Buffalo and its German Community: Pages 57 - 66

Part II, Chapter 4

The German Church Denominations

Based on their numbers, Catholics comprise the largest denominational group in the City of Buffalo. In 1804 during the French Revolution nobleman Louis Stephan Le Couteulx came to Buffalo and acquired an expanse of land. At the suggestion of Father Badin, Le Couteulx presented a piece of property on the north side of Edward Street between Main and Delaware to Bishop Dubois of New York. This New Years gift was granted January 5, 1829 and was to be the site of the construction of a Catholic Church. Bishop Dubois made a personal visit to Buffalo and was convinced there was a large number of Catholic French, Irish and German-speaking Alsacians here. Father Johann Nikolaus Mertz was sent to Buffalo to be the first pastor. At first he held services at a small house on Pearl Street. Construction began on St. Louis Church in 1832. It was a small modest structure made of thatch and wood. Building the church attracted settlers to the area and it was soon apparent that the church was too small. The Irish disassociated themselves and built their own church on Broadway. The French followed their example and within 4 years constructed a church at the corner of Washington and Clinton Streets. Thus St. Louis Church had a predomininantly German Catholic congregation. Under the spiritual leadership of Pastor Alexander Par the wood church was replaced in 1835 with a brick structure. The church lived in the wake of stormy times. There was dispute amid the congregation which the Bishop tried to end by bringing in a Jesuit pastor. That raised such a commotion that the church administrative council was banned in 1851 and an interdiction was placed against the church. In 1855 Father F. Wenninger succeeded in bringing the congregation and the bishop to agreement. By his mediation Father Deiters was made pastor and peace reigned.

Caption under picture reads St. Louis Church

While Father Sorg was pastor the church was destroyed by fire on March 25, 1885. Thanks to the congregation's willingness to sacrifice, a new ediface exists on Main Street today. It's an impressive gothic structure and one of the most architecturally beautiful churches in Buffalo. The new church was dedicated in 1889 by its present pastor, Dr. Paul Hoelscher.

On December 10, 1843 the Redemptorist priest, Father Bayer, celebrated mass for the first time for some of the Catholics who had left St. Louis Church. This happened at St. Patrick's Church on Batavia Street, now called Broadway. On that same day the decision was made to build a new church, called St. Mary's. It was completed May 12, 1844. The church closed April 24, 1848. On July 28, 1850 a new Roman Catholic Church was consecrated by Bishop Timon. He had become the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Buffalo back on September 5, 1847.

On March 1849 forty poor families in the area attempted to build a small wood church where St. Boniface's Church now stands. It's first pastor was Zacharias Annse and it was called St. John's Church. In 1857 under the pastorship of a priest who came from Fulda, Father Rudolphus Follenius, the church was renamed St. Boniface's and the wood structure was replaced by a stone structure. In 1884 this pastor was placed under interdiction by the bishop. Today he is in a much more favorable position.

Where St. Francis Xavier Church now stands there was a wooden church which was established on October 15, 1849 by the Jesuit Father Fritch. There's now a large stone structure in its place.

Caption under picture reads St. Michael's Church - Washington Market

Outside the city in 1850 St. Joseph's Church was established under its first pastor, Father Zurcher.

St. Michael's Church's cornerstone was laid on August 20, 1851 by Bishop Timon on the same day that the interdiction was placed against St. Louis Church. Under Father Joseph Durthaler, priest of the congregation, a cornerstone was laid for the new St. Michael's Church on July 30, 1864. Construction costs reached a hundred thousand dollars. In 1870 the church was delivered with all rights and responsibilities heretofore to the German Jesuits. The congregation, ever growing, is under the leadership of Father Cohauss.

St. Ann's congregation, at the corner of Broadway and Emslie Street, is the largest German Catholic congregation in Buffalo. The church was established in 1858. You can't miss the parish school next to the church. The congregation grew so quickly and so steadily that after 14 years serious plans were made to build a new larger church.

Caption under picture reads St. Mary's Church

In 1878 the plans started to become a reality. After 8 years the majestic gothic dome was finished, with barely a penny's worth of debt. It is a memorial to the spirituality and untiring character of the architect, Wilhelm Röther, S.J. and the self-sacrificing congregation. Such a splendid house of God should have a parish school. In June 1895 the work was begun and in November of the same year the school was finished. The building is 236 feet long and 70 feet wide, consisting of 5 ample classrooms, 5 meeting rooms and a large hall for assemblies. Currently over 1500 children go to St. Ann's School.

Caption under picture reads St. Ann's Church

Twenty-six teaching nuns of the Franciscan order direct the school with such success that it is a model school taking a back seat to no school in the city.

These two great works, church and school, testify to true German enterprise, German diligence, German endurance, German willingness to sacrifice for the sake of religion, German loyalty and tenacity, appreciation for the faith of our forefathers, and generous love and caring for the physical and spiritual well being of the future generation.

Since July 20, 1909 Father Georg J. Krim, S.J. has been rector of the congregation. In this short space of time he has won the love and respect of the parish children. Assisting him in this great work are Clemen Alten, S.J., B Gmeiner, S.J., J. Offergeld, S.J., A. Weis, S.J., G. Reinsch, S.J.

Today's St. Vincent's Church was established in 1863 and got its first rectory in 1886. It's first pastor was Father Niemann, who dedicated the new church in 1887.

The cornerstone for the Church of the Sorrowful Mother of God was laid by Bishop Ryan on June 2, 1872. The congregation, from its beginnings composed of the poor, had many difficulties until Father Heiter took over the leadership in 1880. With the immigration of successful businessmen into the area he was able to begin the construction of a magnificent new church, which is one of the grandest and most beautiful in the city. It was given over to the service of God in 1891. Father Heiter, who had accomplished incredibly many things for his congregation, was succeeded after his death by Father Weber in April 1911.

Sacred Heart of Jesus parish was established in 1873 by Father Christian Wagner. Many difficulties had to be overcome by Pastor Boss in order for the church to reach completion in 1876. The construction cost $40,000.

St. Agnes' parish was established on Benzinger Street in 1884. In 1885 it received its first pastor, Father Schanz.

Besides the Catholic Churches already named, the following exist in our city: St. Bernard's at the corner of Clinton and Willett Streets,Pastor W.M. Bernet; St. Gerard's on Bailey Avenue, Pastor W. Schreck and assistant pastor Joseph J. Hörnschemeyer; St. Joachim's and the corner of Empire Street and Miller Avenue, Pastor A Frecker; St. John the Evangelist, Pastor Michael J. Weber; St. Mary Magdelene's at Fillmore Avenue and Landon Street, Pastor F.C. Bubenheim; St. Matthew's on Schuele Avenue and Ferry Street, Pastor Geo. Sellinger. Seventeen parishes maintain church-run schools with about 7500 students in attendance. More than 150 pious sisters of various religious orders untake the instruction.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is represented by 3 synods in Buffalo and the surrounding area. All three are Lutheran denominations but belonging to different synods. These are the General Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Ministry of the State of New York and other states), the Buffalo Synod and the Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States. The last one here is known as the Missouri Synod and it is the largest lutheran community in the United States. The General Synod consists of 4 German parishes: St. John's, Christ, Concordia, and Redeemer parishes. The oldest Evangelical Lutheran parish is St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Parish. The history of the congregations reaches back as far as the beginning of Buffalo. The first German-Protestant service was celebrated in 1828 in a room over a grocery story owned by Kuntz and Handel on the east side of Main Street.

In 1832 those who had assembled for this service became the first Evangelical Lutheran parish. On September 9 the cornerstone to the church was laid by the congregation on Hickory Street. The first minister was Pastor F.H. Guenther. A new church was built in 1874 at a cost of $42,000. The parish also had a Lutheran Orphanage. A home was built for orphaned boys at Sulphur Springs in West Seneca. The home was dedicated in October of 1868. This facility was destroyed by fire in February 1876. Steps were immediately taken to build a new home. It was dedicated in August 1877. The parish owned its own cemetery at Pine Hill.
In the 70 years of their existence three German and three English congregations grew more or less directly out of the St. John congregation, taking up lives of their own. These are the Evangelical Lutheran Christ congregation established in 1878, the Evangelical Lutheran Concordia congregation of 1895, and the Evangelical Lutheran Redeemer congregation established in 1896. The English congregations are the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, and the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Today the St. John congregation is surrounded by a wreath of daughter congregations, strong and united, esteemed and respected.

The Buffalo Synod is represented by two congregations, the Church of the Trinity and the Church of St. Andrew. These congregations emigrated following the introduction of the United Church Agenda in Prussia by Friedrich Wilhelm III. The United Church was an attempt to bring together the various Protestant belief systems into one church. During the 1830s many Protestants who wish to remain true to their own beliefs immigrated to America. In 1839 Pastor Andreas August Grabau came to Buffalo with his Lutheran families.They built the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Trinity in the eastern portion of the city. The first Pastor was Wm. Grabau.

To the Missouri Synod belong these seven congregations: The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Trinity, St. Andrew's, St. Paul, Emmaus, Tabor, Gethsemane and Immanuel. The First Evangelican Lutheran Church of the Trinity of the unchanged Augsburg Confession, was established by Lutheran immigrants who came from Silesia with their Pastor L.F.E. Krause.

Caption under picture reads St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

Oppressed by many internal and external factors, the congregation grew slowly at first. In 1842 it acquired a piece of land at the corner of William and Milnor Streets while under the guidance of appointed Pastor E.M. Burger. They built a little brick church. Sixty-five families, who had left the parish because of Pastor Grabau, rejoined the congregation in 1867. This growth in the congregation meant that the church was too small so a new church was built in the same year on Michigan near Genesee Street. That's the church we have today. In February 1889 the congregation established a daughter parish by the name Emmaus. Fifty families were assigned to this parish and given a debt-free piece of church property worth $4,000. This parish was under the leadership of Pastor A.T. Hauser.
In 1858 St. Andrew's Church was composed of 14 families. On July 10, 1859 the first church was dedicated and in 1885 a new church was built so that the earlier building could be used as a school. Pastor Sieck led the congregation until 1883.
Gethsemane Church was established on October 9, 1892. The mother congregation gave its daughter a hefty endowment towards the purchase of church property.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church was established December 19,1886. E.G. Holls is its pastor.
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was called into being in 1894 with the help of missionary societies.
Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church on LeRoy Street was established October 14, 1891.

Among the list of Protestant Congregations is The Evangelical Synod of North America, represented by 16 churches in Buffalo. The oldest of these is St. Peter's Church. This congregation dates back to the missionary activity of Evangelist Joseph Gombell, who travelled from Switzerland to Buffalo in 1831 under the auspices of the First Presbyterian Church. In 1832 other German families , such as Schwartz, Seeger, and Schliefer, followed Gombell. From these people came the German Evangelical Congregation in 1835. The Evangelist Gombell was appointed pastor. The first church, called the Gombell Church, stood on a piece of land at the corner of Genesee and Hickory Streets. It was a gift of the rich land owner Jabez Goodell. The church itself, a modest wooden structure, was given to them by the English Methodists. It was transported with great effort from its old place (where the Jewish Temple Beth Zion now stands) to the new location. In the 1850s the Gombell Church needed a larger building so in 1856 an addition was put on. The building of the church they have today was aggressively undertaken in 1877 at a cost of $34,000.
St. Peter's Parish, which celebrated its 75th jubilee in the most joyous of fashion in 1910, thrives and prospers under the leadership of Pastor F.F. Bode.

Excellent schools and a number of active societies operate under its auspices. St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church began with about 30 families, which left St. John's congregation in 1843. On June 16th of the same year they formed the German United Evangelical congregation and immediately started to build a stone church on Washington Street between Chippewa and Genesee, which was finished in 1844. The first pastor of the congregation was Jan van Linge, who soon after resigned the position and secured Friedrich Soldan of Rochester as his successor. On October 12, 1881 the cornerstone was laid for the magnificent new church on Ellicott Street. The old church proved insufficient and the location wasn't as desirable. The new church was built relatively quickly. From the 14th to the 16th of June, 1908 the congregation joyfully celebrated its 65th jubilee. Rev. Christian G. Haas is the esteemed pastor of the congregation.
St. John's congregation, which has one of the largest German Evangelical churches in the city, was called to life in 1850 by Pastor Krummel. Scarcely two years after its organization the congregation saw a church built at the corner of Amherst and Dearborn Street. In the between time they had celebrated services in the Baptist Church on East Street. The church was enlarged in 1867. After 1880 the church was remodelled because of damage done by lightning. A new tower was built to replace the one destroyed.
St. Stephen's Church, a daughter of the St. Paul's congregation, was established in 1853 by Pastor Soldan. In the first year of its existence the congregation celebrated services in the French church at the corner of Tupper and Ellicott. Under Pastor Schelle, who served for 45 years as shepherd to the flock, a new church was built in 1858 at the corner of Peckham and Adams Streets. The progressive growth of the congregation necessitated a substantial addition to the church in 1874. The 50 year jubilee was magnificently celebrated from the 1st to the 4th of June 1903 under pastor Rückert.
Among the parishes of the Evangelical Synods of North America St. Stephen's comes in first with regard to number of members, greatest number of students and value of church property.
St. Matthew's Church was established on March 15, 1868 as St. Matthew's German Evangelical Protestant Church. It was a brick church, built in the new "Hydraulics". The church and the schoolhouse cost $20,000. The congregation, whose members have demonstrated great willingness to sacrifice, are under the leadership of Pastor Bommer.
St. Luke's Church was called into life January 10, 1872. In 1881 the church they have today was built and in 1883 a new rectory was built. The congregation exists under the guardianship of Dr.W.F. Wehrheim.
St. Mark's Church is an offshoot of St. Paul's Church, which came into being in 1873. On May 21, 1876 the Gothic style church celebrated its first religious service.
The Friedens [Peace] congregation saw its establishment and the construction of the church it has today in 1880. Pastor Speidel is its leader.
Trinity Church came to life on February 3, 1883 as a missionary assembly. It has flourished under the leadership of the untiring Pastor H.A. Krämer.
The Bethlehem Church, led today by Pastor Götz, was established in 1887. The church they have today was erected in 1895-96 at a cost in excess of $25,000.

St. Jacob's, established in 1883, built the church it has today in 1885. It is under the guidance of Pastor Georg Duval.
Bethany Church was established in 1886 as a stately house of God on Eaton Street.
Salem Church came to life in 1892. A church was built the same year, led by Pastor Russmann. Besides the aforementioned churches there exist the Christ's Grace and St. Thomas Churches.

The Evangelical Reform Church embraces seven congregations. The oldest, the Zion Church on Lemon Street, was established September 5, 1845. In 1846 the congregation built its first church and in 1855 it built the church which stands today. Two wings were added in 1885 to accommodate significant growth.
Emanuel Church, established in 1883, held its first services in a chapel until its church, the one they have today, was built in 1895.
In 1889 the Jerusalem Church organized itself under the missionary protection of the German Eastern Synod.
In 1895 St. Paul's Church came to life. Since 1896 it has been on Duerstein Avenue.
Zoar Church, brought to life in 1895, held its services in a church at the corner of Genesee and Rohr Streets.
St. Paul's and St. John's Churches conclude the list of congregations in this category.

Caption under picture at top left reads Bethany Church

Caption under picture at bottom right reads Trinity Church

The Baptists have five congregations, which in 1849 established the first German Baptist Church under the ministry of Albert Alexander Leopold von Puttkammer. He was the brother of an earlier Prussian minister of the same last name. From this church a second and third followed, Ebenezer and Bethel Baptist Churches.

The Evangelical Congregation has six parishes and the Methodist Church has two congregations.

The New Apostolic Church, which was planted here by two immigrant families around 14 years ago, stands under the leadership of Pastor Erb.

The German Israelites and their Synagogues - The first Jew mentioned in the history of Buffalo, was not a German. He was Maior Manuel Mordecai Noah from New York, who made an unsuccessful attempt to establish the Jewish city of Ararat on Grand Island in 1825. It never got any farther than the placing of the cornerstone, inscribed in English and Hebrew. The stone is in the care of the Historical Society. The private tutor Flersheim was the first German Jew that we hear of in Buffalo. The first Jewish services were held here in 1847 in what was then the Concert Hall. In this year a German-Jewish Support and Health Service Society was established. It was a voluntary charitable organization which administered relief to those in need. In 1847 the first German congregation, Beth El, was established. From this came Temple Beth Zion under the capable leadership of Rabbi Dr. Israel Aaron.

Caption under picture in the upper left reads the Jewish Temple Beth Zion.

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Go to Part II, Chapter 5

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised June 21, 2005