The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 27 - 31


had taken upon themselves, when money was in abundance, could not be fulfilled during the hard times. Suspensions of payments followed in rapid succession and the calamity was even greater than after the destruction of the village. The increase in its population during this period was very insignificant. In 1820 Buffalo numbered only 2093 souls. The revival of the plan however, to connect Lake Erie with the Hudson River by a canal, terminating westerly either at Buffalo or Black Rock, gave hope for better times, especially when finally Buffalo was victorious in the contest and designated to be the terminus of the canal.

The first Harbor-Improvement and the first Steamboat

Buffalo had no lake commerce up to that period. It was a port of entry by law, but not in fact, for no boat was able to enter the harbor, the mouth of the river being obstructed by a sand bar, over which only canoes and flat boats were able to pass. Merchandise arriving from Albany on wagons for transportation via the Lakes to the West was loaded in the harbor at Black Rock in boats which had to be drawn by ox-teams (horn-breeze) against the strong current of Niagara River to the Lake.

Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat navigating the Lakes, was on the 28th of May, 1818, successfully launched at Black Rock. About the middle of August she entered the Lake. She plied between Buffalo and Detroit and was from the first, financially and otherwise, a complete success. The fare to Detroit was fixed at $18 for cabin and $7 for steerage passengers.

On her second trip the boat took out 120 passengers, She was wrecked off the Buffalo lighthouse November 1, 1821. During the following winter another steamer, "Superior", was built at the foot of Indiana Street, the first craft of greater capacity constructed at Buffalo.

Although during the preceding years efforts had been made to remove the sand bar at the entrance of the harbor, the depth of the

Caption under picture at center reads The "Walk-in-the-Water", the first Steamboat on Lake Erie


water was not sufficient for larger vessels. For this reason the projectors of the new boat "Superior" hesitated to undertake the building of this vessel at Buffalo. Four prominent citizens however guaranteed the payment of $100 for every day which the new boat, when finished, would on account of the shallow bank, be prevented from entering the Lake. Then the work of removing the obstruction at the mouth of the river was begun with all energy. In 221 days a trestle work of fascines, 170 feet long, was built out into the Lake. All citizens, regardless of position, took part to speed the work. The high water of the spring, aided by human efforts, washed the shelf of sand through the channel, made narrower by the trestle of fascines, - and the "Superior" was enabled to go to sea in due time.

This was the beginning of the improvement of the harbor of Buffalo - a work for which since then millions of dollars have been expended, and which is not yet completed. In 1823 one of the Buffalo newspapers with great ptide reported the fact, that "on July 12th of that year twenty-nine boats were lying in the harbor."

The Opening of the Erie Canal

The year 1825 was very eventful for Buffalo. On the 4th of June General Marquis de Lafayette, traveling through the country as guest of the Nation, arrived here on a steamer from the west, accompanied by his suite. He was received with great pomp and at nightfall the whole little town was brilliantly illuminated in his honor.

June 17th the execution of the "three Thayers", the brothers Isaac, Nelson and Israel, young farmers from Boston village took place. They had been sentenced to death for killing John Love, a peddler. To witness this spectacle not less than about 10,000 people from Western New York and Canada assembled in Buffalo - swelling the population of the little town on this day to five times its actual number. Never since that day has Buffalo again received a multitude of visitors so large in proportion to the number of her own inhabitants. The gallows, on which the three brothers were hanged, was erected on Niagara Square. [1.]

But the most important event of the year 1825 for the future great city was the magnificent celebration of the completion of the Erie Canal, or the "Grand Canal", as the new waterway was called at that time. The date of this event, ever memorable for Buffalo and for the entire State of New York, was the 26th of October of the year above mentioned.

The departure of the "Seneca Chief", the first canal boat built in Buffalo, and of other boats, with the executive officers of the State, delegations, committees and guests on board, was signaled by the firing of a grand salute. This salute was continued by other guns, stationed at appropriate distances along the canal and reached Albany within one

[1.] Page 28, paragraph 6, left column - Translator's note - The German text for this sentence reads "The three brothers were hanged at the same time at the gallows constructed on Niagara Square." Return to text


hour and thirty minutes. A public dinner followed after the departure of the boats, and the festivities were closed by a splendid ball at the "Eagle Tavern", a hall on the west side of Main Street, south of Court Street.

