Germans in Syracuse, New York

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A German mission was established in Onondaga County, New York in 1750, by Moravian missionaries from Pennsylvania, however, most of the earliest Germans to arrive in the area did not remain for very long.[1]

The German immigrants who first settled in the farmlands around Syracuse beginning in the early 19th century came from all areas of Germany including Alsace which was then a part of France. During the 1820s and 1830s, most came from Southern Germany,[2] namely: Baden, Bavaria, Hesse-Darmstadt and Württemberg which were the areas devastated by the Napoleonic War, among others.[1] The arrivals from Northern Germany including Franconia, Lorraine and Prussia came later[3]

By 2010, demographics showed that 12.2% of the population in Syracuse was of German descent.[4]


Moravian brothers[edit]

During 1750, the Moravian brothers arrived in Onondaga, the "chief town of the Six Nations", situated in Central New York, which contained five small towns and villages situated next to the River Zinochsaa. The missionaries were lodged at the house of the chief, who welcomed them with much cordiality. The object of this visit was both to fulfill the promise of a visit to the great Council of the Iroquois made in 1749 to the deputies at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and to obtain permission for members of the missionary to live either at Onondaga or some other town of the Iroquois in order to learn the language and to "preach the gospel." The mission stayed for six years, however, with no clear result.[1]


German immigration to the U.S., as a rule, did not begin until approximately 1821 when 2,200 arrived. By 1830, the greatest number to immigrate in one season was 15,000. In 1832, the number rose to 24,000 and by 1837, to 33,000. The total number fell to 23,000 in 1843 and by 1844, rose again to 44,000. In 1845, 67,000 found a new home in America and during the years of the French Revolution of 1848, the numbers rose to 90,000 and in 1850, more than 113,000 settled in the United States.[1]

North Salina Street - about 1900

Germans who arrived in the Syracuse area before 1821 settled in Manlius and other parts of Onondaga County. Johannes A. Schaeffer kept an inn at Manlius village as early as 1792. He built a two-story cabin which he operated as an inn and "small goods" trading post.[2]

In the 19th century, Germans founded several of the industries that made Syracuse noteworthy. One group settled in the heart of the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation, in the village of Liverpool, and developed the willowware industry, which enjoyed wide fame for 50 years.[5]

German settlers[edit]

Conradt Busch was the second settler in Central New York. He settled in Lewis County after serving as personal assistant to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. After the war, on July 7, 1791 he received a veterans' homestead grant in the Military Tract Plot No. 47 in the town of Pompey.[1]

Many other towns in Central New York also were settled by the Germans including Cicero, Salina and Otisco.[1]

The first German settlers within the boundaries of what is now the city of Syracuse were John Jacob Mang, Christian Usenbents, and Henry Philip Bentz. The trio originally settled in Baltimore, Maryland, and originally came from a part of the Kingdom of Württemberg in Germany called Swabia.[1]

Birdseye view of the Northside from Clinton Square - 1909

Mang arrived about 1797 and Usenbents and Bentz came in the year 1800. Mang was a physician in Württemberg, but never practiced medicine as a profession after he settled in Salina in 1804.[1]

Mang and Usenbents began the manufacture of salt which was a thriving industry in Salina. Mang was the "scientist and experimenter", and Usenbentz was the businessman. By 1812, Usenbentz became an extensive salt manufacturer and owned four salt blocks, while Mang eventually gave up the business and settled on 60 acres of land in the swamp between the village of Salina and Green Point on the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation. Usenbents purchased the land in January 1825 and on the dry portion of the property he planted a fruit garden. Mang's house stood on North Salina Street, just west of Wolf Street where he made wine, cider and bitters which he sold to his friends and local residents. He died on December 16, 1842 at age 84.[1]

Usenbents died on January 12, 1832 at age 65. His son, Christian Usenbents, who was born on November 13, 1808, was the first child born of German parents in what is now called Syracuse. Bentz was the brother-in-law of Usenbentz and was also engaged in the salt business until 1813. He died in September 1865 in Salina at age 84.[1]

Usenbentz and Bentz were both naturalized in Onondaga County on May 26, 1814. This was the first recorded German naturalization in the county, however, there is no record of Mang's citizenship.[1]

John P. Hier - Cigar Manufacturer in Syracuse, New York

In 1833, a colony, originally from Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany, came from Cape Vincent, New York in Jefferson County, and settled in the area. Among the men were Ernst Hoecher, Frederick Schnauber, John Miller, and George Lupp and their families. Hoecher's name was later "Anglicized" by his neighbors to "Hier." His eldest son, George P. Hier, was Mayor of Syracuse in 1875 and was the first German elected to that office.[1] His other son, John P. Hier, was a cigar manufacturer at 140-142 North Salina Street.[6]

After 1833 German immigrants settled rapidly, due to the development of the salt industry. By 1840 there were over one 1,000 Germans in Onondaga County.[1]

In 1898, John P. Hier was the oldest merchant in Syracuse and had an "uninterrupted" business career during which time he had built the "largest tobacco establishment and business" in Central New York. Hier began working when he was eight years old stripping tobacco for Henry Church and Oran Candee. He worked in the cigar trade until 1860 when he opened his own business after saving a few hundred dollars. His first cigar shop was located in North Salina Street where he worked in a room that was 11 feet (3.4 m) by 28 feet (8.5 m). Over 30 years, the cigar manufactory employed over 400 workers.[7]

Hier owned a large amount of real estate in Syracuse in North Salina and Church Streets. In 1888, he erected a "splendid" structure in West Willow Street known as The Hier Haus which was a seven-story apartment that housed nearly 100 families and was "fitted with all the modern and up-to-date improvements."[7]

German population[edit]

In 1891 the population of Syracuse was approximately 90,000; "it is probable that at least 25,000 were German, of whom about 20,000 were born in this country" Most Germans who lived in the city that year were described as "clannish" and resided mainly in the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth Wards. Fully 90 percent of the Second Ward was German.[1] By 1897, Syracuse's German-born population was the largest foreign-born group in the city, and 25,000 Syracusans were German-speakers.[8]

By 1900, the majority of German residents who lived within the city limits resided on the Northside.[5]

Language barriers[edit]

The Children of Germany - Syracuse, New York in 1899

Despite their common language, the German immigrants of Onondaga County often seemed as much foreigners to each other as they were to their English speaking neighbors because they came from so many disparate areas and parts of Europe that are now called Germany and spoke so many dialects.[3]

German musical societies[edit]

The German Brass Band was formed as early as 1848. Jacob Samsel was conductor and leader. The band played together for many years. In later years, they were known as "Samsel's Brass Band.[1]

During 1851, the German Musical Institute was organized with George Saul as leader. The group met at rooms in the Noxon Block on North Salina Street twice a week.[1] In 1853, Miller's Brass Band was organized with leader and conductor, Casper Miller.[1]

The first singing society organized was the Siungerbund which had about 20 members and was the outgrowth of a quartet that included Max Schoot, Lorenz Herkomer, John Herkomer and Charles Schaefer. The Herkomer's were elder brothers of the famous London artist, Hubert Herkomer, although he was still a child during that period. The society only existed for two years.[1]

On October 5, 1855, the Gesangverein Syracuse Liederkranz, was organized with thirteen members at the old National Hotel where Benedict Haberle was the owner and proprietor. Members of the society included Carl Eckerman, Charles Steingrebe, Max Schott, Jacob Miller and John Ziegler who were among the organizers. Ziegler was the first president. By 1891, the society had been in existence for over 35 years and was considered one of the leading German Liederkranz societies in the country.

The Verein met at their hall at the corner of Lodi and Butternut streets and were incorporated on April 20, 1889. Directors of the society included many Syracuse business leaders such as Benedict Haberle, Francis Baumer, Anton Will, Theodore Dissel, Max Schott, Jacob Miller, Paul Thoret, Eugene Neuberger and director, Professor Henri Bitter. At that time, membership totaled 150.[1]

In 1857, the Concordia was organized and for many years were the rival of the Liederkranz for "popular favor." The group met at 713 North Salina Street and numbered about 50 members.[1]

During 1873, the Fifth ward Siungerbund was organized with Professor Heinrich Regener as Director. It numbered about 25 members who met in rooms in the rear of the building on the southwest corner of Gifford and Oswego streets.[1] On February 14, 1889, the Arbeiter Liedertafel was organized and numbered about 40 members. It met in the Kaupp building on North Salina Street near Catawba Street. Professor Henri Bitter was the director.[1]

In 1896, the Arion Singing Society of Syracuse was formed. From the 1960s to the 1990s, their hall and club was located in the former Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer building at 713 Catherine Street.[1]

Turner movement[edit]

Grand Columbus Celebration - Syracuse Turn Verein at Turn Hall. September 29, 1892

The Turner movement originated in the early 1800s in Germany as part of an effort to liberate the German states from Napoleon's rule. It combined "patriotic and liberal principles with an emphasis on physical training."[10]

The French Revolution of 1848 prompted many German speaking expatriates to immigrate to America and also resulted in the organization of the German-American Turn Verein, also known as the Turner movement. Once they arrived in the U.S., the German's wanted to create the same gymnastic clubs they had in their homeland so they founded their counterparts in order to promote German physical education goals, while at the same time, preserving traditional customs, languages and celebrations.[10]

In the early days in the U.S., the Turn Verein was considered a radical movement whose principles and goals were similar with those of German "'freethinkers' societies."[10]

Some of the basic principles of the group included anti-slavery, anti-prohibition and anti-nativism. The group was devoted to the Bill of Rights and advocated free public education and separation of church and state. They also supported cultural events such as concerts, lectures and the theater and urged legislation to protect the American worker, in particular the farmer. Turn Verein were opposed to the "dogmas" of all churches.[10]

Syracuse chapter[edit]

Turn Hall – Home of the Turn Verein at 619 North Salina Street. November 26, 1893

The society offered "congenial gathering places" for Germans across the country as well as physical fitness regimes and support for Germans to assimilate their old culture with their new way of life in America.[10]

The Turn Verein was organized in Syracuse on May 15, 1854. At that time, there were fewer than 20 members and they were disciples of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the founder of the German system of gymnastics. The Turners held their first meeting in a cottage on Pearl Street. Peter Baumgrass of Chicago, an artist, was the first president.[10]

The local chapter relocated to the rear of the Union office on North Salina Street where there was a vacant lot. In 1860, the building burned and the Turners lost all their property. The society had reached a membership of 150 before the fire; however, was reduced to 20. A lot was purchased on Pond Street and the Turners erected a one-story building where they remained until 1863. At that time the club moved to the corner of Lodi and John streets where they constructed the Turn Hall.[10]

Boyd's Syracuse City Directory in 1879 referred to the club as Scheutzen Verein. Meetings were held the first Thursday of each month at 175 North Salina Street. President of the organization was B. Haberle and J. Brilbeck was vice-president while Florian Singer was secretary. The position of captain was held by J. Graassman and J. Mantel was treasurer.[11]

During late August 1882, the Turners State Convention was held in Syracuse with the local Turn Verein as the "entertaining society."[12]

By February 1893, the "athletic school" of the Turners was the oldest in the city and the apparatus was "much worse for the wear". The classes comprised 50 men and 250 boys and girls and the increase in attendance was so rapid that year that new quarters were necessary.[13]

Soon after, the members of the Turn Verein adopted a resolution to remodel the "gymnasium department." A committee was appointed and granted the power to buy additional apparatus and supplies in order to make the gymnasium "second rate to none" in the city. Bathrooms, which had long been lacking, were also installed, "much to the delight of the members."[13]

Professor Carl Grosse was hired as the physical instructor of the school in 1893 and under his direction "many remarkable athletes" were developed. He was born in Leipaic, Germany in 1853 and from early boyhood showed a natural ability for gymnastics.[13]

The Turners were intertwined into all aspects of German-American life in Syracuse. The festival of Gemuelichkeit, conducted by the Turn Verein, was celebrated by early Germans as a highlight during Thanksgiving.[5]

Civil war[edit]

During the Civil War (1861–1865), many German immigrants in New York State served in the Twentieth Regiment, New York State Volunteer Infantry which was also known as Turnschützenregiment(the United Turner Rifles).[10]

Presidents of the society[edit]

Frank W. Traugott, president of the Turn Verein in Syracuse, New York in 1910

The organization was founded on May 15, 1854 and the first president was Peter Baumgrass.[14] On January 15, 1937, Syracuse Mayor Rolland B. Marvin honored the Turn Verein and stated they were "one of the greatest organizations this city has ever known." He declared the club a "real asset" to Syracuse and said "the whole city is proud of it."[15]

  • Peter Baumgrass (1854-?)
  • Frank W. Traugott (19?-1912)
  • William E. Sembach (1912–1916)
  • Charles A. Latterner (1918–1920)
  • George Bretzer (1920–1922)
  • Joseph Ehegartner (1923–1925)
  • Otto E. Schoeneck (1932–1935)
  • Frank Halsig (1930–1932)
  • Joseph E. Kuehlman (1936-?)

Fraternal organizations[edit]

The fraternal and social feeling of the Germans of Syracuse was evidenced by the numerous lodges, vereins, and orders that existed in the early days.[1]

Foremost among fraternal organizations was the German Order of Harugari. The constitution of this Order, aside from the sick and death benefit provided, "directed the exclusive use of the German language in its proceedings" and made it a duty to do everything possible to preserve the language. By 1850, Syracuse Lodge No. 30 was organized and met on Monday evenings at their hall in the Ackerman Block.[1] This lodge existed until some time in 1857, when most of its members joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and organized LaFayette Lodge No. 409. There were no Harugari lodges in Syracuse from that time until November 17, 1867, when Central City Lodge No. 154 was organized.[1]

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows first organized Schiller Lodge No. 408 on September 29, 1849. Meetings were held on Monday evenings in Odd Fellows' Hall in the Washington Block on South Salina Street. In 1867, the name of the lodge was changed and merged into Lessen Lodge No. 116, which met later on in Odd Fellows' Hall on Market Street.[1]

The second German lodge, the LaFayette Lodge No. 489 was instituted in 1857. In 1866, the lodge merged into Lincoln Lodge No. 180. It was the only club in Syracuse that owned its own hall which was described as "a beautiful brick structure on the southwest corner of Ash and Townsend streets. The building was erected in 1887 at a cost, including land, of about $12,000.[1]

The Knights of Pythias, members of Onondaga Lodge No. 190, used the German ritual. Several other lodges and councils belonging to other orders were German: Germania Council, No. 49, of the Order of United Friends; Harmonia Lodge No. 23, of the American Protestant Association; Syracuse Council No. 94, Order of Chosen Friends; Order of Foresters No. 7387; Salt City Lodge No. 239, Ancient Order of United Workmen. Although there is no distinctively German lodge of Free Masons in Syracuse, this nationality was represented in both Syracuse Lodge No. 501 and Salt Springs Lodge No. 520.

The Bavarian Club Almenrausch was founded in 1972 for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating Bavarian customs including Tracht (costumes), Schuhplatteln (traditional Bavarian shoe slapping dances) and folk dances.[16]

German clubs[edit]

During 1879, the Syracuse German Benefit Society was in operation at 244 North Salina Street. President of the organization was John Geyer and vice-president was Anton Wassmer. Secretary was Henry Goettel and treasurer, Daniel Brown. The club met the first and third Wednesday of each month.[11]

The German Rifle Association met the first Thursday of each month at 175 North Salina Street. The club was organized in 1868. By 1879, Benedict Haberle was president and John Brilbeck was vice-president. Recording secretary was Anton Altman and shooting master was Jacob Grassman while corresponding secretary was Florian Singer.[11]

German foods[edit]

Hofmann Sausage was founded in 1879 in Syracuse. They produce a wide range of sausages including Snappys otherwise known as Coney Dogs which are unique to the Central New York region.[17]

The company also produces German Frankfurter, Knackwurst, Kielbasa links, Bratwurst, Bologna, Liverwurst and Italian Sausage, all served with German style mustard and sauerkraut. The company is located at 6196 Eastern Avenue.[17]

Danzer's German & American Restaurant was established in 1946 by Ludwig Danzer and served homecooked German meals at 153 Ainsley Drive until it closed in 2015.[18] They were known for their tall drafts of imported beers and ales, and "giant" deli sandwiches which made Danzer's a local favorite. Other authentic recipes included Hot German Potato Salad, Potato Dumplings, Buttered Noodles, Red Cabbage, German Sauerkraut, Cole Slaw, Deli Corned Beef, Chicken Schnitzel, Jäger Schnitzel, Hot Pastrami on Rye, Sauerbraten, Schnätzeli, Reuben, Beef Rouladen, Wiener Schnitzel, German Potato Pancakes and Limberger with onion.[19]


The first German alderman elected in the city was Harmon Ackerman in 1852.[1]

Church of the Assumption, German Catholic - about 1900

German Churches and Synagogues[edit]

When Christian German immigrants first arrived in communities in Onondaga County during the 1830s, they were surprised to find there were no state sponsored churches in America as there were in Germany. This meant that in order to continue their religious practices and traditions within the church, they had to first build the church and then maintain it, something that was never their responsibility in the "old country."[3] Immigrants began to form congregations such as St. John's Lutheran Church, which was formed in 1838.[20]

One of the major problems was the lack of priests and ministers to "attend to the immigrants spiritual needs." Struggling to establish a church that would serve as the center of their social as well as their religious life, the early German pioneers had to be "persistent in seeking religious leadership." The Germans were a mix of both Roman Catholic and Protestant religions.[3]

Additionally, the responsibility of the church included the costly goal of building a meeting place and paying the salary of a permanent resident pastor. This often came as a great sacrifice, including the mortgaging of their modest homes to pay for the construction of the church.[3] As the community grew, disputes within congregations led some members to split off, forming new congregations. By 1863, two daughter congregations of German-American Lutherans, St. Peter's and Zion, had joined St. John's at the corner of Butternut Street and Prospect Avenue.[21]

German Friedens Evangelical Church in Syracuse, New York - May 16, 1901

Some of the members of Saint Peter's and their pastor, Johannes Schaeffer, split off in 1900 to form the Deutsche Evangelische Friedenskirche (German Evangelical Peace Church), now the Friedens United Church of Christ at the corner of Ash and Lodi Streets.[21] By May 1901, work had begun on the foundation for the new church which cost $15,000 to build and was designed by architect, Archimedes Russell. The style of the building was Romanesque and it was constructed of brick with gray limestone trimmings. Henry Reichel, mason, and William Thayer, carpenter, were the contractors. The church had a seating capacity of 400 and had a membership of 200 German residents of the North side. The pastor was Rev. Johannes Schaefer who was also chairman of the building committee.[22]

It appears that many of the Jews who settled in Syracuse were German speakers. The first congregation, Keneseth Shalom (Society of Concord), was incorporated in 1842. A small wooden synagogue was constructed in 1846. On September 19, 1851 a larger and more substantial synagogue on Mulberry Street was dedicated; the congregation then numbered about 86. The opening addresses were given in German, and at least some of the congregation's services were given in German at least through the 1880s.[23][24][25]

Volunteer fire department[edit]

The volunteer fire department was organized about 1850 and by 1891 was considered "one of the best in the state." Philip Eckel, Chief of the department, was killed in 1886. Engine House 3 was located on West Willow Avenue and Engine House 4 was located on Division Street. Peter Conrad and Peter Ohneth were the respective captains of these companies. Both companies disbanded when the Syracuse Fire Department was formed.[1]

Twentieth century[edit]

Photograph of the statue of Goethe and Schiller taken from the front. There are trees and blue sky behind them; only the top of a stone pedestal is shown in the photograph.
2010 photograph of the electrotyped copper statue of Goethe and Schiller in Syracuse, New York; it is based on the 1857 monument in Weimar, Germany

The twentieth century was a time of assimilation and decline for Syracuse's German-American community. From a high point in 1911, with the dedication of the Goethe–Schiller Monument,[26] came the First World War. Anti-German sentiment during the war discouraged the speaking of the German language in public. Friedens Evangelical church, for example, introduced a separate English-language service at that time. During the Second World War, Friedens dropped its German-language service entirely.

German events[edit]

  • Bavarianfest: First Sunday of August each year at Long Branch Park on the north shore of Onondaga Lake. Live music, dancing, German food and drink, Schuhplattler and folk dance performances, and Gemütlichkeit.
  • Oktoberfest: German heritage festival is held in late September through early October at the Central New York Regional Market. The festival's entertainment lineup includes community bands as well as entertainers from Germany. The 50th anniversary of the event was celebrated in 2010.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Bruce, Dwight H. Memorial History of Syracuse. H. P. Smith & Co., 1891. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Geschichte der Deutschen in Syracuse und Onondaga County". Rootsweb, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Stone, Michelle. "German Churches". Rootsweb, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Syracuse, New York". CityData, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c "New York, Syracuse". Atlantis, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Big Deal On - Company to Buy John P. Hier's Business". Syracuse Herald. March 12, 1899. 
  7. ^ a b "Thrift and Pluck - Well Exemplified in the Career of John P. Hier". Syracuse Herald. July 10, 1898. 
  8. ^ Loos, J. (March 19, 1897). "Syracuse’s Foreign Born Population—Some Statistics". The Syracuse Herald. p. 28.  Text posted by Michelle Stone.
  9. ^ a b c "Syracuse: Among the Babies, "Bambinos", "Kinters" and Pickininies of Syracuse". The Syracuse Sunday Herald. Syracuse, New York. October 29, 1899. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Syracuse Turn-Verein". Geschichte der Deutschen in Syracuse und Onondaga County von 1860-1870. Michelle Stone (translation). 2002 (trans.). Retrieved November 3, 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ a b c Boyd's Syracuse Boyd's City Directory 1879. Andrew Boyd, 1879. 
  12. ^ "Reporters' Memoranda". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. June 25, 1882. 
  13. ^ a b c "Turner Athletes". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. February 19, 1893. 
  14. ^ "The Turner Bund". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. May 15, 1902. 
  15. ^ "Turn Verein Dinner Honors New and Former Officers". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. January 15, 1937. 
  16. ^ "Bavarian Club Almenrausch". Bavarian Club Almenrausch, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Hofmann Sausage". Hofmann Sausage, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Danzer's German & American Restaurant". Danzer's, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  20. ^ "History of St. Stephen Lutheran Church". Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  21. ^ a b Stone, Michelle. "German Churches". Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  22. ^ "Work Begun on Friedens Church". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. May 19, 1895. 
  23. ^ Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Mark Lee (1996). The American synagogue: a historical dictionary and sourcebook. Greenwood. pp. 270–271. ISBN 978-0-313-28856-2. 
  24. ^ "Consecration of the New Synagogue, Kenesseth Shalom, at Syracuse, New York". The Occident and American Jewish Advocate. IX (7): 372–380. October 1851.  Posted by Jewish-American History Documentation Foundation.
  25. ^ Hardin, Evamarie; Crispin, Jon (1993). Syracuse Landmarks: An AIA Guide to Downtown and Historic Neighborhoods. Syracuse University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8156-0273-6. 
  26. ^ "Postcard of the Syracuse Goethe-Schiller monument (1911)".