The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County - Part II, pages 102 - 108

Biographies for Matthias Rohr, William Simon, Sr., Joseph Schaff, Sarah Becker nee Goetz, and Philip Becker.


Matthias Rohr,

one of the best known and most highly educated Germans in Erie County, was born on February 25, 1840 in the small district of Zenner in Rhineland-Prussia. His father was a teacher. At a very early age he helped support the family by giving instruction in the neighboring schools. He still managed to find enough time to prepare for the exams so he could go to the teacher's seminary. He accomplished this at age 19, and when he left he received the highest honor. There was an incident during his school days when Rohr met a man who had left the fatherland as a poor teacher, went to America, and returned to Germany a rich man. We have this man to thank for first placing the idea in Rohr's head to emigrate to America. To prepare himself, he dedicated all his energy to the study of the English language. This wasn't an easy task since studies in other than the matriculated field of learning were forbidden by the educational facility. Besides the English language he studied French and above all else, German Literature, in which he gained for himself a thorough and valuable knowledge base. This course of study served him well years later when he was a journalist.
After completing his exams, he left the seminary in order to take a position as a teacher in the chief city of the district, Bitberg. He fulfilled his military obligation in Saarlouis then took the post at the Academy of Bitberg, where he successfully taught Literature, History, French, etc. He also made regular literary contributions to scholarly publications as well as to various political newspapers, making translations into French and English. All these intellectual undertakings were not enough to satisfy the young man. His sensibilities and his prolific nature required a larger arena. He believed he could find that broader opportunity in America. Thus in the company of a young German-American intellectual, who had been staying in Germany for a while, he made his way and landed in New York in 1868. He was immediately hired as editor for the Central Newspaper, which was a weekly publication in Buffalo. He held this posting for 2 years and then became a partner in a wine warehouse and dealership. This activity didn't really suit him so he grabbed at the proffered opportunity to take over the editorship of the Volksfreund. For many years he guided this newspaper with talent and wisdom, but then he resigned his editorial duties for several reasons. After enjoying a period of rest and renewal, he went into the insurance business and in 1883 he joined the Germania Life Insurance Company and became General Agent for Buffalo and the surrounding area.
Mr. Rohr showed a lively interest in local politics and became an excellent campaign orator in German and English. In 1874 the Catholic Union of Buffalo, headed at the time by Bishop Ryan, appointed him Delegate of the first great American pilgrimage to Rome and Lourdes. He took this trip on May 16th.

On September 23, 1869 Mr. Rohr married Miss Sophie C. Richert, the eldest, Buffalo-born daughter of Mr. Georg and Mrs. Christine Richert. Amid their family Mr. and Mrs. Rohr celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in September of 1894. The couple was given 11 children, of which 9 are still living. One son, the highly gifted Leo M. Rohr, in many ways a promising young jurist and a kindly disposed, popular, and warm hearted friend, lost his life on a canoe trip in the rapids of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. This tragic accident is still present in the minds of the city's widest circle and forever painful for his parents. He is remembered by many.


Mrs. Matthias Rohr, Matthias Rohr

Page 104 is blank


Top: William J. Jr., Anna, Gerhard
Center: William Simon, Theresa Simon
Bottom: Louise V. Kam, Marie, Julia Schaff

Page 106 is blank


William Simon, Sr.

Mr. William Simon was born in May 22, 1853 in Baden Baden. He learned the brewery trade in Germany and came to the United States at the age of 18. Given that his financial resources were not that secure, his eventual success in hindsight attests to his intellect and capacity for hard work. He settled in Williamsburg *, where he found a position with John Schneider at the monthly wage of $45. Since his employer recognized the young man's leadership ability, he raised his salary to $75. In the course of time Mr. Simon also worked in the breweries of Otto Huber, Leibman and Obermeyer in Williamsville, and for Conrad Decker in East Boston, for whom he was brew master. In 1878 Mr. Simon came to Buffalo and worked for a short time in Lang's Brewery, later for Georg Rochevot as cellar master, and finally with Georg Roos as brew master. From 1880 to 1888 he was again with Gerhard Lang, employed as brew master. In 1888 he was sick and he went back to his old homeland for a month. On the same day that Mr. Simon began his European journey, Mr. Schüsler was carried to his grave and his brewery was without a manager. Mr. Simon returned to America sooner than he had expected. Having returned to Buffalo, he went into partnership with Edward Schüsler, John Emery Trant and Mrs. S. Schüsler. In 1894 Mr. Simon became sole owner of the business and in 1899 the firm's name was changed to its present name, The William Simon Brewery. At the time of his death Mr. Schüsler brewed scarcely 17,000 barrels per year. Mr. Simon put all his effort into expanding the business. He did research to find out what kind of beer Buffalo liked best. With what he learned he altered production and in a relatively short time was brewing 60,000 barrels per year. He wanted to increase production to 80,000 barrels so he established many innovations and improvements. Mr. Simon's brewery is located at 127-161 Emslie Street. It supplies the best establishments in every part of the city.

Mr. Simon married Miss Theresa Banstetter in 1872. The marriage produced 6 children: Julie, married to Mr. Jos. Schaff, Louise, married to Mr. John Kam, Jr., William Jr., who's employed in his father's brewery, Marie, Anna, and Gerhard.

Joseph Schaff

is the son-in-law of Mr. William Simon, whose daughter, Julie, he married on September 27, 1893. For 12 years he has been the manager of the William Simon Brewery. Mr. Schaff was born on April 26, 1868 in Buffalo. He attended the local schools and through private study acquired a fine education. He then became a salesman. For a long time he was employed at the Barnes, Hengerer Co. After that he went into brewery owned by his father-in-law. The marriage to Miss Julie Simon has produced 2 children.

*The text reads "Williamsburg" but this may actually be Williamsville. Among other things, burg can be translated as ville. Return to text


Sarah Becker, nee Goetz,

was born on May 11, 1833 in Brumath, Alsatia. In 1839 she came to America with her parents, who settled in the Town of Attica. She attended the public schools there and after the death of her father she came to Buffalo in 1849. In 1853 she married Mr. Philip Becker, to whom she was not only a good housewife but a true and untiring co-worker in business. Mrs. Becker lives in the beautiful family home at 534 Delaware Avenue.

Philip Becker,

who was born in April 1830 in Oberotterbach on the Rhine and who died in Buffalo on July 4, 1898, was a formidible character and force for the German community of the city. He was the owner and manager of a large business, which he built himself through tremendous effort and mighty ambition and he was the Mayor of Buffalo for 2 terms of office. The reader will find an extended overview of his life in a different section of this book.

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Revised August 26, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks