The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 57 - 61

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Dr. Brunck, whose cradle had stood in merry Palatinate, was born in 1810. He was the son of a well-to-do squire in that German province. As a student of medicine in the University of München [Munich] he took part in the political uprising of December, 1830, and was kept in prison in the Isar tower during one month. Here he resolved to emigrate to America as soon as his studies should be finished, and he executed this intention in 1834 after graduating as Doctor of Medicine. He first settled at Lyons, N.Y. In the spring of 1839 he came to Buffalo, practicing his profession until he became one of the proprietors of the "Weltbürger."

German Military Company

The first political announcement of the Germans of Buffalo took place on the 23rd of December, 1837, when two hundred of them had warned their fellow-citizens by a proclamation not to take part in the illegal movements against Canada.

For several years the Canadians had been dissatisfied with the form of government given by Great Britain. During the winter of 1837 this dissatisfaction became an open rebellion, the so-called "Patriot War." A great number of influential Canadians in Ontario proposed joining with the United States. In many cities near the American boundary secret unions were formed (Hunters' Lodges) in order to promote the "Patriots," as the dissatisfied ones were called. Buffalo was one of the principal places of the "Patriots," of which about 300 to 400 had moved to a camp on Navy Island.

A little steamer "Carolina," property of a citizen of Buffalo, ran between the camp and Schlosser's dock and accommodated the people with food. When the steamer, in the afternoon of the 29th of December, had hoisted an American flag, the Britons on the Canadian coast fired a volley of musketshots towards the steamer without injuring her. In the evening the "Carolina" landed at Schlosser's dock, remaining there for the night. The crew consisted of ten persons. During the night twenty "Patriots", citizens of the United States, came on board to spend the night on the boat, as they declared they could not get lodging in the next inn. Toward midnight seventy or eighty men, who had crossed the Niagara from Canada with row boats, climbed upon the steamer and attacked the defenceless people, surprising them in their sleep. The boat was set on fire, pushed from the shore and delivered to the current, which took her over the Falls. Among the thirty-three Americans who were on board, some were wounded, others were taken prisoners and twenty escaped safe by making their escape in the darkness. Amos Durfee of Buffalo was shot through the head. His letters were found the next day near the shore.[1.] This event, and the


[1.] Page 59, paragraph 2, left column: The German text reads, "His body was found on the shore the next day." Return to text

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report that the Britons had intended to attack Buffalo, caused here the greatest excitement. Preparations were made a once to meet the unexpected attack and to prevent the equipment of armed expeditions against Canada. Soon two thousand militia were assembled. A city militia was formed under the name of the "City Guard."

The Germans, in their military ardour, were not inferior to others. In scarcely twenty-one hours [1.] a company of Germans was formed counting forty men, named "Steuben Guard," which had elected the following officers: George Zahm, captain, Philipp L. Bronner, lieutenant, Jacob Domedion, ensign.

After Grand Island and the American boundry on the Niagara had been garrisoned partly with regular troops and partly with militia the fear that the Britons might attack the city was over. The fears of war were quieted, but the "City Guard," which was organized during these hard times, was with other uniformed city militia companies incorporated during the next year, as the 37th regiment in the militia union of the State. The Steuben Guard remained existing, too. This first German military company, which in a short time was followed by others, soon became the center of the social life of Buffalo, which was at that time not much developed. As later on in other societies, so the active Germans now assembled in the military organization. After the weekly drills they usually had a good time. It was a meeting of friends and acquaintances who used that opportunity for social intercourse for political talks and explanations. The military balls were during many years the most important enjoyments, where many a gallant soldier conquered his companion for life. The military companies had their

Caption under picture at center reads Buffalo City Guards


[1.] Page 59, paragraph 5, left column: The German text reads "In scarcely twenty-four hours". Return to text

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shooting exercises on Granger's Farm, now Forest Lawn. On their way home from the shooting place they never missed stopping at Schanzlin's brewery on Main Street, near Scajaquada Creek, there they refreshed themselves for their march.

When the Steuben Guard for the first time took part in the celebration of the Nation's birthday on the 4th of July, 1838, the "Daily Star" paid them the following tribute:

"The most wonderful proof of military skillfulness gives us the German Guard under Captain Zahm, this company exclusively consists of hard working German citizens in our city, who brought so much military spirit with them from their own fatherland that they are able to form their own body which is superior to all expectations. The exactness of the uniform and the accuracy of their movements filled everyone with astonishment. The uniforms were blue frockcoats with red reveres and white pantaloons."

On Shrove Tuesday, February the 12th, 1839, the Steuben Guard had their first annual ball, which was held in the armory of the 37th regiment in Kremlin's Block. The admittance for a gentleman and lady was $3. The announcement to the ball says: Carriages and sleighs to get the ladies will be ready at 6 o'clock.
The attendance was so great that the hall was much too small. Half of the dancing couples had to watch the others dance.

The "Lafayette Guard" organized with Frederick Dellenbaugh as captain and the lieutenants Charles Hornung and L. Oberest.

When president Martin Van Burn visited Buffalo in the same year, the two German military companies treated him at his departure with great respect and accompanied him to the depot, when he went to Lockport, passing Niagara Falls. The railroad from Buffalo to Niagara Falls was the first one that was constructed in this part of the country. It was opened on the 5th of November, 1836.

Not only for the "Steuben Guard" but for all Germans of Buffalo and environs, the 20th of May, 1830, was a day of great honor. Hundreds of farmers came to the city, to witness the solemn presenting of the flag dedicated to the "Steuben Guard." The feast took place in the most beautiful weather. At half past ten the "Steuben Guard" marched from the armory to the Court House Park, escorted by two companies of the 37th regiment, taking position on Clinton Street. The flag section, with music at the head, started to take the girls to the Park, who were appointed to present the flag. Three of the handsomest German girls, the maidens Susanne Hellriegel, Margaretha Gass and Eva Kraus, were the leaders, followed by twelve young girls, who carried the flag on wreaths. The crowding of the people was so immense that the procession could only move slowly. When the

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parade reached the Park, the maidens stepped in front of the military company. Miss Hellriegel made a speech that ended with the following words:
"Take now the flag of the Republic. And when your adopted fatherland needs your services follow the calling. If you bring this flag home from victorious battle, we shall welcome you with all our hearts and decorate your heads with laurels. But if you leave it like cowards, none of you shall return to tell the disgrace."
In the name of the company Captain Zahm accepted the flag with words of thanks. Colonel George P. Barker of the 37th regiment welcomed the "Steuben Guard" at their return to the armory, where a banquet awaited them. On this occasion Colonel Barker proposed: "The German women of Buffalo have showed that they are worthy daughters of this country. May they enjoy the luck that they deserve entirely!"

The third German military company was created during the Presidential election in 1840. President Martin Van Buren was the candidate on the democratic ticket, for a re-election. The "Whig Party" had put up General William Henry Harrison as a candidate. The new company was called "Harrison Grenadiers," and consisted of German "Whigs." Their officers were: Charles Hornung, captain; Jacob Krettner, first lieutenant; Peter Reichert, second lieutenant; Peter Koch, first sergeant; and Michael Wiedrich, second sergeant.

When at the beginning of 1841 two other German companies, the "Jefferson Guard" and the "Plain Grenadiers" were formed, the two

The illustration at right center is of the Sixty-Fifth Regiment [of the State National Guard]

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companies joined the "Steuben Guard" and the "Lafayette Guard" became the independent "Grenadier Battalion," which elected George Zahm for their major on the 17th of April. The staff-officers of this battalion were: Daniel Becker, adjutant; Peter Schmidt, quartermaster; George Volz, purser. According to a state law that did away with the non-uniformed militia, and reduced the uniformed ones to a small number. In 1848 the German "Grenadier Battalion," the "Harrison Grenadiers" and the greater part of the 37th regiment were changed into the 65th regiment of the State National Guard. The first Colonel of this regiment was Henry K. Viele. In the same rank later served the Germans Jacob Krettner, from 1854 to 1863; William F. Berens, from 1863 to 1865; and Richard Flach, from 1865 to 1879.

This peaceful life of the militia, which lasted for more than ten years, was interrupted in January, 1849, by an unexpected call to arms. The reason was a strike of the Erie canal working men. The contractors paid their laborers for improving the canal five shillings [1.] a day, partly with checks on goods and partly in coins after one month; or the whole amount at any time with checks for goods. The laborers, mostly Irishmen, were not satisfied with this and struck for higher wages, and chased those comrades away who were willing to work for five shillings. The contractors asked the police for protection. The common council appointed forty extra policemen and the sheriff ordered all militia to protect the contractors and their remaining laborers. Some of the leaders were arrested. Acts of violence did not take place.

Caption under picture at right center reads School-House on Ferry Street, in which President Fillmore taught.


[1.] Page 62, left column, paragraph 4: The German text adds in parentheses "62 ½ cents". Return to text


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Revised October 9, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks