The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 67 - 71

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Later on the occasional obstructive notions of the hypocrites were met by Germans at the voting polls, which ended in the defeat of those who had offered themselves as political tools for the prohibitionists. This for a time cooled their ardor.

During the growth of the republican party in the fifties, a nativistic movement spread like a wild fire through the northern states. This was the last effort of the party of the "Whigs", who saw that they had lost their power. They tried to regain the political power by exclaiming: "Americans shall rule America." The new political party, named the "American Party", was called by its opponents "Know-nothings". They did not intend to do anything less than to take all political rights from the immigrants. No foreigner should hold an office, nor be allowed the exercise of political rights, before having resided 21 years in the country. With a special severity the "Know-nothing" movement was directed against the Catholic immigrant. In some cities it ended in deeds of violence and bloody excesses against the Catholics by the mob, incited by the "Knownothing" fanatics. At the election of the supreme court in 1855 Joseph G. Masten, whom the opponents of the "Know-nothings" in Erie County had nominated, received a majority of 2553 votes in the city, of which a majority of 2023 votes were given in the German wards (4th, 5th, 6th and 7th.)

Caption under picture at center reads Old City Building (The Old City Government Building)

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Principally through the untiring efforts of the Germans, the "Know-nothings" were thoroughly defeated after several small successes. But with the defeat of the nativists they were by no means annihilated. Their principles are fixed in the minds of many narrow-minded Americans to be thus easily eradicated. They have again risen in late years in the "American Protective Association" and in the efforts for the restriction of immigration. The German-American must continually be on his guard to defend himself from the threatening attacks of the modern "Know-nothings".

Although the Germans of Buffalo have always taken an active part in its political development, their power in comparison with the American portion of the population, was not asserted by the holding of public offices, in the years of thirty and forty [1.], as one would judge by their numbers. Only since 1854 when the territory of the city was enlarged to its present proportions and divided into 13 wards, we find in the Common Council uninterruptedly German members; formerly it was possible only occasionally to elect a German for this body and never for any other city office. In 1855 the population of the city was 74,200. Almost more than half of them were immigrants and their children. The population of the fifth, sixth, and seventh wards consisted almost wholly, that of the 4th ward for the greater part of Germans. The number of Germans in the whole city was 31,000.

The first German immigrant to hold public office in Buffalo was Philipp Dorschheimer. When in 1838 he was appointed Postmaster by President Van Buren, the Buffalo "Journal" and the "Daily Commerical Advertiser" called upon the native population to apply to the Senate of the United States, in order that the appointment might not be confirmed, because the candidate was born in Germany and not in America. In consequence of the victory of the "Whigs" in 1840 Dorschheimer was obliged to resign from office, but was reappointed April 1st, 1845, by President Polk. In 1848 Dorschheimer joined the "Free Soil" party, and in 1854 like so many of his fellow-democrats among the Germans, he joined the republican party. In 1859 the republican party elected Dorschheimer State Treasurer of New York,

Caption under picture at right center reads Bernhard F. Gentsch, Postmaster 1890-94

[1.] The German text reads "in the decades of the thirties and forties." Return to text

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and in 1863 he was appointed Collector of Duties for the port of Buffalo by President Lincoln. Besides Dorscheimer the office of Postmaster was held only once more by a German, Bernhard F. Gentsch, from 1890-1894, who was appointed by President Harrison. With the exception of Dorschheimer, Solomon Scheu was the only immigrated German of Buffalo, who was elected to a State office, viz: State Penitentiary Inspector. He held this office for two terms (6 years), from 1868 to 1873. In the city election in the Spring of 1838, the German voters advocated the erection of German Public Schools and the publication of the transactions of the City Council in the German language. At this election Dr. Friedrich Dellenbaugh of the fourth ward was elected as the first German Common Council member. The second alderman, also a representative of the fourth ward, was Karl Esslinger in 1845. Through the change in the city charter in 1854 several new city offices were created, among them, that of a Comptroller. A German, Michael Danner, was elected Comptroller in the same year. The Germans appear to have exclusively monpolized this office, for Danner's successors were Solomon Scheu, Michael Wiedrich, Jacob Domedion and Elias Ambrose, of whom each held the office two terms, four years.

The first Germans who held other important city offices were Gustav Berger, City Engineer in 1858 and 1859; Daniel Devening, Jr., President of the Common Council in 1858; Lorenz Gillig, Assessor in 1859, '60 amd '61; Joseph L. Haberstro, City Treasurer from 1868 to 1871. Dr. Daniel Devening was the first German who was elected to the Assembly, in 1855; the second was H.B. Miller in 1859; from then until 1865, on the election of John G. Langner, there was no German in the Assembly.

Buffalo's first German Mayor was Philip Becker, the centennial mayor, as he was frequently called, and whose first year in office was 1876, the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The first meeting of the Common Council in the new City Hall was opened on March 13th, 1876, with a speech by Mayor Becker. His

Caption under picture at upper left reads Philip Becker, Mayor 1876-77,1886-89

Caption under picture at lower right reads Solomon Scheu, Mayor 1878-79

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successor in office was another German, Solomon Scheu. In 1886-87 and 1888-89 Philip Becker was again at the head of the city's affairs as Mayor. From 1891 to 1894 the German-American Chas. F. Bishop was Mayor of the city of Buffalo. The city election in the Fall of 1897 gave a fourth German-American the office of Mayor, the present Mayor, Dr. Conrad Diehl.

The Germans were elected to County offices much later than to City offices. The County's Treasurer's office was first held by a German, Dr. F.C. Brunck, from 1863-1866. The office of Sheriff was held by Joseph L. Haberstro from 1877-1879, from 1892-1894 by August Beck, and from 1895-1987 by George H. Lamy. Jacob Schenkelberger was the only German to hold the office of Pension-Agent: he was appointed by President Cleveland.

The German Press

The German Press is so closely connected with the political life of the Germans that an explanation of its development may rightly find a place here. During the Presidents campaign in 1840 the Volksfreund, a weekly paper, was published as the German newspaper of the Whigs. W.A. Meyer was the publisher. At the same time German newspapers of the Whigs were published in New York, Philadelphia, Balitmore, Cincinnati and New Orleans. Soon after the campaign the "Volkfreund" expired in spite of the victory of the Whigs, on account of the lack of support of the population. The type and all other material of the newspaper was bought by the Whig party and kept as their property until rebought by Mr. Meyer in the Summer of 1842. In company with Alexander L. Krause as editor, he tried once more to publish an organ of the Whigs. The "Freimuethige and West New York Anzeiger" was the name of the newspaper. In May, 1845 the paper was turned over to Ernst Oesten, who published it daily under the name "Buffalo Tageblatt" and kept on with the "Freimüthigen" as a weekly paper. But in August of the same year "The Tageblatt" saw the end of its days. Its successor was the weeky "Telegraph",

Caption under picture at upper left reads Chas. F. Bishop, Mayor 1891-94

Caption under picture at lower right reads Dr. Conrad Diehl, Mayor 1898

. also a Whig paper published by H.B. Miller and edited by Adolph Heilmann.

In the middle of September, 1848 "The Freie Demokrat" was published. Its publisher was Karl Esslinger, a bookseller.

So each party had a German organ in Buffalo. "The Weltbürger" took the part of the Democrats, "The Telegraph" that of the Whigs and "The Freie Demokrat" that of the "Free soil" people. A lively newspaper war was always going on, that not always had bearing upon the subject but frequently ended in personal abusive expressions.

The "Freie Demokrat", which after an existence of a year and a half became the property of Jacob Knapp and Carl de Haas, changed its name to "The Buffalo Demokrat" in the beginning of 1850. In November of the same year Mr. Knapp sold his interest in the paper to Friedrich Held. Soon after this the paper was published daily.

On the 18th of April, 1853, the "Weltbürger" was united with the "Buffalo Demokrat" under the management of Brunck, Held and Comp., but remained as the weekly edition of the "Demokrat".

In 1859 Carl de Haas left the firm of Brunck and Held, stepping out himself. On the first of January, 1875, Dr. Brunck also left the firm, and Friedrich Held remained the only proprietor of the newspaper. After his death his widow published the "Demokrat", until the second son of the late Mr. Held took possession of it, and Frank C. B. Held is still the proprietor.

Caption under picture at center reads Buffalo Freie Presse [Buffalo Free Press], 1856 to 1870


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Revised November 28, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks