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Saturday, July 7, 2018

German-Prussian Immigrants on the Niagara Frontier
The Early years of the Old Lutheran Church in the New World

by Paul Lubienecki, PhD
copyright ©2018 All right reserved by the author.

Buffalo and western New York in the initial decades of the 19th century evolved into the gateway of the West because of the Erie Canal. The area was a haven for the Irish who built the canal as they settled to the south of Buffalo. The Germans fled political turmoil in Europe and occupied the rich farmlands north of the city especially in Niagara County. Commercial interests were growing due to the canal and a developing grain mill industry, lumber business, agricultural interests and brick manufacturing. Immigrants from Europe who settled on the Niagara Frontier encountered multiple obstacles from both nature and the unwanted hostility of native born Americans. Of those who inhabited western New York it was the individuals of German heritage that overcame much to be successful participants in the development of the Niagara Frontier. This work will examine those of northern German-Prussian heritage who initially settled in Niagara county just north of Buffalo, New York.[1] Their efforts to secure religious liberty was the impetus for leaving the Old World for America. Internal dissention followed and by the end of the Civil War the German-Prussian congregations fractured. Yet it is their legacy of triumph over multiple obstacles to secure their identity in the New World that remains vibrant to this day.


Germany, in contemporary terms, became a unified nation state in 1871 but prior to that event it was a territory composed of duchies, principalities and undersized kingdoms. Linguistic Germans identified themselves more as “subjects” of that particular political entity or region. The displaced Teutonic Knights, religious warriors of the Crusades, settled the northeastern borderlands on the shores of the Baltic Sea. This area ultimately evolved from a duchy into the Kingdom of Prussia that was a domineering European power until the late nineteenth century. [2]