Buffalo and its Community - Pages 51 & 52

Part II, Chapter 2

The First German Immigration -- The First German Officials

The reports about the first Germans to come to Erie County and therefore to the surrounding area of Buffalo were announced back in 1759. Joseph Schlosser, a German field captain with the British, came to fight against the French. He took an active part in the destruction of Fort Portage at Niagara Falls. He stayed until 1764. There is little doubt that a number of Germans, who could no longer maintain their existence as soldiers for the British, settled in the region. The Army of General John Sullivan, which had taken the field against the Senecas in 1779, was under the command of Major Daniel Burckhardt. It was called the German Battalion. It can be asserted that a large number of these Germans settled in the area. Many Germans who had settled in Pennsylvania the century before came to Erie County near Buffalo. Among these were Friedrich Bach, John Peters, Salomon and John Sparling, Samuel Fackler, and others.

Buffalo had something special going for it, as attested to by John Kücherer, called "Water John". He was the first German to settle in Buffalo. He came in 1821 from Pennsylvania and held the post of Water Handler. What that means is he had a cart with a vat on it, which he filled with water from Lake Erie and took door to door. For a few pennies he sold the water to housewives. Hence the name Water John. In 1822 Jakob Siebold came to Buffalo from Württemberg and established a grocery store west of Main Street. Later he was a founder of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and the Buffalo Savings Bank. He left a sizable estate when he died in March 1863 at the ripe old age of 71. The Swiss German Rudolph Bär pitched his tent within the walls of our city in 1826. He holds the honor of having established the first brewery in Buffalo. The first Buffalo directory, published January 1,1828 carried about a dozen German names. It's correct to conclude that there were more Germans here since many of the German names were anglicized by the book's publisher and other German names just didn't find there way into the book. Besides Kücherer and Siebold, here are the others that we have found: Louis Bromer, John Dosser, Joseph Heim, Philipp Meyerhöffer, Cornelius Ritter, Wilhelm Stier, Jakob Speck, Gottfried Wolfen, Wilhelm Webber. 1828 brought a large number of German farmers who settled in the outlying areas. Most were southern Germans and Alsacians. Since 1828 German immigration has grown stronger. Dr. Daniel Devenning, who arrived in 1829, became the first German elected to the Assembly. Dr. Friedrich Dellenbach, a physician who arrived in 1830, became the first German elected to the City Council.

The first German-American immigrant to receive a public appointment was Philipp Dorscheimer, proprietor of the early Farmer's Hotel at Main Street near Seneca, and later the Mansion House, which still exists today. He was named Postmaster in 1838 by President Van Buren and again in 1845 by President Polk. Later he became a founding member of the Republican Party. In 1859 he was elected Treasurer of the State of New York. President Lincoln appointed him to the post of Customs Inspector for Buffalo. His son William Dorscheimer was an influential politician and served two terms as Lieutenant-Governor of the State.

Another German who held the office of Postmaster was Bernhard F.Gentsch. A third is the present holder of the office Fred Greiner, who is of German parentage. When speaking of German politicians who had great influence on their political party, let's not overlook Henry W. Brendel, a toll collector.

The first German mayor of Buffalo was Philip Becker (1876-1877), succeeded by Solomon Scheu, who was also German. In the years 1886 to 1889 Philip Becker was again at the top of city government. From 1891 to 1894 the German-American Chas. F. Bishop was mayor and in 1897 Dr. Konrad Diehl was elected to the office. And now we have another German-American as the head of the city in Louis P. Fuhrmann.

Caption under picture reads Richmond Avenue

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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised June 20, 2005