Herman was born on a farm near Calmar in northeastern Iowa on 10 November 1861. He was the firstborn son of Henry and Adelaid Gehling. He had three sisters and two younger brothers.
Herman went to school in Festina, Iowa. Attending the same school was a little neighbor girl named Ella Timp, who lived just down the hill and across the creek from the Gehlings. When Ella came of age, Herman began courting her. They were married on 24 January 1888 in St. Mary's Catholic Church at Fort Atckinson. He was 26, she was 18. The first six months they lived with Herman's mother on the Gehling homestead, which Herman had probably been farming since the death of his father ten years earlier.
But Herman needed a place of his own. Two of his married sisters had moved to western Iowa, so Herman and Ella decided to visit them. When the newlyweds got off the train in Carroll County, they strolled the platform for a long time. They looked over the grassy hills and fertile soil, and decided then and there this would be their new home. Herman purchased 160 acres of rich black loam for $1.25 an acre. The farm was located on 71 South, one and a half miles from the town of Carroll. It boasted a two-room house, but no outbuildings. Their furniture came by train to Dedham, Iowa, the nearest railroad station. It was hauled by wagon over dirt roads to their new home. Here a daughter named Mary and a son named Henry were born to them.
In the early 1890's, Herman moved his growing family into a new farmhouse. Here Ella gave birth to their other eight children: Theodore, Agnes, Herman Jr., Anna, Joseph, William, Catherine, and Cecilia Ann. Herman continued to farm, but also took an active role in developing the town of Carroll. He is said to have been a stockholder in the first bank, to have opened the first salebarn, and to have served as both city councilman and president of the Farmers Grain and Lumber Company.
When he retired in 1924, Herman gave up farming and moved with his wife to a new house at 642 West Second Street, Carroll. After Ella's death 13 years later, Herman was joined in the house by his youngest daughter and her family. Herman himself became seriously ill in early 1955. He died at home one Sunday evening at 7:15 P.M. The date was 6 February. He was 93 years old. He had outlived all of his brothers and sisters but one. He was in turn survived by seven children, fifty-nine grandchildren and sixty great-grandchildren.
In his later years Herman had been a true family patriarch, revered by all and sought out for sage counsel and sound advice. When several of his grandchildren decided on a move from Carroll County to cheaper land then available in southern Minnesota, they went to old Herman with their doubts and reservations. "Go, by all means," he told them. "When I first came to Carroll there was no railroad through town, few roads, and fewer schools. Go and start your own community. You'll be glad you did."