According to a pamphlet, entitled "Historical and Statistical Sketches of Buffalo in 1825", published in that year by the printer S. Ball, the little town at that time counted 2412 inhabitants, among them four ministers, seventeen lawyers, nine physicians and the following artisans and their assistants: three printers, two bookbinders, four goldsmiths, three tin- and coppersmiths, seven blacksmiths, two cabinetmakers, three wheelwrights and coachbuilders, two chairmakers, one cooper, three hatters, two tanners, five boot and shoemakers, two painters, four tailors, one manufacturer of tobacco, twenty-five carpenters and joiners, nineteen masons and stone-cutters, one brush maker and three butchers. The public buildings were an unfinished courthouse, a jail, a markethouse, and four schoolhouses. "The buildings in the village are principally of wood," reports the pamphetist, "and not very compact, with the exception of Willinck Avenue [1.]; this street is filled up and is the most active part of the town. The streets leading along the creeks (which have not yet been favored even with a Dutch name) may be seen in the summer season to exhibit a bustle and hurry of business, not unlike a seaport." The pamphlet closes with the following remarks:

"When we contemplate the progress of the settlements in Ohio, the western parts of Pennsylvania and New York, for the last twenty years; when we view the daily increasing current of emigration; the immense prostration of the forests, yielding to the industry of the husbandman; the hardihood and intelligence of those who are making 'the wilderness

Caption under picture at center reads Fac-Simile of Hotel Bill 1827

[1.]Page 29, paragraph 3, left column - Translator's Note: In the German text after Willinck Avenue it reads in parentheses "lower Main Street." Return to text


blossom' we can hardly limit the imagination to the extent of the wealth and population which will ultimately be comprehended within those vastly fertile regions. But that their surplus products will be wafted to this place, and bartered for other commodities, or reshipped on board Canal boats, for an eastern market, there can be no doubt, that upon the extent and profits of this commerce, is based the future prosperity and opulence of this village."

Whence the first Settlers in Erie Co. came

During the first two decades of the colonizing of Buffalo and Erie County the settlers in this region almost exclusively came from the New England States. Certain incidents as well as documental proof, however, show that during the same period Germans from the settlements of Pennsylvania and the Schoharie Valley sought a new home on both sides of the Niagara River.

The French, who were the first to explore this district and to claim ownership of the same, had in 1750 built a small fort on the American side above Niagara Falls, which they had named "Fort du Portage."

When the English in 1759 conquered Fort Niagara (situate [sic] at the mouth of Niagara River and being a French port since its foundation), the French garrison abandoned Fort du Portage, burned it to the ground and retired to Canada.

Joseph Schlosser, a German, who had served in the British Colonial Army as a Captain and had been engaged in the attack against Fort

Caption under picture at center reads Buffalo 1825

. Niagara, built a new fort on the ruins of the one destroyed. The post was then christened "Fort Schlosser" and Schlosser was its commander until 1764, in which year he returned to Philadelphia.

It was very probable that at that time a considerable number of Germans, having landed in the new world without any means of support, entered the army and formed a proportionately large part of the British forces, then stationed at the frontier. Many a one of these old warriors may have settled in this region, after he had served out his time.

The regiments formed in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which participated in the attack of Major General John Sullivan against the Senecas in 1779, counted in their ranks many Germans, officers as well as privates. A whole battallion even, exclusively recruited of Germans, which was given the name of "the German Batallion", and was commanded by Major Daniel Burkhardt, formed a part of Sullivan's division. The supposition seems entirely justified, that a number of these German soldiers, having reached the Genesee River with Sullivan, returned to Western New York after the War of the Revolution and founded homes in the vicinity of the Niagara River. A literary periodical published in the city of New York in 1810 under the title "Port Folio", contains under the heading, "Ride to Niagara", the account of a journey, in which the writer says: "I arrived (at the ferry in Black Rock) about twelve o'clock M [1.]; the ice was so thick in the River Niagara, that it was impossible to cross until three o'clock P.M. There were three wagons of emigrants waiting to cross on the British side, from Schoharie, in New York State, and from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. They were chiefly Germans. They expected to buy land in Canada."

It would indeed appear strange, if one or another party of the caravans of emigrants on their journey to Canada at the beginning of the present century, had not come to New Amsterdam and found a new home at Buffalo Creek. There is, however, no positive evidence establishing these facts, for not in every case did the immigrants immediately after their arrival buy land for settlement; and only those who actually purchased land and in consequence became settlers, were recorded in the registers of the Holland Land Company. These registers show that the following German-Pennsylvanians, the majority of whom came from Lancaster County, Pa., belong to the first settlers in Erie County: Frederick Buch [2.] in 1802, John Peters in 1804, Solomon and John Sparling in 1805, Samuel Fackler in 1807, John Long and Henry Rheinwald (grandfather of Adam L. Rinewalt, the present editor of the "Amherst Bee") in 1808, Christian Wutz, John Eschelmann, Samuel Fleischer in 1809, Christian Frick in 1810, Abraham Witmer and Emanuel Winter in 1811, Joseph Long, Michael Gries, Peter Herschey in 1812, George Schumann in 1813, Michael and William Miller, Christian Vinecke,

[1.] Page 31, paragraph 4, left column: In the German text it states "Nachmittag", meaning 12 noon. "M" probably stands for "midday." Return to text

[2.] Page 32, paragraph 1, left column: The German text spells the last name Bach. Return to text

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Revised September 15, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks