westerner, Colonel
Martin had been reared in the South and come to Oregon in 1843. Both of
these US Officials where very well acquainted with much of Oregon and the
information they gave him proved to be of inestimable value.
As the Colonels and the Dr. compared notes one day, a settler, Mr. John
Yoakam from the wilds of the Coquille, came into the office. He wanted
information on public land laws due to a possible dispute over boundaries.
Survey work was still due to be completed there and land disputes were
growing more popular. Mr. Yoakam told Dr. Hermann about the Coquille area's
fertile land, its proximity to the ocean, and the river, which was a
navigable current directly into the Pacific. He told Hermann of coal mines,
gold, copper, the mild climate, the pure water, the freedom from sickness
that had been experienced there. Travel to this highly recommended location
was mostly by Indian trail winding through dense timber and rocky canyons,
and up steep cliffs. So beautiful was the land and so convincing was
Yoakam's story that Hermann was determined to get the whole Baltimore Colony
to follow him there.
Traveling on an Indian pony with cropped ears Hermann followed Yoakam from
Roseburg across the Coast Range. The view they received upon setting their
eyes on the Coquille River Valley was breath taking to be sure. The forest
was uniform and dense and so shining in its green leafy canopy as to
resemble a vast lake extending to the horizon and off to the sea. There were
evergreens, myrtle, cedar, ash, maple, firs: all untouched by the curling
smoke of cabins or camp fires as far as the eye could see. So in love with
the sight was Dr. Hermann that he proclaimed that he would look no further,
and that he should live and die there in that valley.
Yoakam and Hermann made their way to the banks of the Coquille River, the
trail almost getting lost in the huge ferns. Marks had been left by trappers
and explorers on trees to show the way. They found a flat prairie of some
hundreds of acres around the river bank, and upon a slight elevation the
cabin of a solitary squatter, Harry Baldwin, the Irish writer and soldier
pioneer. Not many months in the future this would be Dr. Herman's family
home and on the crown of the little hill nearby he would eventually lay in
his grave in the Hermann Family Cemetery, a plot of land he would clear with
his own hands. A few miles further upon the prairie flat was the abode of
the Yoakam family, where the Dr. stayed until his return to Baltimore.
While in the Coquille Valley he sent articles he had prepared on the
resources and probable future of the Valley back to newspapers on the East
coast. He explored the mountains surrounding the area and prospected for
mineral deposits, and discovered evidences of gold, copper, iron, lead, and
coal. He reported that the soil was suitable for various crops from fruit to
vegetables and berries. He noted the quality of lumber for commercial use,
and mentioned the fish and game was abundant everywhere. He studied the
winds, the tides, observed the seasons. He visited Coos Bay and the spacious
harbor with its immense capabilities and tributaries.
Reporting his success to his companions in California and urging them to
come to the Coquille Valley at once to start building their homes, Hermann
waited and met them, giving them the first choice of the best land
surrounding his own home. As such, they began a mostly German community in
an area that would become the Broadbent of today. My own grandmother, Mabel
Arlene Hermann-Sumner, was born and raised on one of those pieces of
property near the Dr.s original Hermann home stead. Her brother, Leslie E.
Hermann, lived there his whole life and died while working the land, in the
garden, next to his life long home. They are both buried at the old Hermann
Dr. Henry Hermann met a steam ship at the mouth of the Umpqua and left for
San Francisco on his way back to Baltimore, MD in 1859. The Dr. was so
delighted by Oregon that the colonists rapidly adjusted their affairs of
business and said their goodbyes to Maryland. Oregon had been admitted as a
state in the Union, and it was drawing attention. So by April 11, 1859
Hermann had been able to assemble the Baltimore Colony in New York City and
take them onto the steamer, "Northern Light," of the Vanderbilt line.
The steam ship passed through the Gulf Stream off of Cape Lookout, then
across the Caribbean Sea and past the Bahamas, on past Jamaica, and after
ten days they came to the shores of Central America and the rough town of
Aspinwal. On the rail they proceeded across the Isthmus and the Panama
Canal. They saw the thick jungles full of palms, oranges, bananas, limes,
cocoanuts, plantains, and mangoes, with India rubber trees, reptiles, birds,
and flowers of every color. They came to the old Spanish City of Panama, and
could see their next steamer, the "Uncle Sam," which would take them across
the Pacific to San Francisco. They saw many ships, many flags, and even men
In those days the ships anchored far off of shore at that port, the small
boats bringing passengers and cargo in closer, and the Indian / Mexican
mixed attendants waded out to carry the passengers or loads to or from the
shore. Some of the women were not pleased about being man handled as they
were carried to the waiting boats.
After a distance the "Uncle Sam" anchored off of the Mexican port of
Acapulco, where they went sight seeing. They noted the formidable looking
castle of SanDiego there upon its high point. And they threw money into the
water, where the expert divers among the natives would dive and catch the
falling silver before it disappeared.
Soon the 50 pioneers passed through the Golden Gate and on May 7, 1859 they
walked away from the wharves of the famous San Francisco. It was a whole new
world to them. But the morning after their arrival in CA a local paper
printed an article wishing them well and reporting on the statistical
information of the Coquille Valley. It also said they planned to leave the
following Sunday for OR.
The whole party took the steam ship "Columbia" to Port Orford, OR. After
arriving May 22nd, they went inland and up the Coast. Ox teams carried the
heavy loads, and the children and women, along the beach route. They lead
long mule trains, with heavily laden pack mules sometimes spilling precious
cargo and breaking valued treasures.
Few of these high class city folk had ever slept outdoors, so the
experience of hiking through the wilderness and making camp under the stars
was foreign and sometimes frightening. They ate black bear and venison, and
hoped they could avoid becoming prey to wolves. One driver, Charley Hilburn,
a brother-in-law in after years of poet Joaquin Miller, had his wagon spill
over and down a bank into briars. They hoisted it back up and made sure no
one had been seriously injured before continuing on.
They reached the place where Bandon now rests, a place where a few years
earlier Indians had camped before being forcibly removed. And the place
where my younger brother and father now reside. There where no modern
conveniences, not even any houses around the Bandon area then. They had
however built the massive lighthouse that then stood there.
One day in May they had their first introduction to their Promised Land.
They rounded the river bend and saw the Hambloch Homestead, a cottage
clustered with vines and flowers in a grassy meadow full of dairy cows. They
were greeted warmly by Mr. John Hambloch and his wife, with whom they had
lunch. They feasted grandly on the fruit and milk and honey and meat that
Oregon could provide. After the salty steamer ship food it was welcome
relief to their stomachs.
One days journey past the Hambloch place they found a river camp made of
settlers from near their home of Baltimore. There were two families and the
Dr. had known them previously in MD. Doc Lowe was one of the party found.
They shared a couple of hearty meals then continued, feeling good about
their choice to move west.
On several boats they oared their way home, sometimes passing a lone beaver
trapper. William Shroeder, then about 16, was in one of the rear boats near
his father and an old man named Pagels. Accidentally, William fell into the
water, and Dr. Hermann's son, Binger, dove in to save him. Both boys quickly
sank under the water and reappeared minutes later battling for life. William
went to an untimely grave, but Binger was eventually carried to shore where
his father, luckily a doctor, saved his life. The body of the boy was found
17 days later by a trapper.
Just a week later the party lost a Mr. Wilde, who was a cigar maker of
Baltimore. He was accidentally shot by himself while traveling through dense
brush, the trigger pulled by a branch. He left a wife and two children, who
had no one else to care for them and an uncertain future. The following week
a Captain Harris was accidentally shot by his visitor, William Duke while a
rifle was cleaned for a hunt. Then George Harris, a Norwegian born man who
was disappointed with life disposed of himself at his solitary cabin.
Under constant hardship and toil the newcomers homed with those pioneers
already there and camped in the woods on the plots they had chosen for their
future cabin mentions. Nearby Mr. Binger Hermann would open the first school
in the valley. They cultivated there: patience, hope, and pride in their
hard work. The Dr. set the example for all. He quickly had planted his
garden and laid in a successful crop of tobacco. He imported honey bees and
grew flowers for them, having eventually gathered 150 hives. He also planted
and found markets for sugar beats flax seed, and many manners of vegetable.
The good Dr. Hermann was constantly absorbed with his work and he was the
only physician in the area.
Over the generations the Hermann family would continue to thrive and
contribute to the growth of all of Coos County and Oregon. Dr. Hermann's
third son, Washington Polk Hermann, my great great grandfather, had come to
Oregon when he was 11, having been born Dec. 2, 1848, at Cumberland,
Alleghany Co., MD. He attended the school that his brother, Binger, started
where Broadbent is now, and then went to Douglas county and became a teacher
himself. He taught with success in Coos and Douglas counties for several
years. He was married to Nancy Carolyn Brown June 22, 1875. He farmed and
taught until 1877 when they moved to Washington. They returned and built a
lovely home on the South Coquille River. Washington was buried on the
Hermann home stead July 12, 1899. The Myrtle Point Enterprise, a local paper
reported July 15, 1899 that Rev. Thomas Barklow was officiating.
Washington and Nancy had their son, Arthur Bozarth, one of four children,
on Sept. 25, 1876, a little over a hundred years before my own birth. He,
like his father, live and was buried in the Broadbent area. He married my
great grandmother, Letha Agness Neal (1893-1946), on Nov 5, 1911 in Coos
Co., OR. They bore my grandmother, Mabel Arlene at their Broadbent area home
on Dec 3, 1921. Mabel went on to marry Delbert Lee Sumner, who had come to
Oregon from Kentucky as a very young man of maybe 16, by himself.
At any rate they had my father in Myrtle Point, OR at the old Mast
hospital that eventually was turned into a retirement home. I myself was
born to Edward Lee Sumner and Della Jean Wagoner-Sumner at the old Coquille
Valley Hospital. My sister, my brother, my oldest daughter, and myself were
all born at a Coquille Hospital.
Now residing in Gresham, OR, I raise my children and teach them what little
I know about the land. I still stay in contact with some of my family that
have stuck out the financial depression that has hit the Coquille Valley
since the mills closed. Unfortunately through the years many of the Hermann
family descendants have lost the knowledge of how to support themselves from
the land itself and from the hard work of their hands. I, for instance, live
in an apartment and don't have the benefit of a garden, like I did in Myrtle
Point as a child. Still, I teach my daughters to quilt and handcraft arts,
like the pioneer women did, and I preserve what I was able to grasp from the
past. I remember the way my grandmother's brother used to press his own
cider from his own apple grove, and how my grandfather raised cattle. I try
to recall how my mother tended our backyard garden in case I'm ever able to
apply the knowledge again. And I study the past, so that I might be proud of
This is the story of my family as I know it. I hope this can be passed on to
help others claim their past and embrace it.