The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 5 - 11


To the Publishers, Messrs. REINECKE & ZESCH.

I consider it an honor, as well as a privilege, to be able heartily to endorse the publication of a "History of the German immigrants of Erie County and especially of the City of Buffalo."
A work of this character and extent, when written truly and faithfully, justly deserves general interest and support. It stimulates the national spirit and the pride of all German Americans.
Turning us to the past, it reminds us of the many privations and great dangers to which the early settlers were exposed; those pioneers, who neither day nor night were safe from the fierce attacks of the Indians and of the wild beasts.
German industry, German thrift, combined with honesty and energy soon won for the colonists that position of respected prominence, which has been preserved to the present time.
I sincerely wish, that the publishers many be compensated for their meritorious work by a complete success and that this book may find a large number of subscribers.
Respectfully, PHILIP BECKER
Buffalo, Nov. 12, 1897

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The First German Settlements

In the year 1683 twelve German families, numbering forty-one souls, landed in America. The heads of these families were artisans, well provided with means. Most of them were linen-weavers from the town of Crefeld and its vicinity (in Rhenish Prussia of the present time [1]).

At that period Germany was in a state of desintegration and decay, the result of severe interior conflicts, and had been ruined by long and bloody wars. Troubles and afflictions of all kinds had driven all vital energy from the hearts of the people. Even the blessings of religion - for so many the only consolation in distress and the sole comfort in adversity - were embittered by the strife and the endless disputes of an intolerant clergy.

At that time an important manifesto reached Germany. It was the proclamation of William Penn, the founder of the City of Brotherly Love, who through King Charles II had secured large tracts of lands in America. In this document Penn, the fearless defender of the Quakers, - a sect so much abused and illtreated in England - proclaimed, that in his country every honest and good man would be enabled to live in peace and to serve his creator unmolested and in accordance with his personal religious views. With full confidence in the promises, contained in this manifesto, those twelve families undertook the tiresome and venturous journey, crossing the ocean on board of the English ship "Concord", a name of good omen. On the sixth of October 1683 they landed on the banks of the river Delaware, at Philadelphia, which place at that time consisted of nothing more than a number of roughly built log houses. There they founded the first exclusively German settlement in America.

Soon after their arrival the colonists took possession of the strip of land, which under the name of "Germantown Township" had been set aside for them in the northern part of the city. In great haste they erected in the wild forest the first wretched cabins, in which they passed a severe winter, suffering many hardships and privations. In this manner arose the first German settlement on American soil; the village of Germantown, which in 1691 by Charter and Royal Patent was elevated to the rank of a city. It now under the same name forms a part of the city of Philadelphia. During the second year after the landing of the colonists their condition presented great improvements. The value and importance of the German element was very soon perceived, for after the settlers had instituted a well organized community in their new home, their first public act - April 16th, 1688 - was an expression of humanity; the first solemn protest against negro-slavery and against the slave-trade carried on by their English fellow-citizens,

[1] Page 7, paragraph 1, left column: The text in parentheses reads "in the present day legislative district of Düsseldorf." Return to text


The founders of Germantown were by no means the very earliest German immigrants to America. Quite a number of others had some time before arrived in this country, but they had come one by one, as adventurers, or as companions of colonists of other nations. Even among those, however, German pioneers stepped into prominence and it is not without interest, and not contrary to the purposes of this historical sketch, if in this place we devote some attention to their doings and achievements.

Under the Dutch and the Swedes

At the time when the English founded their first permanent settlement, Jamestown, in Virginia, and long before the landing of the Puritan "Pilgims" on the shores of Massachusetts Bay, the Dutch explored and occupied the territory between the mouths of the rivers Hudson and Delaware. In their company many Germans came across the Atlantic Ocean, this fact being simply the natural result of their common Teutonic origin and of the geographical connection between Rhineland and Holland. The language, common to the Dutch and to the inhabitants of Lower-Germany, was the "Plattdeutsch".

Predominant in the northern part of Holland was the Frisian, in its southern section the Dutch dialect, which in the course of time adopted Flemish words and expressions. Commercial and many other relations between Holland and the lands of the lower Rhine and Westphalia united at that period and the people of these countries more firmly than at the present time. For these districts and for all southwestern Germany, the river Rhine was the only connecting way to the sea.

In the very first settlements of the Dutch on the Hudson River we find a "Jacob Fuchs from Baden". The "Koetters" or hirelings wandered to Holland from Westphalia during the harvest time. One or another of those would not return to his home, but would try his fortune on the other side of the Ocean, would induce his kin to follow him and would with them find a new home on the new continent. In this manner the first Germans and their immediate followers came to America, passing through Holland and - mostly as Hollanders, especially so after having lived some time in Holland - settled in the New-Netherlands, the possessions of the Dutch in the New World.

In most cases it is difficult to recognize them as Germans. Even at that remote time it was considered "in good taste" or desirable, to "Hollandize" the German names just as conscientiously, as in later periods and in the present time we observe the "Americanizing" of the names of their successors from Germany. "Johann," "Dietrich" or "Gerhard" changed their names into "Jan," "Dick" or "Gerrit", the


ending "haus" became "huis", or the entire name was directly translated into the corresponding Dutch word.

The majority of the Germans, who settled in the New Netherlands, were artisans and came from northwestern Germany from the Lower Rhine and Geldern; from Westphalia, Ditsmarsen, Friesland, Holstein and the Hanse-towns. But single emigrants also came to America from Hessia, Thuringia and Franconia; from the Elb-provinces; from Swabia and from the German part of Switzerland. Although this element, in its majority uneducated, represented German customs and skilled handicraft, yet it was not the carrier of home intelligence and culture. In regard to their views and aims these Germans were like the Dutch, and in consequence very soon were assimilated by the Dutch, with whom they had crossed the Ocean.

As early as 1614 the Holland East-India Company had ordered the construction of a fort at the extreme southern point of Manhattan Island. In 1621 the Holland West-India Company was organized, which in 1623 sent thirty Walloon families to the mouth of the Hudson, under the leadership of Cornelius Jacobson May, a Dutchman of German descent. They founded an agricultural colony on Manhattan, which they named New Amsterdam. In the following year Wilhelm Verhulst, also a German-Hollander, succeeded May as head of the colony. Peter Minnewith, born at Wesel in the Rhine Province, successor to Verhulst amd the first Governor of New-Netherland, bought the Island of Manhattan from the Indians for a few bales of notions and trinkets, worth in all about twenty-five dollars. On this ground stands now the great City of New York! In the summer of 1638 several wealthy persons sailed to New-Amsterdam with emigrants, among them Jochem Pieterson Kuyter (Keiter) from Darmstadt, whose "Hollandized" name would hardly betray his original German nationality. Kuyter acquired large tracts of land near Harlem, but after a few years of success met a sudden death; he was killed for revenge by the Indians, whose emnity he had contracted. Minnewith, after differences had arisen between him and the Holland West-India Company, entered the service of the Swedes. In 1638 as a new organizer and Governor, he led a colony of Swedish and German Protestants to the western shore of the Delaware River. He had bought the land, extending from Cape Henlopen to the Falls at Trenton, from the Indians for a small consideration and successfully managed the affairs of the new colony. The deed for this land, written in "Plattdeutsch", was destroyed by fire, when in 1697 a great conflagration consumed the valuable document preserved in the royal palace at Stockholm.

The new settlement was called New Sweden. In 1642 Johann Printz, Edler von Buchau. formerly a cavalry officer in the Swedish army, sailed to America with 54 German families, the majority of


whom came from Pommerania and West-Prussia. The two ships "Fama" and "Storch" carried them to the Delaware Bay. Von Buchau was the descendant of an ancestor, who, as Palatine of Hungary, had in 1563 been elevated by Austria to the rank of a Prince.

