The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 32 - 36


Ulrich Strickler, Christian Winter, Michael Helm in 1815, Conrad Zittel, the families Halter, Stamback, Meyer, Lutz, Longnecker, Greider in 1816.

All these settlers with the exception of Abraham Witmer, who took his residence at Suspension Bridge, settled in the northern towns, in Newstead, Amherst and Clarence. Their names, some of them in Americanized form, have honorably been preserved to the present time by a large number of descendants.

Christian Frick, (father-in-law of the late surveyor Tobias Witmer [1.]), who in 1810 had settled in Amherst township, on the 30th of December, 1813, just before the destruction of Buffalo by the English and their Indian allies, rescued the only existing printing press of the village. Loading it on his wagon, he brought it in safety to Williamsville. Here the "Buffalo Gazette" was printed in a house opposite the location of Witmer's later residence, until the printing of the paper could again be resumed in the new town of Buffalo, rising from the ashes of the old. Christfield Johnson, in his "Centennial History of Erie County" writes:

"It was about 1831 or 1832 that the first Germans - that is native Germans, as distinguished from Pennsylvania Germans - began to settle in the county, outside of Buffalo. They located in and about White's Corners, now Hamburg, and some of them found their way to the high land in the eastern part of Eden."

"Water John," Jacob Siebold and Rudolph Baer

John Kuecherer, a German Pennsylvanian, came to Buffalo in 1821. American local historians mention him, though erroneously, as the first German settling here: and as he was a person known all over the town through the peculiarity of his trade they considered him worthy of special notice. He was generally called "Water John", because on washdays he supplied such households, as after a prolonged drouth [sic] found their rain water cisterns empty, with the necessary water. John was an honest, kindhearted fellow, with a pleasant word for everybody. His "waterworks" consisted of a large barrel, mounted on a cart with two wheels, drawn by a single horse. A leather hose, resting on top of the barrel,

Caption under picture at center reads John Kuecherer, known as "Water John"

[1.]The German text adds that Tobias Witmer died in the previous late summer at the age of 81. Return to text


completed his outfit. Slowly driving through the streets, he notified his customers of his presence by crying out; "Ladies, here is your water! Ladies, water! Ladies, water!" As soon as his supply was exhausted he drove to the Lake, at the foot of Erie Street, backed up with his cart into the water and filled his barrel, using a pump for this manipulation. For furnishing a regular supply of water to a household he charged one shilling (12 ½ cents). Although a monopolist in his trade he did not amass a fortune by the same, for we have no report that he departed from this world as a millionaire. He died, 88 years old, at the beginning of the seventies. The lot on the southwest corner of Franklin and Court Street was during a long time Kuecherer's property, where he had built a small house and aside from his water business was engaged in the planting and selling of vegetables. His old shanty remained standing at the spot mentioned until the end of the eighties and was finally used for the storage of tile sewer pipes.

The first German immigrating directly from the old country, and settling here, was Jacob Siebold from Würtemberg. He came to Buffalo in 1822 and soon after his arrival opened a grocery on the west side of Main Street, about half way between Seneca Street and the Terrace. He was one of the founders of the Buffalo Board of Trade and of the Buffalo Savings Bank. Mr. Siebold died in March, 1863, leaving considerable estate.

It is very probable that about the time of the opening of the Erie Canal, or shortly after it, some other Germans had settled here, but tradition is silent on this question, presumably because such comers were without means, did not immediately acquire real estate and made a living either as artisans, mechanics or servants, so that this class of immigrants found no attention.

Rudolph Baer, a Swiss, but to be considered a German as one of the founders of the first German-Evangelical Congregation, chose Buffalo as his home in 1826. Ten years before he had landed in Philadelphia and settled near Harrisburg, Pa., but had moved from there, as the climate of the locality was injurious to the health of his wife.

It deserves special notice, that it was he who introduced in Buffalo an industry, which in course of the time grew to mighty dimensions and had become a source of prosperity for many in this community. Right near to the inn, called "Cold Spring Hotel," at the southeast corner of Main and Ferry Streets, which Rudolph Baer had bought, he built and operated a brewery, the first one within the present limits of our city.

A daughter of Rudolph Baer, the widow Marie Foster is now living in a small cottage on Main Street, between Glenwood and Woodlawn Avenues. This old lady, who by the way does not speak German and is


completely Americanized, can relate very little about the life of her father, as he died when she was scarcely eight years old.

Jacob Schanzlin and Valentine Hoffman were employed as brewers journeymen in Baer's brewery during the first years of its operation. Jacob Schanzlin in 1840 built a brewery and inn on Main Street, south of Scajaquada Creek, and dispensed the first "Lager." Baer produced only a kind of "small beer"[1.]. Schanzlin's place - in years gone by "far out" from the city - was for a long time the popular resort and Mecca of all those Buffalonians of the Teutonic race who were longing for a genuine German Sunday of recreation and amusement. Schanzlin's building, no brewery any more, is now used as a residence, while the first brewery - in Cold Spring - was entire pulled down at the beginning of the eighties, after it had for some time served other purposes. In 1842 Hoffman also built a brewery at the northeast corner of Main and St. Paul Streets. The dwelling house connected with it, a rough stonebuilding, serving at the same time as an inn, has been preserved to the present days.

German Names in the first Directory

If the first directory of Buffalo, published on the 1st of January, 1828, could be relied upon as authentic, then the number of German inhabitants of the town at that time would have hardly been a dozen. But this supposition is contradicted not alone by the information of reliable contemporaries, but also by events occuring soon after the publication of the above mentioned address book. That book for obvious reasons appears as a very unreliable authority in reference to the German immigrants. This class of inhabitants, distributed and isolated over the town, in subordinate positions, not familiar with the language of the land, no doubt in many cases escaped the attention of the canvassers of the

Caption under picture at center reads Schaenzlin's Brewery, 1840

[1.] Page 34, paragraph 3, left column: The German text uses the term "Dünnbier", meaning weak or diluted beer. Return to text


directory. In other cases the names, sounding strange to the American ear, were written down, as they were understood according to English pronunciation and thereby Americanized. So, for instance, John Kuecherer is given as Kucherson, John, Waterman, in the first directory, and as Kutcherson in the second one, published in 1832. In none of the following address books is this name given correctly. Siebold's name is always changed into Seibold. Add to this the inclination of so many Germans to themselves Americanize their names. This changes Grau into Grey, Koenig to King, Klein to Kline, Kunz to Koons, Nuss to Nice, Reich to Rich, etc., etc., which proves, that not all names with English spelling indicate English descent in their owners.

The list of names in the first directory, though arranged according to the initials, is not classified in the alphabetical order of the initial letters. Many names are given without mentioning the profession or trade of those named. As numbering the houses was not yet in use at the time the publisher of the address book had no trouble about the matter. He even neglected to add the name of the street, in which people were living.

Besides Kuecherer (Kucherson) and Siebold the following names in the first directory may be recognized as those of Germans: Louis Bronner, John Dosser, Joseph Heim, Philip Meyerhoffer, Cornelius Ritter, William Stier, Jacob Speck, Godfried Wolfen and William Webber.

Meyerhoffer, recorded as teacher of languages, in 1828 conducted the first German Protestant divine service in Buffalo.

Gottfried Heiser, having in 1819 immigrated from Germany to Philadelphia, in 1828 came to Buffalo. His first enterprise was lime-burning, on Exchange Street, in the middle of the woods; then he maufactured pottery on Seneca, near Chicago Street, and in the same place later on

Caption under picture at center reads Hoffman's Brewery, 1842

. built a brewery, which he managed in company with his brother. The following year, 1828, brought a considerable number of German immigrants to Buffalo, among them several farmers with their families, who settled down in Buffalo Plains,(the eastern part of the present 25th Ward). Among them were Ernst G. Grey (Grau) who, later on, was the first president of the "German Insurance Company", Jacob Schanzlin, the above-mentioned brewer, and Jacob Roos, another well-known brewer; also Philip Beyer,the head of a family with many branches, George Goetz, George Metzger, Michael Mesmer, Joseph Haberstro, George Gass, George Lang, Sebastian and Frederick Rusch, George Urban, George Pfeifer, and many others, who, in the course of years, became highly-respected citizens of our commonwealth. Most of these immigrants came from South-Germany or Alsace, those from North-Germany not arriving until some years later.

Michael Dorrer, a laborer, came to Buffalo in 1828, with his wife Katharina. The young couple began their modest household in the woods on Seneca Street at that time called "Indian Road", as it leads to the Indian Village. Mrs. Katharine Dorrer, who, notwithstanding the advanced age of 93 years, continues to enjoy enviable health and clearness of memory, is undoubtedly the oldest living settler in Buffalo. The venerable lady resides now with her daughter on Balcom Street. During the first years of her life in the lonesomeness she saw more redskins than white people, and many times she was terrified by the threatening actions of Indians who had imbibed too much fire-water.

After 1828 the German immigration increased continually and kept pace with the natural growth of the town. Of the first immigration of 1829 [1.], Dr. Daniel Devening, who had come to America two years before, requires special attention. He was the first German of Buffalo who was elected to the Assembly. Of those arriving in 1829 [2.], Dr. Friedrich Dellenbach, who enjoyed fame and reputation as a physician, and who was the first German elected to the Common Council, and George Fischer, a highly-respected business man, deserve special mention.

The First German Church

A Frenchman, Louis Stephan Le Couteulx, the descendant of noble ancestors, driven from his home by the French Revolution, was the founder of the oldest German place of worship in this city, the Catholic St. Louis Church. He settled here in 1804 and became the owner of considerable real estate. For a number of years he was the local agent of the Holland Land Company. His residence, surrounded by a beautiful garden, was situated at the northeast corner of Main and Exchange

[1.] Page 37, paragraph 1, left column: The German text reads "1830". Return to text

[2.] ibid. Return to text

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Revised September 15, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks