The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County - Part II, pages 47 - 50

Biographies for Chas. F. Bishop, Mathias Strauss, Charles Lamy, Philip Henry Bender, Friedrich Gelb, Elisabeth Gelb, and Conrad Baer.


Chas. F. Bishop

Former Mayor Chas. F. Bishop was born in Williamsville, Erie County on October 14, 1844. In his youth he came with his parents to Buffalo, where the family settled on Grey Street. He attended the public schools and at the age of 13 entered the specialties business. He stayed there until he opened his own business. In 1869 he established a coffee and spices warehouse at 80 Main Street. In 1884 he relocated to 93 Seneca Street. He needed more room because the business had grown dramatically. Today it's one of the most important facilities in the city. In 1887 Mr. Bishop was requested to accept the nomination for County Treasurer. His personal magnetism got him votes. He gathered a greater majority than any other candidate in his Party, however there were irregularities in the ballot count and his opponent was declared the winner after the first counting of the ballots. Mr. Bishop actually received 151 more votes. Two years later he ran for mayor on the Democratic Ticket and after a hard fought campaign he was elected. Governance during his first term in office was distinguished by strict adherence to principles. This served his Party and his constituents to the fullest. It was never suggested that he misused his office to serve his personal interests or those of his Party. In the Fall of 1891 he again received the Party's nomination. They didn't even consider choosing another man. He was reelected and he followed the same tenets of governance, which had successfully guided him in his first term. In his private life Mr. Bishop enjoyed the same high regard. He has been a member of the Orpheus for many years. He was its President for 3 years. Furthermore he belongs to the Concordia Lodge of the Order of the Free Masons and was an Assistant Grand Master of the 25th District of the State of New York for 4 years. While in this capacity he laid the cornerstone for the Free Mason's Temple. In 1865 he married Miss Kate Moran. Mr. Bishop, who enjoys great popularity in both his social and business circles, and possesses the unqualified trust of his citizenry, lives at 220 Summer Street.

Mathias Strauss

is one of those men who, no matter how great the obstacle is before him, is able to change it through enormous patience and energy. Despite many hinderances which have daunted his existence, he raised himself up from a impoverished youth to one of the richest and most respected businessmen in the city. He can truly be called the architect of his own happiness and fortune.


Mr. Strauss was born on April 15, 1836 in Remich in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. He came from an old family of hide tanners. They had carried on that trade for hundreds of years. He was the eldest of 5 sons. He told his parents when he was 14 years of age that he was going to America. With salient insight he projected that he could find a better place for the family trade. Based on his advice the entire family emigrated in 1850 and settled in Buffalo. Both father and son found work at the tannery of Breithaupt and Schöllkopf. Their wages did not quite live up to their expectations. The older Strauss had to make due with the standard wage, 75 cents per day, while his son received half that sum. But young Mathias didn't lose his courage. He worked that much harder and after 5 years he became foreman of the dye department. When it came to matters concerning the dyes used for modern tinting, his skill was unequalled. When the firm dissolved in 1861, at the age of 21 he attempted to become self-supporting and he rented an old tannery. He increased his effort and expanded his business sense to the point when he laid the cornerstone for his own establishment at the corner of William Street and Fillmore Avenue. The business is now quite large. On May 6, 1893 his business was taken from him by fire but Mr. Strauss did not let that misfortune break him. He worked even more vigorously. Without laying off a single worker, within 6 months time everything was back to its usual and precise method of operation in the magnificent tannery. In time the management was turned over to his 2 sons, John and Charles, and Mr. Strauss decided to spend his remaining years in retirement. The capable businessman was twice a member of the City Council. As a cofounder of the Church of the Sacred Heart he spared neither time nor money and the German Catholic Orphanage received his full attention. Mr. Strauss is also a member of the Old Germans Association, The Knights of St. Mary, the Tabernacle Society, and the Board of the Working Boy's Home. Strauss Street, on the city's East Side, is named after him. Mr. Strauss is married to Elisabeth Brosart. There are 12 children from the marriage. Four daughters and 4 sons are still living. The private residence of Mr. Strauss is located at 322 Eagle Street.

Charles Lamy

Although they have been here for 3 generations, the Lamy family has managed to maintain its German identity and customs. Charles Lamy was born on May 7, 1849 in East Eden, Erie County. He received the first part of his education there at the district schools. He also helped out to the best of his abilities at his parent's farm. When he was 15-years-old he apprenticed himself to a housewares and groceries dealer and he learned the business from the ground up. He established a concern of the same type for himself at 301-305 Elk Street in 1874. Since he had to pay a great deal to rent the location, he decided 8 years later to buy the spacious, 4 story brick building and enlarge the business. The business grew larger with each passing year and it is considered one of the most prominent by the businessmen of the city. Despite the huge number of business transactions he conducts, Mr. Lamy has a great capacity for activity and still finds time to take part in other affairs. Among other things he bought a significant number of shares in the Magnus Beck Brewing Co. For 4 years he was President of the company. In 1895 he sold his shares and devoted himself solely to the operations of his own business. Since Mr. Lamy was able to lead the relatively quiet life of a prospering businessman, in 1893 he entered the local political arena. Urged on by his friends and acknowledging his civic duty, he sought out the nomination for State Senator. He got the nomination as a Reform Candidate and was elected with a substantial plurality of 3,889 votes. Mr. Lamy did not abuse the trust of his constituents. He donated all his time and energy representing their interests.


He was chairman of the Canal Committee and a member of several other important committees. His major achievement was the appropriation for the new armory of the 74th Regiment. During his second term he used fulminating oratory with regard to the negative impact of the Hamburg Canal. Thanks to him the matter was tabled. Mr. Lamy became a diligent and dedicated Republican and served the Party in Erie County with his loyal and selfless leadership. He is a Free Mason of high degree and is an active member of the St. Mark's Methodist Congregation. On June 10, 1875 he married Magdalena Urban and after her death he married Clara B. Demeyer on June 10, 1885. His private residence is at 305 Elk Street.

Philip Henry Bender

Among the long line of biographies of diligent Germans it's not strange that we would included Philip Henry Bender. As publisher and editor of a German newspaper, he was directly involved with the shaping of the German community. He was born on June 9, 1830 in the district of Eschelbach at Baden, where he received a portion of his education. He learned the basics of printing press trade. He emigrated to America with his relatives in 1845. At first they settled in Griffins Mill, Erie County. Two years later they came to Buffalo.

The young man first occupied himself plying his acquired trade. Through diligence and energy, as well as an iron will, he was able to make himself self-supporting. Eventually he was not able to deal with the mechanical side of the work, that being the type setting and press inking; to restore his health his went to the literary end of things. With time The Telegraph established a good name for itself in Buffalo and the diligent and ambitious young man became a participant in its production. At the time the firm was called Miller & Bender and the concern flourished. Later Mr. Bender took over the management of the newspaper and raised it to the status of a prominent German newspaper in this city. Mr. Bender was always a Republican and served his constituents well as a Republican member of the State Legislature.

On May 21, 1856 he married Elizabeth Gelb, who bore him 9 children, 3 of whom died at a tender age. His two oldest sons, George Frederick and Abraham Lincoln, live in New York. His eldest daughter, Dr. Ida Bender, is presently Assistant School Superintendent of Emerson and carries the title of Supervisor of Primary Grades. Mr. Bender died in 1882 in Washington, where he had moved a year before his departure from this life. His body rests at the family plot at Forest Lawn.

Friedrich Gelb

came to America in 1836 and settled in Buffalo a year later. He is justifiably counted among the oldest settlers of new Buffalo. He was born on June 24, 1817 in Dernbach in the Rhine Palatinate. He attended the district schools and learned carpentry and brick-laying. Before coming to Buffalo he lived for a year in Stanhope, New Jersey. After plying his trade for a long time for Audere, he established and managed his own important building contracting business in the city. From his hands came some of the best known buildings in Buffalo, some of which still grace the city. These led to his prosperity and good reputation.


He obtained the contracts for the paving of several streets in the city. Although he was among the most prominent and popular people in the city, he never sought public office. He was however an ardent and strict Party man. First he was affiliated with the Whigs and later cast his lot in with the Republicans, for whom he was an active member until his death. He was a Lutheran by religious conviction and he is in no small way to be thanked for the building of St. John's Church. The Lutheran Orphan facility on Hickory Street and the Asylum in Sulphur Springs owe much to him as well. He was always ready to help with a generous hand and sound advice. He was a member of several organizations including the Sängerbund and the Liedertafel.

On June 24, 1836 he married Elisabeth Klein, who bore him 10 children, of which seven, one son and six daughters, still live in Buffalo. The youngest daughter, Miss Laura C. Gelb, is a teacher at the high school in Masten Park. Mr. Gelb died on October 9, 1893. He was a highly esteemed and treasured citizen.

Elisabeth Gelb

is the wife of the above mentioned Friedrich Gelb. She was born on February 14, 1817 in Gries, part of the Rhine Palatinate, where she acquired her schooling. She came to America with her husband in 1836, first staying in Stanhope, New Jersey then coming to Buffalo in 1837. Mrs. Gelb, well on in years and living in her old home on Ellicott Street, enjoys an uncommonly spirited vivacity, is interested in the questions of the day in a most lively way, and remembers a great deal about the history of young Buffalo. She is an active and lifelong member of the St. John's Congregation and is known throughout the city for her generosity, her deepfelt religiosity and her charity. Mrs. Gelb has 22 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. On June 24, 1886 she and her husband celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

Conrad Baer

Without a doubt Mr. Conrad Baer belongs to the roster of esteemed German citizens of our city. He first saw the light of the world on April 10, 1825 at a farm near Sulzbach, Upper Bavaria. He attended the village school in his district. No longer willing to tolerate the policies of the old fatherland, he emigrated to the United States in 1844 and settled in Buffalo. Here he entered the Preparatory Institution of Pastor Grabau and educated himself to become a teacher. He worked as such after leaving the school for a while but did not find complete satisfaction in the profession. He found himself better suited to working in a book printing business. He worked there for a while. Finally he opened a notary, fire insurance, and travel agent bureau, which over the course of the years developed into a mighty endeavor due to his energy and untiring perseverence. Amid the German community it's considered one of the most popular establishments. Mr. Baer is also the agent for the Royal German Consulat-General in New York, certainly submitting proof that his firm has acquired the trust of all. In earlier years Mr. Baer took part in political life. From 1869 to 1871 inclusive, he satisfactorily represented the old 7th Ward in the Supervisory Council of Erie County. He is married to Ulrike Pielmann, who was born in Strasburg in the Uckermark region. The union was blessed with 6 children, all of whom are still living. The residence of Mr.Baer is located at 41 East Tupper Street. The Bureau is at 527 Main Street.

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Revised August 18, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks