Hermann, Mo. – Jim and Mary Dierberg’s Hermann Farm and Museum opened in May, offering visitors a trip back in time to see how the first German immigrants lived and farmed after arriving in 1837 in the hilly valley that would become Hermann.
The Dierbergs have restored historic buildings on the 200-acre farm, including the two-story Husmann House, a Greek-revival style home that has served as the estate and business office of prominent leaders in Hermann since 1850. The house now serves as a museum with authentic period furnishings.
The collection of meticulously restored, and in some cases relocated and re-assembled, buildings on the grounds creates a pastoral setting in the hills east of Hermann overlooking the Missouri River.
“The hills around here really reminded me of Bavaria,” Jim Dierberg said. “We thought, ‘What a great place for a living history farm.’”
Tram tours take visitors through the farm, which has chickens, sheep, cattle and a pair of white mules named Pat and Jane. The biggest addition to the livestock arrived a few months ago — eight Shire draft horses, a massive and mild-mannered breed that is sure to be the showstopper on the 2.2-mile tour. The black-and-white beauties include five mares and their three foals.
“The five mothers are with foals for next year – it adds up in a hurry,” said Mary Dierberg.
Jim Dierberg said the Shires are the biggest of the draft horses – larger than Clydesdales – but their population in the United States has dropped to critical numbers.
“They’re endangered,” he added. “Eventually, I hope to have the National Shire School here, training shires. It will be in three or four buildings. We’ll have a show with the Shires at 11:30 on Saturdays, and may sponsor a plowing contest.”
Although the “living history farms” they visited in Germany did not have livestock, Jim Dierberg noted that one of the previous owners of the Husmann House traded draft horses and mules for a living.
“We’re just carrying on what they did, continuing in their mission,” he said. “I think 90 percent of the visitors will come for the animals, maybe 10 percent for the history. Everybody loves animals.”
Saving the heritage
The Dierbergs first came to Hermann during a Maifest in 1971, and fell in love with the town. Dierberg was chairman of First Banks, and bought the bank in Hermann the next week.
“I told Mary we needed a reason to come back,” he said. “There was one building in town that was German and was going to be torn down. I bought it and fixed it up. It’s like fishing. You catch one fish and you’re hooked.”