The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 202 - 206


According to the same statistics there were at that time from 100 to 125 residences and business houses in the hands of the Israelites, the largest Jewish real estate owners being the Michael Brothers.

As now, we find the Israelites of Buffalo at that time taking active part in the different literary, social, musical, and secret societies of the non-Israelites, especial interest being taken in free masonry, in which a great many Jews have reached the highest degrees. We also find them frequently as good politicians and law and order loving citizens. They always take great interest in the welfare of the city, but never forget to hold their religious services regularly.

On December 23rd, 1879, a Jewish Orphan Asylum Society was started. This society joined with like societies in Rochester and Syracuse in forming the Jewish Orphan Asylum Association of Western New York, which started the first Jewish Orphan Asylum at Rochester.

In June 1882 the well known generosity if the Israelites especially towards people of their creed, was put to a severe test through the arrival of about 500 exiles from Russia.[1] The necessary money was raised in a very short time to give these poor exiles lodging, clothes and food until they had found work. From that time the Jewish population grew from year to year, and the steady growth is best demonstrated by the many religious congregations and benevolent societies of the Jewish people located in this city. Many of the finest and most elegant residences in the city are owned by Israelites and a good many of the largest business houses are in their hands.

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[1]The German text does not give 500 as the number of exiles from Russia. It merely states "hundreds of destitute Jewish refugees from Russia". Return to text


The Towns of Erie County


The early history of this village is closely connected with the Germans of Erie County. Until 1812 there were only a few houses there, a feed mill and a tannery. By and by the population grew and in 1827 Williamsville became quite a business center, enjoying a steady growth. There again it was the German element which did more than any other to make Williamsville what it was at that time. Before 1850 Messr. Urban and Blocher established a brewery, which did a large business when it was sold to John Dane in 1856.[1] Mr. Dane carried on the brewing business until 1874, when it was bought by J. Blatt & Co. Later on it became the property of Mrs. John Nehrbass, in whose possession it stayed until 1882, when it was closed. Some time later it was started up again and is being run to-day, doing a good business.

In 1850 Demeter Wehrle started a furniture factory, whose products found a ready market in Buffalo and a little later Klein Bros. built a barrel and hoop factory. Besides these two factories we must mention among the old settlers: Henry Lehr, who opened a general merchandise store in 1827, his son John, who established a business of the like order in 1847, A.M. Dunn, E. & H. Herr and Benjamin Miller, who were all in business at Williamsville before the war and Alexander Gottwald [2], who ran a grocery store for a good many years. In 1861 John Hoffmann established an agricultural implement store and later on a general hardware store. One of the first physicians was

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[1] The German text states that Urban and Blocher sold the brewery to Mr. John Daul in 1856. Return to text

[2] In the German text Gottwald is spelled "Gotwaldt". Return to text


Dr. Peter Hershey and one of the first attorneys Aaron W. Eggert. The first school was opened in 1812 and a Mr. Johnson was the first teacher. The village was incorporated in 1850 and the first officials of it were: Benjamin Miller, President, John S. King, Henry B. Evans, Philip Zent and John Hershey, Trustees, Dr. William Van Pelt, Clerk, A.L. Reinwalt, C.W. Gottwalt, I.W. Van Peyma and I.B. Blatt, Trustees. The weekly "Amherst Bee" a newspaper which is still being published, was founded on March 27th, 1879 by A.L. Reinwalt. Williamsville became more and more a rendezvous for the Germans and is surely one of the most German villages in the county.


is a small hamlet, populated in the main by Germans, on the road from Buffalo to Williamsville, which did not have a post office of its own until 1882, when Mr. Wingert was appointed postmaster. The Evangelical Lutheran church was organized there in 1838. The building which had been used as a church made way for a new ediface, which cost $11,000 in 1874.


is a small village near Eggertsville. The first house was built by John Schenk, who also opened the first store. In 1880 L.F. Crouth established a saloon and hotel.


Getzville is a station on the Canadaigua and Niagara Falls branch of the Central R.R. The population of this village, which is named after Joseph Getz, who has a barrel factory there, is strictly German. On the same line is located East Amherst, a small hamlet.


Town Tonawanda is situated in the northwestern part of the county, bordering in the north on the Tonawanda river, in the west on the Niagara river and is six miles long from east to west, and five miles wide from north to south, covering an area of 22 square miles.


Newstead is the most northern town in Erie County, and takes in a part of the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. North of it is the Tonawanda River, while Murder Creek, which derives its name from the murder of a white man by an Indian, (the indians call the creek See-un-gut) runs through the center of the town.[1]

The first attempts at civilization were made in the territory now known as Newstead by Joseph Ellicott in 1798. Ellicott, who was at that time the chief-engineer of the Holland Land Company, had an indian path widened by laborers so that it could be used for wagons. This was the first road in Erie County. This old indian path was the principle road connecting the "Six Nations," between the Hudson

[1] The German text adds that "See-un-gut" means "the roar of distant waters". Return to text


River and Lake Erie. It ran from Batavia alongside the Tonawanda River, through the Indian Village, west of Akron, and from there to Buffalo. In 1797 a law was passed by the terms of which a state road should be constructed to run from Conewango (Avon) to Buffalo. It was formally opened in 1798 and is known as the "Buffalo Road".

In 1800 two young men, Timothy S. Hopkins and Otis Ingalls, who had quarters at Asa Ransom's tavern, opened a piece of land, located two miles from the Buffalo Road, and raised the first wheat in that locality. Young Hopkins brought the full result of their labors in a wagon drawn by two oxen to Black Rock, where at that time only one family was living, crossed the Niagara River on a ferry, for which he had to pay $2.50, then drove to Chippewa in Canada, where there was a mill, and drove, after he had paid $2.50 for the return trip over the river, back to Black Rock and then to his home.

After a while more colonists came. In 1802 Genesee County was formed of four towns, one of which was a part of the present Newstead. In 1808 a complete re-organization of the territory took place, and Newstead became a part of Town Clarence in Niagara County. In the same spring Archibald S. Clarke was appointed Member of the Assembly for Niagara County, which makes him the first member who was a resident of the present Erie County. In 1823 Newstead ceased to be a part of Town Clarence. On May 27th of that

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year the Legislature passed a law, which made the Towns Erie and Alden out of Clarence, and the first named town was the same territory which is known as Newstead at the present time. Erie County had been formed two years before, and the leading citizens were proud to call their town after the new county, but in 1831 the name was changed to Newstead.

The village of Akron was founded in 1829 by Jonathan Russell, who put up a frame building and opened a store in it, where he sold general merchandise. By and by the village grew to be a prosperous settlement, especially when between 1840 - 1850 Flour and Cement mills and other industries had found their way thither. A good many Germans had settled there. The first German church was a Methodist Episcopal church, and was organized in 1867. The first preacher was Philip H. Hendeger, and the first trustees were: Charles Sparling, Anson Sparling, John Etzold, Henry Holtz and Edmund Weinange.


At one time Town Clarence took in all of the northern part of the present Erie County, but we will speak here only of those parts which were known as Townships 12 and 13 on the maps of the Holland Land Company, and form to-day the present Town Clarence. It is situated in the northern part of Erie County. North of it runs the Tonawanda Creek, and through the center Ransom Creek. The first colonization was made in 1799 by Asa Ranson on the spot which is known as Clarence Hollow. The price paid for the land was $2.75 per acre, and the conditions were that 10 per cent should be paid in cash. The neighborhood was populated quickly, and especially by people coming from Pennsylvania and from the central parts of the state. Some of the Germans who settled there were: John Eschelmann, Matthias Van Tine and Christian Metz.

At the time of the first colonizations Clarence was a part of Town Northampton, and belonged to Ontario County. In the spring of 1802 it became a part of the new Genesee County, and after a re-roganization in 1808 it was added to Niagara County. Later Town Buffalo was formed, which took in a part of Clarence, and only after a new formation on May 20th, 1883, Clarence got its present area. Among the former town officials we find the following Germans: Jacob Eschelmann, John Kraus, Emanuel L. Martin, Henry Flick [1], George Bliemann, John Kroll, Michael Fischer, Daniel Blocher, Philip Riegle and William Zesch.

The village, which was incorporated as Clarence Hollow, had a population of about 600. Until some time after the war of 1812 it was called Ransomville. The first store was opened in 1811 by Otis K. Ingalls.

[1]The German text spells Henry Flick's last name "Fleck". Return to text

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Revised April 24, 2005
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks