Niagara Falls and its German Community , Pages 6 - 10

The fourth bridge is a modern suspension bridge near Lewiston and Queenstown.

Around the Falls area there are many historical points of interest. On Sanson's Map of Canada, published in Paris in 1657, the Falls went under the name of "Ongiara". Father Hennepin, a member of LaSalle's Expedition, was the first European to see the Falls and describe them. The area surrounding Niagara Falls is a blood-soaked land. There were many battles between Indians and white men, between French and English, between English and Americans.

Many forts were built and destroyed here. On September 14, 1763 in Devil's Hole there was a horrible massacre of a company of British soldiers by Indians. The Brock Memorial was constructed in honor of the British General Sir Isaac Brock, who fell in a battle fought during the War of 1812 between England and the United States. On the Canadian side lies the battlefield of Lundy's Lane, where English-Canadian troops won a hard-fought battle against the Americans on July 25, 1814.

The name Niagara is of Indian extraction and means "thunder of the water". The border between the United States and Canada goes through the middle of the Canadian Falls. According to Indian tradition the Falls received 2 sacrificial offerings annually. Today the number of dreadful accidents and suicides far exceed that number. At the time of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, a woman who still resides in Niagara Falls went over the Canadian Falls in a barrel. The dangerous stunt met with success and in 1911 was repeated by a Canadian, who also made it. But the attempt to swim amid the rapids has not met with success. Even the famous prize-winning swimmer, Captain Webb, paid for the opportunity with his life. On the other hand the old Maid of the Mist was returned to Lewiston in 1861 unharmed by the rapids. Blondin and other high wire acts have crossed the gorge above the rapids on tightropes.

Caption under picture at center reads Government Building, Post Office and Customs Office

The American city of Niagara Falls originated with the union of 2 townships, which earlier had been rivals. The current southern portion of the city originally bore the name Manchester and then took the name Niagara Falls. At the same time in the middle of the last century the northern portion of the city, which was then a village named Belleview, took the name Niagara City. At that time the New York Central Railroad was trying to promote commerce between the United States and Canada and it decided to build a railroad bridge over the Niagara River. Both cities wanted to build the point of exit. The choice fell to Belleview and it experienced strong growth. On March 8, 1855 the first train went over the bridge that Röbling constructed. Niagara City later changed its name to Suspension Bridge. In 1892 Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge united under the name Niagara Falls and it became a true city.

Niagara Falls has experienced a quick and amazing development. Today it is a modern city with beautiful buildings and well maintained streets. It is clean and enterprising, a center for tourist trade with no fewer than 48 hotels and a prospering industrial corridor. The most beautiful buildings are the Legislature building with the Post Office at the corner of Main and 6th Streets, the below illustrated Free Mason Temple, the 3 leading hotels - the International, the Cataract, and the Kaltenbach - the house of the prominent Niagara Club in the elegant quarter of the waterfront, the Arsenal of the 42nd Separate Company, the "Home of Shredded Wheat", the Memorial Hospital, the high school, the International Theater, and the library, which received a $50,000 Andrew Carnegie endowment. On the Whirlpool Grounds lies the Protestant-Episcopalian DeBeaux College, which was founded in 1853. Across from the Whirlpool near Devil's Hole the Catholic Niagara University sits amid a beautiful background with a view extending to Lake Ontario. The university was founded as a seminary in 1856 and in 1883 became a university. Niagara Falls is a popular convention city and it has a row of spacious halls available for use.

Caption under picture at center reads Free Mason Temple

The Convention Hall is currently making way for a new legislature building. There are the International and other hotels, the Home of Shredded Wheat, etc. There is a significant number of electricity plants and factories.

Just as important as the tourist trade is the development of the area's water power to create electricity. It is estimated that the Falls could produced 4 million units of horsepower. The American spirit of enterprise has only harnessed a portion of this horsepower potential in service to industry. A portion of the water flowing over the Falls has been diverted and used to produce electricity. When the Niagara Falls Power Co. began operation in 1890 it produced 15,000 units of horsepower. Today 6 companies produce 500,000 units of horsepower. What electricity has meant to Niagara Falls can best be illustrated by examining the city's development. In 1890 both towns, from which Niagara Falls came into being, had scarcely 10,000 residents and the tax assessment of properties was $7,000,000. Today there are over 30,000 residents and the assessed value of properties is $24,000,000. Niagara Falls has become a true industrial city. There are meal, paper, and saw mills, foundries and machine works, aluminum and carborundum plants, electro-chemical facilities, cookie manufacturers, and other branches of industry. In 1900 the value of manufactured goods amounted to $8,540,184. In 1905 that figure rose to $16,915,786. There are over 200 factories. Besides fulfilling its own needs Niagara Falls supplies Buffalo with its electical power for lighting, streetcars, factory operations, etc.

The electricity companies and their power production output in horsepower are:
Ontario Power Co. - 115,000
Electrical Development Co. - 50,000
Canadian-Niagara Power Co. - 55,000
The Niagara Falls Power Co. -105,000
International Street Railway Co. - 4,000
Niagara Falls Hydraulic and Manufacturing Co. - 150,000
Total - 479,000

The chief manufactured goods and their horsepower comsumption:
Iron and steel - 8,700
Electric and electro-chemical goods - 92,500
Lighting - 93,800
Electric rail lines - 61,500
Total - 256,500

Since Niagara Falls derives its prosperity from 2 very different sources whereby one source may be detrimental to the other, it's easy to understand why certain measures must be taken. The landscape must not be replaced by electricity plants and factories. Using the water from the Falls should be accomplished through tunnels at remote points where power stations can be built and factories can be located in specified districts above the Falls. There is also the danger that heavy displacement of the water from the Falls could ruin its natural beauty so agreement has been reached between the United States and Canada. It has been established that no more than 800,000 units of horsepower are to be taken from the Falls. A difficult problem has been solved in a very reasonable manner. Use of the Falls continues to be restricted yet despite this the industrial development of the city remains unimpeded.

The German element has played an important role in Niagara Falls. Joseph Schlosser, a captain in service to the English, was perhaps the first German to come to the region. At the behest of the English government in 1759 he reestablished Fort Portage after it had been destroyed. It was subsequently renamed Fort Schlosser in his honor.

At the beginning of the 19th Century German families from Pennsylvania settled on the Niagara Frontier. The decades of the 40s and 50s brought strong German immigration. It was primarily immigrant Germans who settled Niagara Falls. The majority of them were from Württemberg. An entire section of the city is known as the German Settlement. A German by the name of Nikolaus Hunsinger built the first stone house. Another German by the name of Amstät built the first brick one. Many respected businessmen and manufacturers have come from the German community, which has also given the city many excellent government officers. The current mayor, Philip J. Keller, is of German extraction. Recently many immigrants of the German Empire have settled here and been employed as managers or high-placed employees in factories. The German community also plays an important role in the Niagara Club. For many years the Orpheus Singing Society was a societal hub for the German community. Three German Protestant church congregations are present in Niagara Falls. The Zion Lutheran Congregation was established in 1857 and celebrated its golden anniversary in 1907. The church, a modest wood structure, was first located on South Avenue near Lockport Street. On March 7, 1897 a new brick church was dedicated on the corner of Michigan Avenue and 10th Street. The current pastor of the congregation, Pastor Herman Brezing, has been with the congregation since 1905. The other 2 German churches are St. Paul's Lutheran on Cleveland Avenue at the corner of 18th Street under Pastor Edward Nemeschy and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on South Avenue under Pastor John M. Eberlein.

Caption under picture at center reads Philip J. Keller, Mayor of the City of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The German element of Niagara falls is well respected by the city and it has had a significant influence on its public life.

The City of Niagara Falls, favored by her location at the Falls, has already experienced a great evolution. According to calculated projections it will evolve even further in the future.

Philip J. Keller

At the head of the city government stands a man who has proven that he is the right man for the job. He leads the city's business the way he manages his own business: honorably, conscientiously, and with dedication. This man is Mr. Philip J. Keller.

The current mayor of Niagara Falls was born on December 24, 1857 in the beautiful city of the famous Falls. His father was the diligent master butcher Peter Keller, who emigrated from Bavaria in 1850 and settled in Niagara Falls. His mother, Wilhelmina Keller, was from Mecklenburg.

Philip J. Keller attended the public school and apprenticed in his father's trade, with which he has had much success. His business is considered among the largest and best known of its kind in this part of the city. As an active patriot he also took part in politics. He was an alderman for 2 years and he was elected to a term in the Assembly. He is a staunch Democrat and in November of 1910 he was elected mayor of the city by a respectable majority. In this capacity he has garnered the respect of the citizenry. Their well-being is his primary concern. He's a popular and modest man with a large circle of friends.

Mr. Keller has inherited the German virtues of hospitality, a sense of justice, and solidity from his parents. He has never forgotten the German language, which they taught him. He is a member of the German Lutheran Church and German organizations. He takes part in German activities. Besides this he is a prominent member of the Order of the Free Masons, in which he has risen to the 32nd degree. He is also a member of the Elks and other groups and clubs.

Thirty-two years ago he married Miss Lizzie Flay. Three children have come from the happy union: Lillie, William M., and Charles Keller.

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

One of the most beautiful and imposing houses of worship in Niagara Falls is the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Michigan Avenue at 10th Street. This church is not only one of the largest and most prolific in the city of the thundering Falls of Niagara but also one of the oldest. The congregation celebrated its golden jubilee in 1907.

The founder of the congregation was Pastor Johannes Althaus, who came to Niagara Falls in 1854 and held German services every second Sunday in the public schoolhouse at the corner of what is now 11th Street and Ontario Avenue. In 1856 the first steps to establish a church were taken and in the same year the building of the church began. One of the members, Mr. Christian Fink, undertook to build the church for $999.99. One man donated the lumber and another the stone. Full of courage and trust in God all members helped and in the autumn the little church was completed. All knew it was a primitive structure but the congregation was happy with their ownership of a house of worship.

As the congregation grew it became necessary to build a larger church.

History of the Zion Church and other profiles continue on Niagara Falls 3

Go to Niagara Falls 3

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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised September 15, 2005