Buffalo and its German Community, Pages 222 - 225

Biographies for Friedrich Held, Chas. F. Reif, and John P. Bruck


Friedrich Held

Closely connected to the history of the German element in Buffalo is the history of the Held family, in whose hands for 60 years we find the oldest German daily newspaper in the city, the Buffalo Democrat. Friedrich Held was the head of this respected family. He was a true German man, of honorable character, a strong work ethic, and intelligence. He worked his way up from humble newspaper carrier to newspaper owner. Everything he achieved he did on his own, gaining him the designation of self-made man in the finest sense of the word.

Friedrich Held was born on December 20, 1828 in Bechtolsheim, Hessen-Darmstadt. As a 12-year-old he came with his parents to Buffalo. He became a news carrier for the Weltbürger (World Citizen) and learned the typesetter's trade. The Weltbürger was a weekly paper which first appeared in 1837. It was an arm of the Democratic Party. In September 1848 the Free Democrat was established as a representative of the Free Soil Movement. The Free Democrat, also a weekly paper, was renamed The Buffalo Democrat at the beginning of 1850. In November 1850 Friedrich Held became a partner in the paper, which soon after appeared as a daily paper. In April 1853 the Weltbürger merged with the Democrat. The firm carried the name of Brunck, Held, & Co. From January 1, 1875 til the time of his death on March 6, 1885 Friedrich Held was sole owner of the paper. It was then managed by his widow. The current owner of the newspaper is the second son, Frank C. B. Held.

Friedrich Held had the highest respect of members of this city and he was enormously popular. He belonged to many clubs and organizations. He was a member of the Volunteer Fire Department, the Concordia Lodge 163 of the Free Masons, the Hugh de Payen Commandery of the Knights of the Templar, the Buffalo Chapter 61 of the R.A.M., the German Young Men's Association, the Liedertafel, the Sängerbund, the Buffalo Gymnastics Society, etc.

In 1863 Mr. Held married Miss Caroline L. Beyer. Three sons and one daughter came from the union.

Chas. F. Reif

Without a doubt one of the most important issues dealing with modern school education is the enforcement of compulsory attendance regulations. The most important educators in the world all agree that regular attendance by children must be strenuously enforced. If one is a good citizen, he must see it as his obligation to take a strong hand in the education of the criminal element. For that reason the Attendance Department, responsible for the enforcement of compulsory education standards, plays an important role in the educational process of this great city.

Caption under picture at lower left reads Friedrich Held


The control of school age children and their attendance is not taken lightly. The Attendance Department of the Buffalo Board of Education has an excellent reputaton throughout the land. It is well organized and is counted among the best in American cities. It's status is due primarily to the excellent leadership of Mr. Chas. F. Reif, whose care and energy is well known and esteemed. Mr. Reif is a capable and experienced man in his field.

Charles F. Reif was born on August 23, 1879 in Buffalo. He was the son of master tailor William Reif and his wife Frederica, nee Kam. Both parents came from the old fatherland. William Reif came in 1855 from Eichstetten, Baden to America. Frederica Kam was born in Reutlingen, Württemberg. She came here in 1852 with her parents. In 1881 the family lived at 24 Peach Street, right in the heart of the German quarter. Mr. Chas. F. Reif has remained loyal to his upbringing, residing currently at 60 Lemon Street. After attending the public school Mr. Reif worked for 12 years at a clothing warehouse. He was first appointed an attendance officer in 1895 when the current law came into existence. His intelligence, his untiring hard work, and his energy secured his future. He worked his way up to his current position as Director of Compulsory Education and Supplies. Mr. Reif has the third highest position in the Department. All purchasing for the department goes through him. For the Compulsory Education Department he works with a staff of 14 officers.

Mr. Reif is one of the founders of the English Evangelical Pilgrims Church and he is the current president of its council. Furthermore he is a member of the Concordia Lodge 143 F.& A.M., and the Buffalo Consistory. On November 24, 1897 he married Miss Amelia R. Jacob of Buffalo. The happy union has produced 2 children: Katherine, 12 and Alice, 3 years old.

It is fortunate for us German-Americans that such an excellent man of German ancestry holds one of the highest offices in the city. He earned his office through his own work and he can be proud of his German heritage. German-Americans such as Mr. Reif enrich the degree of respect the German element enjoys in this city. Much that is good in this land is due to those of German blood.

Caption under picture at upper right reads Chas. F. Reif


John P. Bruck

It was last Labor Day (1912) in which the writer of this biography for the Historical Society met Mr. John P. Bruck, the excellent principal of the city's Truant School located near Seneca Street. The writer found Mr. Bruck surrounded by his students. The Star Spangled Banner was just being raised. It floated in the breeze as the youthful chorus enthusiastically sang "My Country, Tis of Thee". This little scene reminds one of what a model facility the Truant School is. Mr. Bruck has made it one of his first tasks to instill a patriotic theme into the often chaotic minds of the pupils entrusted to him. Evidence of the success his labors have produced come from a letter from J.W. Grosvenor, Asst. Patriotic Instructor for Erie County, G.A.R.
Mr. Bruck received the letter on February 23, 1912:
"I wish to congratulate you and your assistants on the success you have had instilling a love for our Republic and respect for our flag in the hearts of our boys. The deep earnestness with which they have spoken about patriotism and the history of the Civil War dramatically show that they have learned to value the tenets upon which our government is built. I have noticed that they have learned many patriotic songs by heart and that they sing with great conviction. These facts attest to the patriotic spirit which resides in their hearts. They have learned it from their schooling and it will become a driving force in their development into good citizens when they grow up. My experience as a teacher of patriotism, amassed through visitations to many of the public schools in Buffalo, leads me to the conclusion that none of the other schools, from which the students have come, has so richly demonstrated the relationship between our Star Spangled Banner and the Republic, for which it stands."

John Peter Bruck was born on September 9, 1872 in Buffalo. He was the son of master cooper Peter Bruck and his wife Catharine, nee Schappard. He came from an old German pioneer family. His father came from the Hessen-Darmstadt region about 60 years ago. At the time he was around 30 years of age and he opened a cooper shop on Cedar Street. Christopher Schappard, Mr. Bruck's maternal grandfather, was one of the pioneers of our city, settling here about 80 years ago. The brick house he built on Cedar Street, in which he raised his children, still stands today. He was a man actively concerned with public welfare and he had the opportunity to serve as a member of the City Council.

Caption under picture at upper left reads John P. Bruck


Mr. Bruck's mother was born as her parents were making their way from Germany to America. John Peter attended Public School 12 and graduated in 1891 from Buffalo High School, which later became Central High School. He was employed as a bookkeeper for Manufacturers & Traders Bank for 6 years and then he worked as a reporter for a year with Bradstreets Merchantile Agency. He chose to become a teacher and graduated from the Buffalo N.Y. State Normal and Training School in 1904. For a year each he was at School No. 11, School No. 50, and School No. 7 (Annex) as principal. In 1907 he took over the direction of the Truant School, at 57 Dole Street, where he also resides. His sister, Miss Louise Bruck, keeps house for him. Mr. Bruck is a member of the Church of the Atonement at Eagle and Jefferson Streets, the Buffalo Lodge 846 F. & A.M., the Buffalo Schoolmasters Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Grammar School Principals Council, and the Buffalo Social Workers Club.

Mr. Bruck has been placed in a work-intensive and responsibility-laden post. The education of truants and their development into responsible members of human society are some of the largest social problems of our time. Thus the leadership of the Truant School is quite a difficult and onorous assignment for which only the most modern childhood educational methods can provide a solution. One learns the undeniable importance with a visit to the facility and one finds that the leadership of Buffalo's Truant School is in the best possible hands.
Until now boys, who have not wished to accept compulsory education and have thus been led astray, have been forced to enlist in the army, where they receive excellent training in discipline. However this has not left a favorable impression on those who have been forced to assume the yoke against their will. They can look much more freshly and joyously upon the world and discover for themselves that human life is fraught with obligations. The pupils of the Truant School are taught the usual subjects such as reading, writing etc. They also learn generally useful trades such as basket work, wood carving, shoe making and bread baking as well as all kinds of housework such as cleaning, dishwashing, and bed making. Musical instruction is also given and the education of children to become patriots encompasses a broad spectrum. Two female instructors assist the principal in his difficult task. In the course of a year approximately 200 boys from the ages of 8 to 16 transfer to the facility. At any one time the enrollment is approximately 50.

Mr. Bruck is an acknowledged authority in the fields of school truancy, youth criminality, and truant school administration. He has visited many reformatories in the land and he has thoroughly studied the prevailing methods and conditions which prevail in other parts of the country. Mr. Brucker knows how to give interesting lectures and he is a sought-out orator not only in Buffalo but in other places. Since he took over the administration of the Truant School it has experienced incredible progress and it has achieved much success.

The work of the Truant School has received the fullest acknowledgement from the School Board. Most pupils leave there in an reformed state. The work Mr. Bruck has accomplished in the five years he has been principal of the Truant School can indeed be deemed successful. The entire institution makes a favorable impression. The children are meticulously clean in their orderly attire. There is a plan to build a new, larger facility on the piece of land. This would be beneficial since the capacity of the current old schoolhouse is very limited, * besides which authorities in the field believe that children should be engaged in working with the land because it provides a positive influence in educating them how to become productive people. The education of children is a high artform and the guidance of children who have strayed to the right path is the work of a man who understands this artform completely. Buffalo's citizenry can be pleased that they have found such a man in John P. Bruck and Buffalo's Germans can be proud that he comes from their midst.

* German text for this portion of translation is on page 226, which can be found on Webpage 30


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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised August 21, 2005