Buffalo and its German Community, Pages 256 - 260

Biographies for Heinrich Fink, Harris Dunbar, and Mathias Rohr


Heinrich Fink

Mr. Heinrich Fink was born on June 19, 1869 in the German village of Husenbach in the Governmental District of Saratof in Russia. He was the son of German settler and land owner Johann Jakob Fink and his wife Maria Elisabeth, nee Schwartz. He attended the village school as well as the elementary school in the German village of Tittel. Furthermore he went to the schools in the Russian villages of Rudnu, Dobrinku and Lemeschkin, where he acquired a knowledge of Russian, Latin, and Slavic languages. Through an extended business trip when he worked in a business owned by a Tartar he learned the Tartaran-Islamic language, which he still speaks to this day. His knowledge of German and English and the various languages spoken by the Russian working classes has come in handy and has earned him a special kind of respect.

On April 25, 1892 Mr. Fink came with his young wife Anna, nee Koch, to Buffalo. They had been married in his home village.

Caption under picture at lower left reads Heinrich Fink


They went to stay with his stepmother's brother Gottlieb Robertus, then pastor of St. Matthew's German Evangelical Church. Here Mr. Fink met Mr. F.W. Kurth, a friend of the pastor. With Mr. Kurth's help on May 2nd of the same year he found a position in the factory of Martin Kalbfleisch. The factory has since been taken over by the General Chemical Co. Mr. Fink has continued to work there and has been foreman for 14 years now.

Mr. Fink's first marriage produced a daughter, Amanda, who after the all too early death of her mother was taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Kurth. She still has her home with them today. His second marriage was a so-called unhappy and childless one.

Mr. Fink is a member of the Order of Free Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Harugaris. In this last order he has held many high offices - he was Deputy District Grand Bard of the East Erie District and he was Grand Chaplain from the State of New York. Mr. Fink regularly takes part in German activities. He is a member of the German-American City Assembly, the East Buffalo German Association, of which he is currently president after being secretary for many years. Among the membership he enjoys the highest respect and popularity. Furthermore he has been for many years a non-active member of the Harugari Frohsinn and the Swabian Singing Society. When this society celebrated its silver anniversary Mr. Fink was chairman of the festival committee. He can be proud of the festival's sterling outcome, in which all of Buffalo's singing world as well as the Swabian Liederkranz of Rochester took part.

Harris Dunbar

Mr. Harris Dunbar is a well known industrialist in Buffalo. He was born on November 1, 1865 in Erie, Pa. He settled in Buffalo in 1880. He is a partner in many of the important branches of industry in our city such as Dunbar & Sullivan Dredging Co., the Buffalo Foundry & Machine Co., the Chandler Dunbar Water Power Co., and the Edison Sault Electric Co.

Mr. Dunbar is a great admirer of German song and music. As an active member of the Orpheus he can serve as a model for some who are born German. He's seldom absent when the Orpheus having a rehearsal or arranging a festival. His excellent singing voice and fluency in German make him a powerful addition to the men's choir.

He's made a lot of warm, true friends in this city with his liberal attitude and generousity especially among the Germans, who have learned to value and appreciate him.

Mr. Harris Dunbar is happily married to Minnie C. Hardison and 3 daughters - Doris, Lucilla, and Margaretha - complete the family circle.

Caption under picture at upper right reads Harris Dunbar


Mathias Rohr

The name Mathias Rohr is well known in this country by the German-speaking population. The bearer of this name belongs to the host of learned men of German blood, who have distinguished themselves through their education and talent and their knowledge and ability and have been placed among the ranks of poets and thinkers. Mr. Mathias Rohr is a poet of extraordinary giftedness. In many of his fine songs he has captured the true cadence of the German people, which is always the mark of true poetic genius. As a storyteller Mr. Rohr has also achieved excellence. Collected creations of his intellect demonstrate the power of strong imagery and deep conviction inherent in a poet. And let us not forget the union with poetic forms of language. Besides his many poems, novellas, and essays, which can be found in newspapers and periodicals, Mr. Mathias Rohr has published the following books:
On Niagara - A book of poems published by Roth's Publishing in Munich
Oreola, the Pearl of the Iroquois and Other Stories of Indian Life - published by Bachem in Cologne.
A second book of verse in currently being assembled.

Also in the anthology From the Land of the Star Spangled Banner: A Selection of German Verse in America, edited by the late Pastor G.A. Reef, Mr. Rohr is represented with many pearls of his poetry.

One of his most beautiful songs goes as follows:

Never forget the Songs of Our Fathers

Never forget the songs of our fathers
In the newly chosen homeland
Continue to sing them forever
They strengthen our old ties.
They carry us off to the spiritual land
Of our childhood in verdant meadows
They reinvigorate us to the state of our youth
And keep us mindful of true happiness.

And never forget the mother tongue,
Oh, keep it as the greatest of treasures
Preserve it in its truest form
Stay true to what you learned in school
As if you were Watchmen on the Rhine
Within the sweet, beloved language of our childhood
Rests the lessons of true German virtue
Never let the German voice be stilled.

So sing with joy the German songs
At home, in the hall, and in the house of God
O sing forever and ever
With the harp and with the organ
Sing forever of the German wisdom
Which burns in the heart so sweet and pure.
For a song to fulfill a dream
It must be a German song.

Along with his poetic gift, which has made him a spiritual leader among his compatriots in the United States, Mathias Rohr has justifiably distinguished himself as one of the most important German-American journalists in the country. His newspaper articles excel in the use of the people's language and the proliferation of cultural themes. Just as remarkable is the excellent judgment with which he interprets the events of the city and the country, not to mention the earth shaking occurrences in the world. Mr. Rohr possesses all characteristics inherent in a capable newsman and writer. Under his expert guidance the Buffalo Volksfreund has stood at the top of the heap for many years and it has become one of the most important German-American newspapers in the country.
Mr. Rohr plays an important role as a politician. He is a registered Democrat but he has never relied on his affiliation solely as a basis for his judgment and his position on issues. The well-being of his fellow citizens is the political ideal for which he inexhaustibly strives. As a campaign orator in both German and English he has distinguished himself. Let's not forget the success this multi-talented man has had with his business endeavors. The New York Life Insurance Company of Germania has found in him an excellent representative for this district.


His circumspection and ability have greatly increased the growth of customers for the company in Buffalo and the surrounding area. As a true son of the Church Mathias Rohr has been an proponent for the highest good of Catholicism and all Catholic endeavors with his oratory and his writings. He is a true Christian man of moderate reasoning and broad tolerance, a German Catholic in the finest sense of the word.

Mathias Rohr was born on February 25, 1840 in Zemmer, part of the Prussian Rhineland. He was the son of teacher Johann Rohr and his wife Katharina, nee Hoffman. He studied to become a teacher and after passing his final examinations at the teachers seminary with distinction he found a position in the chief town of Bitberg. After fulfilling his military obligation in Saarlouis he became a teacher at the academy in Bitberg. From early on he gave his boys a strict educational regimen. As an eager student himself he developed a complete knowledge of English, French, and Italian, which he assimilated into his study of German literature. His poetic sense and writing talent surfaced early and even as a young teacher he was a contributor to many daily newspapers and school journals. He also excelled in translating from French and English.

Caption under picture at center reads Mathias Rohr


However life within the strict confines of the old homeland were not conducive to his young fiery spirit. He sensed a need to explore. The example of a compatriot, who left the fatherland as a poor school teacher and returned year later as a rich man from America, served as the impetus. One day he accompanied a young German-American cleric, who was spending some time in Germany, back to the United States. In June 1868 he arrived in New York. He had the good fortune to immediately find a position and he soon became editor of the Central Newspaper in Buffalo. Thus Mathias Rohr came to this city and he has remained a citizen here ever since. A year later he took over the management of the writing staff of the Buffalo Volksfreund, which he managed with great success for many years. In 1883 he became a representative for the New York Life Insurance Company of Germania. The business is still in his hands today. Since 1905 Mr. Rohr has been president of the Buffalo Volksfreund Printing Co. and he became the managing force behind the company publishing the daily paper, the Buffalo Volksfreund.

On September 23, 1869 Mr. Mathias Rohr married Miss Sophie C. Richert of Buffalo, the eldest daughter of Mr. Georg Richert and his wife Christine. The happy union has produced 11 children, of whom 8 are still living. They are: Franz J., secretary of the Volksfreund Co. and employed in that business; Paul, Professor at the University of St. Louis and a member of the Jesuit Order, renown as a poet and writer; Mrs. Alex Davidson, whose husband is a respected attorney; Mrs. Edw. D. Horgan, whose husband is treasurer of the Volksfreund Co. and agent for the Germania Insurance Co.; 3 daughters are teachers in high schools run by the Franciscans. They are members of that order. The youngest daughter, Marie, attends D'Youville College and has inherited her father's poetic talent. Those children deceased were Wilhelm at age 12, Leo at age 22, who was a well known attorney and officer of the 74th Regiment and who played a chief role as a singer in amateur operatic productions. He was a gifted musician and conductor who left behind poetry in German, English, and Greek. He drowned in the Severn River in Canada. The daughter Cäcelia died at the age of 22.

Mr. Rohr has made many trips to the old homeland. In most cases he's also made visits to the center of Christianity, Eternal Rome. In 1874 he made his first pilgimage as a delegate of the Catholic Union of Buffalo to Rome and Lourdes.

Mr. Rohr is a member of many clubs and organizations such as the Orpheus, the German Literary Society, the Knights of Columbus, etc. Just as remarkable is the vitality which he has maintained in his 72 years of life. He takes an active interest in the events of the world, he is always ready to consider new ideals and he embraces trend-breaking concepts of the modern culture. He has never broken his spiritual contact with the old homeland but rather he has become a proponent of German culture in this new homeland as few other German-Americans have done. He is a warrior for German ideals and a flag bearer for the German language and the German way of life.

Translation for August Bätzhold and Sons will begin on Webpage 37


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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised August 27, 2005