Binger Hermann (February 19, 1843 – April 15, 1926) was an American attorney and politician in Oregon. A native of Maryland, he immigrated to the Oregon Territory with his parents as part of the Baltimore Colony. Hermann would serve in both houses of the Oregon Legislative Assembly and as a Republican in the United States Congress.
In 1904 Herman was caught up in the Oregon land fraud scandal and brought to trial for alleged land fraud. The jury failed to agree and Hermann was never retried. Hermann was posthumously exonerated by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Hermann was born the eldest of eleven children in Lonaconing, Maryland, in 1843 to immigrant parents: Henry Hermann, a German-born physician, and Elizabeth Hopkins, an English immigrant. He graduated from the Independent Academy (later called Irving College) in Baltimore.
In the late 1850s, a group of Baltimore citizens, including Hermann's father, began to make plans to start a new life in the Oregon Territory. Dr. Hermann and his son met with Oregon's territorial delegate Joseph Lane to obtain letters addressed to prominent people already in Oregon who would assist the settlers. The younger Hermann wrote in his diary that he was fascinated by the politics and politicians his father brought him in contact with during that trip.
In April 1859, led by Dr. Hermann, seven families and several single men, known as the Baltimore Colony, left to build a new life in Oregon's Coquille Valley. The Hermanns chose a homestead on the South Fork of the Coquille River where Broadbent is now located, growing tobacco, sugar beets, flax seed, and raising honeybees. As Dr. Hermann found out information on Oregon's resources, he wrote articles for East Coast newspapers to inform other interested settlers.
Shortly after arriving, Binger Hermann nearly drowned trying to save a drowning child, before being saved himself by his father. He also witnessed a man accidentally shoot himself. Hermann later wrote in The Story of a Busy Life: "Discouraging as the accidents were, they only tended the more to inspire each one with new zeal and more determination to face the future."
Hermann would eventually open the first school in the Coquille Valley in 1860, and also taught in Yoncalla and in Canyonville.
Hermann studied law and was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1866. That same year, he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives. He served one term in the Oregon House, and then served one term in the Oregon State Senate from 1868 to 1870. Hermann also served as deputy collector of internal revenue for southern Oregon from 1868 to 1871 and receiver of public moneys at the United States land office in Roseburg from 1871 to 1873 and was a colonel in the Oregon State Militia from 1882 to 1884. He was instrumental in area river and harbor appropriations and for the establishment of lighthouses along the Oregon Coast and was the author of the Indian Depredation law, which provided payment for property damage committed by hostile Indians during the Indian Wars.
In 1884, Hermann was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Oregon's At-large congressional district. The Republican defeated Democrat Robert A. Miller in the 1890 election to win another term, meanwhile Democrats picked up 78 seats in the U.S. House in that election. In 1893, after Oregon was granted another congressional district based on the 1890 census, Hermann continued to serve in Congress, representing Oregon's 1st congressional district.
Hermann did not seek reelection in 1896, and was appointed by President McKinley as Commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. He soon clashed with Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock over land matters. When Hermann's successor in Congress, Thomas H. Tongue, died in 1903, Hermann resigned his post and returned to run for Tongue's seat. He won the special election to complete Tongue's term, and was reelected to another term in 1904, defeating Democratic challenger Robert M. Veatch.
Oregon land fraud scandal
During his second stint in Congress, Hermann was accused by Hitchcock of fraud against the government, claiming that information on land fraud in Oregon had been sent to Hermann and had been ignored, and that Hermann might have removed or disposed of several files and letters from the General Land Office concerning certain fraud investigations. This scandal, which included nearly all of Oregon's congressional delegation, came to be known as the Oregon land fraud scandal.
Hermann was found not guilty of destroying public documents in 1907, but remained under indictment for collusion of a land deal in the Blue Mountain Forest Reserve in Oregon. A trial was held on that charge in 1910 and ended in a hung jury. U.S. District Attorney Francis J. Heney declined to refile charges. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt's Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes, exonerated Hermann of any wrongdoing.
Hermann returned to Roseburg, where he resumed his law practice and engaged in literary pursuits until his death.
Binger Hermann died April 15, 1926, two months after a surgical operation, from which he never fully recovered. He was 83 years old at the time of his death.
In June 1943 the Oregon Shipbuilding Company launched its 210th Liberty ship, the Binger Hermann, named after the former Oregon congressman.
- The Louisiana Purchase and Our Title West of the Rocky Mountains, with A Review of Annexation by the United States. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1898.
- "Early History of Southern Oregon," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 17, no. 1 (March 1918), pp. 52–68. —Address to Oregon Historical Society, Oct. 28, 1917.
- The Baltimore Colony and Pioneer Recollections. Coos Bay, OR: Baltimore Colony Centennial Committee, 1959.