The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 207 - 211

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The first German Reformed Church was founded in 1859. Its first pastor was Henry Bentz. The congregation was very prosperous.

A good many Germans lived in Clarence Center. The first colonist in the little village was David Van Tine, who was also the first postmaster. He was followed by Robert Purcell, John Eschelmann, Andrew Metz, etc. William Riegle kept the first store, Dr. Saxer was the first physician, and he was succeeded by Dr. Jacob Meyer.

There were two German churches in Clarence Center. The Lutheran Church was founded in 1857 with Valentin Miller as pastor and the Reformed Church in 1855 with D.C. Stardey as the first pastor. This congregation had no church of its own for a long time, but built one in 1877.

Town Amherst

Amherst is situated on the northern border of Erie County, and borders in the east on Clarence, in the west onTonawanda, north on Niagara County and south on Cheektowaga. The first attempts to colonize were made in the spring of 1799, when the Holland Land Company made a contract with Benjamin Ellicott and John Thompson to sell them 300 acres of land at $2.00 per acre, which contract without a doubt also took in the privilege of milling for Williamsville, etc.

During 1802 and 1803 things were rather quiet in Amherst, as no further colonizations were to be recorded, although the land had been subdivided. Only a year after other sales were made at $3.25 and

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$3.50 per acre, the highest price which had ever been paid in Erie County with the exception of the immediate neighborhood of Buffalo. One of the oldest colonists in Amherst was John Frick, who bought an area of 600 acres. In 1810 a Swiss, by the name of John Bieser, came to Amherst and established a store on Main Street in Williamsville, one of the first in the county, except for Buffalo. Opposite his store was the residence of E. Herr. Other German settlers were John Herr, John Reid, John Reist [1], John Fogelsanger and many others.

During the war of 1812 different bodies of troops marched through the town, and as its inhabitants lived so near the border, they had good reason to be uneasy. During the big fire in Buffalo most of the homeless took the Buffalo Road, and stayed in Town Amherst, amongst them Eli Hart, a merchant of Buffalo, who opened a store in Williamsville and established the first law bureau there, although a good many of them, who had settled there, returned to Buffalo and other places again, when times become [sic] quieter. Williamsville was during the war quite often the rendezvous for the whole army which was quartered on the Niagara border, sometimes as many as 5000 or 6000 men came together there, and during two months Williamsville was the headquarters of Generals Brown and Scott.[2]

The northern part of the town was very little colonized for a long time, and it was only after the close of the war, that settlers, mostly of German descent, arrived. They went to work with a will, and with genuine German perseverance and energy cultivated and drained the land, and made the whole neighborhood one of the best and most profitable in the county. After the building of the dam over

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[1]The German text lists the name as "John Rust". Return to text

[2]The German text states "5 or 6 hundred men." Return to text

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Tonawanda Creek in 1825 the water flooded the land located on the banks so that it became useless, and it was many years afterwards when through good draining it became useful again.

At the time of the first attempts at colonization were made in Amherst, it was part of Town Northampton in Ontario County. In the spring of 1802 Amherst became a part of Batavia in Genesee County, in 1804 a part of Town Erie in Genesee County, and only in 1830 it received its present area, and with that its direct connection with Erie County.

Among the town officials of former years we find the following Germans: Emanuel Herr, Christian Z. Frick, Peter Grove, Charles C. Grove, Benjamin Miller, Leonard Dodge, Demeter Wehrle, John Schoelles, Edward B. Miller, Aaron W. Egger [1], John B. Fiegle, Jacob Kraemer, Jacob Wurttemberger, John Helmer, George Fischter, John Klingelschmidt, and many others.

Town Tonawanda

Town Tonawanda is situated in the northwestern part of the county, bordering in the north on the Tonawanda River, in the west on the Niagara River and is six miles long from east to west, and five miles mile from north to south, covering an area of 22 square miles.

The first settlement dates from 1805 and some of the first settlers were: Alexander Logan, John King and John Hersey. In 1806 the

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[1]The German text lists the name as "Aaron W. Eggert" Return to text

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following settled there: Oliver Standard, John Cunningham, Josiah Guthrie, Ebenezer Coon, Thomas Hannan and Joseph Hershey. In 1811 Henry Augiush opened the first tavern in the township. At the time the whole locality comprising the present village of Tonawanda and the greater part of the township, was woods. The only road from Tonawanda River to Buffalo ran along the Niagara River. Shortly before the war of 1812 a block house had been built on the south side of the river and in August of that year 16 soldiers were quartered in it. A rumor was circulated that the English and Indians had taken possession of Grand Island and were preparing to spread out more. Some men of the neighborhood were called into the block house and several days later several hundred Britons and allied Indians appeared on Grand Island, opposite Tonawanda. Soldiers and civilians advanced far enough, so they could be recognized by the enemy, drilled for some time in full view and then retreated, appearing shortly again with their coats turned inside out and by doing that creating the impression on the enemy that they had received help. During the whole war the few settlers were kept in a state of great excitement not alone through fear of an advance by the enemy but also through the American troops, who were constantly passing through the town. After the big Buffalo fire they were in still greater danger and a good many of them went east, but the enemy did not molest them any more and soon a feeling of safety and tranquility returned. In the early part of 1823 the commissioners who had charge of the building of the Erie Canal closed a contract with Judge Samuel Wilkeson and Dr. Ebenezer Johnson of Buffalo for a dam near the mouth of the Tonawanda River, the work on which was started in the

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spring and which gave work to a good many men. In the same year the village of Tonawanda was surveyed. On April 16th, 1826 the town of Tonawanda was founded through an act of the legislature, the first officials being: William Williams, Supervisor, T.W. Williams, Town-clerk, John T. Bush, Daniel Smith and M. Fosdyck, Justices of the Peace, Jeremiah Phalin [1] and James Carney, Assessors, John Simson [2] and William Best, Highway Commissioners. Grand Island was formed as a separate town in 1852 by the Board of Supersivors of Erie County.

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[1]The German text lists the name as "Jeremias Thalie". Return to text

[2]The German text lists the name as "John Simeon". Return to text


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Revised April 24, 2005
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks