Back Story: Bohemia Manor Farm founded by cartographer

In recent weeks, The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times and other newspapers have been carrying advertisements announcing the auction next week of Bohemia Manor Farm, which is perhaps one of Maryland's most historic estates, dating to the 17th century.

Augustine Herrman, a Czechoslovakian cartographer who was forced to leave Prague because of religious persecution after the battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years War, founded the estate in what is now Cecil County.

After leaving Prague, he traveled to the Netherlands and then went to work as an envoy for the Dutch West India Co. In 1633, Herrman left the Netherlands and set sail for New Amsterdam, which is now New York City.

Arriving in New York, he worked for Director General Peter Stuyvesant, with whom he feuded. He then lost money in land speculation. As the Dutch representative to its American colonies, the mapmaker, merchant, politician and privateer often visited Maryland and Virginia during the late 1650s.

Herrman, who was also credited with establishing the tobacco trade between Virginia and Holland, felt he had more in common with the English in Maryland and left New Amsterdam for good in 1660 to become a citizen of Maryland.

Lord Baltimore commissioned Herrman to make an accurate map of Maryland.

"For a decade, Herrman worked on his map — visiting the Maryland and Virginia areas, poring over all the information available in records and diaries — and painstakingly produced a chart which proved so accurate that its definition of the Northern Maryland boundary was only 17 minutes away from the line established by Mason and Dixon a century later," reported The Sunday Sun in a 1948 article.

For his labors, Lord Baltimore granted him an area of about 4,000 acres. But Herrman later had to purchase it from its owners, the Susquehannock Indians.

He changed the name of the Oppoquimimi River to the Bohemia River. He also named the larger tract of land Bohemia Manor, which was the main estate, and the smaller parcel Little Bohemia or Middle Neck.

The original agreement gave "unto Augustine Herrman all that tract of land called Bohemia Manor, lying on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, and on the west side of a river in the said bay, called Elk River."

By 1662, Herrman and his family were living on the estate, the same year he suggested that a new county be established near his home and be named Cecil after Lord Baltimore, Cecilius Calvert.

Herrman died in 1686, and in his will he wrote that he hoped that a landed dynasty of "Augustiny Bohemians" would successively live there.

The original manor house, which long ago burned down, was most likely surrounded by fortifications to protect its inhabitants from Indian raids.

The present Georgian-style home dates to 1920, when it was built by the Bayard family, who were descendants of the Herrmans. They lived there until 2003, when it was sold to Susan A. and Shane Flynn.

The Bohemia Manor Farm Lane house, which is unoccupied, overlooks 3,600 feet of water frontage on the Bohemia River, with an additional 3,000 feet of water frontage on Manor Creek.

It is an enormous brick house with 12,750 square feet of living space, including 11 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. There is a grand ballroom, a guest and caretaker's cottage, and temperature-controlled storage rooms for game and guns.

"It is an absolute auction with no reserve," said Daniel DeCaro, whose Easton and Naples, Fla., company will conduct the auction Oct. 12.

"We've had steady interest but not what I thought we would have had. It'll be a good buy for someone," said DeCaro in a telephone interview the other day.

Whoever buys Bohemia Manor Farm will also get Augustine Herrman, who lies in a grave on the property. A stone marker says: "Augustine Herrman, the first founder and seater of Bohemia Manor, 1661."

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Bohemia Manor, 1661."

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com