Augustine Heermans was born in 1621 in Prague, Bohemia, and subsequently moved with his family to the Netherlands. He was a surveyor by trade and skilled in mapmaking. In 1655, when Adriaen van der Donck wrote an account of the Dutch settlement in New Netherland, A Description of New Netherland (Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant), the book featured a map showing the Dutch settlements from New Amsterdam to Fort Orange. The lower portion of the map contains Heerman’s sketch of New Amsterdam.
Employed by the Dutch West India Company, Heermans came to New Amsterdam around 1633. At first he was the trading representative of an Amsterdam merchant and later established his own trading company. In the 1640s, the Director granted him the right to operate as a privateer and he won fame and fortune when his brig, the six-gun La Grace, defeated two Spanish frigates and seized the gold they carried.
On several occasions, Director-General Pieter Stuyvesant chose Augustine Heermans as an ambassador to Maryland, Virginia and New England and he came to admire the Maryland countryside in particular. In 1647, Heermans was selected as one of the Nine Men and later became chair of this assembly. However, his activities on behalf of the Nine Men brought Heermans into conflict with Director-General Stuyvesant, and he was imprisoned by the administration.
In 1659, Heermans applied to become a resident of Maryland and he and Lord Baltimore came to an arrangement under which Lord Baltimore granted Heermans a patent for 6,000 acres of land located on both sides of the Elk River in exchange for Heermans’ promise to make a map of the Maryland territory. Heermans named his estate Bohemia Manor, and conducted surveys for his map from 1659 to 1670. Heermans spent the next several years producing his masterpiece-a map of Virginia and Maryland. As it is Planted and Inhabited this present Year 1670 Surveyed and Exactly Drawne by the Only Labour and Endeavour of Augustin Herrman, Bohemiensis.
Augustine Heermans died at Bohemia Manor, Maryland in 1686, and his brother-in-law, Nicholas Bayard, inherited his land holdings in New York City.