Johann Risingh of Elbing, Secretary of the General College of Commerce of Stockholm, was the third and last Governor of New Sweden. Hollanders, Swedes, and Germans, however, were forced to submit to the English, who were their followers, but who substantiated their pretended claim of being the first discoverers by the more effective proof of superior military force. The English also claimed all the land "behind the woods", extending to the Pacific Ocean, as "Possessions of the Crown", without even undertaking a survey. When a short time later the heir of the English Admiral Penn presented to King Charles II a certain claim of his father against the Crown, it was an easy matter for this monarch to satisfy this claim by the cession of a small slice of his "American Dominions". In this manner William Penn, the Quaker, came into possession of Pennsylvania.

Mass-Immigration to Pennsylvania and New York

Soon the news of the successful foundation of a German settlement in Pennsylvania reached Germany. The attractive and highly favorable reports of the head of the settlement, Franz Daniel Pastorius, a jurist of great learning, hailing from Sommerhausen on the Main, were printed and distributed over all the German lands. The hearts of all, who at the period were suffering from the affliction of the gloomy times in their German home, were filled with hope and longing for betterment. Thousands traveled to the Dutch seaports, or across the Channel to London, to reach from there the promised land of liberty. In 1717 the number of Germans in Pennsylvania had grown to such an extent, that the Governor of the colony proposed protective legislation against the Mass-immigration of the Germans.

The majority of the immigrants were followers of persecuted religious sects: Mennonites, Tunkers, Moravians, who fled for refuge to America. Many thought to fulfill their mission by undertaking the conversion of the natives. In these pious though fruitless endeavours they created in the middle of the wilderness, peaceful oases of beautiful gardenland. Lutherans and Calvinists followed and organized numerous parishes in the thriving villages of the colony. German Catholics in 1741 founded their first parish in Goshehoppen, Montgomery County, and in 1745 their second at Lancaster. In 1757 the number of German Catholics in Pennsylvania amounted to about nine hundred. Signs of intellectual life and activity appeared in all the German settlements. The Seventh Day

. or Ephrata Brothers operated the first German printing plant in the Ephrata monastery, founded by them. The Moravians established schools and colleges in Bethlehem, Litiz, and Nazareth, which soon ranked among the best educational instutitions in the State. Christoph Sauer, a printer, on the twentieth of August, 1739, published the first German newspaper under the title: "Der Hochdeutsch-Pennsylvanische Geschichtschreiber, oder Sammlung wichtiger Nachrichten aus dem Natur- und Kirchenreich" [The High German-Pennsylvanian History Scribe, or Assemblage of important Reports from the realms of Nature and the Churches]. Sauer also printed the first German Bible in this country. The printing establishment founded by him, is at the present time owned and conducted at Philadelphia by his descendants.

The principal element of German immigration to the colony of New York at the beginning of the eighteenth century came from one of the most attractive and fertile parts of Germany, the Palatinate. This beautiful province had by the rapacious invasions of the French in 1685 and 1693 been ruined and devastated. After a rest, much too short for recovery from the wounds caused by sword and torch, followed the war of the Spanish succession between France and Austria. This war, beginning in 1701, for ten years was the cause of misery and cruelty.

To the misery of war was added the suffering caused by religious tyranny. Such a combination of intolerable hardships induced the unfortunate inhabitants to look for a place of refuge where they might find peace and liberty.

Then began that wonderful Mass-emigration, which during the following forty years brought thousands of the people of the Palatinate to America. The first of them to cross the ocean - if we do not take into account a number of immigrants from the Palatinate and Alsace, who as early as 1697 founded the settlement of New Paltz on the lower Hudson River - was under the leadership of Pastor Joshua of Kocherthal.

His flock numbered 52 souls and in March, 1708, arrived in London, passing through Holland. The English government, desirous to populate its American Colonies, was willing to transport those emigrants to the shores of the Hudson River. There they founded a settlement, which in memory of their old home in the Palatinate they called "Neuburg". This is the Newburgh of the present time.

Misery and Sufferings of the Emigrants. - Forced Services under English Yoke.

The news of the friendly reception and assistance tendered to the emigrants from the Palatinate by the English Government, soon reached this German province and there caused great excitement.

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Revised September 8, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks