Visiting the Rohr Street district of Bergholz, New York: distinguished church architecture and cultural memories
Local identities and efforts at this German settlement hamlet
In New York's German settlement hamlet of Bergholz, situated within Niagara County's Town of Wheatfield, the Rohr Street district has features of interest to the visitor. The street name itself has memories from the past of the hamlet and of the community of German immigrants who founded it in the 19th century.
The name 'Rohr'
The name 'Rohr' has long been associated with Bergholz. In the mid 19th century, Heinrich von Rohr (1797-1874), from an old Brandenburg family with traceable ancestry to the 11th century, served as Lutheran pastor in the district. Having been an officer in the Prussian military, he was forced to give up his military career because of his association with a Lutheran group of which the Prussian authorities did not approve.
It is not uncommon for German surnames, which used to carry the particle 'von', to have been shortened to one word. Thus, the name on the street sign, 'Rohr Street', reflects this usage.
St James' church and bell monument
St James' church, or, to give it its full name, St James' Evangelical Lutheran church, which has over 130 years of history, is situated at Rohr Street's intersection with Niagara Road. It is a remarkable stone structure, made impressive by its aura of solidity.
The church is noted for its large bell monument, which is situated prominently on the green, close by the intersection of the roads, referred to above.
This Lutheran church has recently supported of a House-Barn Fund, for the rebuilding at Bergholz of a 1844 structure, which, in typical rural German fashion, contained sections for the habitation of both humans and animals.
Also close to Bergholz's Rohr Street is a Wildlife Habitat planted with shrubs, designed to attract local fauna such as butterflies.
Bergholz actually supports two Lutheran churches, St James' and the Holy Ghost church.
The mainly Lutheran residents of Bergholz have comprised a German settlement since 1843.
Also worth seeing
In Bergholz itself, there is, situated on Niagara Road, the Das Haus museum of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York.
The cemetery on Bergholz's Niagara Road contains many graves with German language inscriptions, some of which were evidently in somewhat archaic German. It struck me that headstone citations almost certainly derived from older editions of the German Lutheran Bible would be parallel examples and equivalents to the usage of sometimes archaic King James Bible English citations which has survived for solemn occasions up to the present day. As expected, German family names abound in the cemetery and a number of headstones indicated the US military rank of war veterans; and it impressed me also that the German cultural background of the veterans, whom the headstones honour, evidently proved no barrier to the American patriotic service which they undertook in two World Wars, when a principal enemy and aggressor was Germany. (Albeit with significant timescale differences, I was reminded of my travels in eastern Belgium, where the local German-speaking population underwent, in a period of less than 30 years in the early 20th century, three separate border changes, with the result that soldiers from the same families found themselves at times drafted into opposing armies, leading to acute personal identity issues.)
Wheatfield (distance: 3.2 kilometres); its thought-provoking Veterans' Monument at Ward Road includes a decommissioned Bell helicopter on display.
The US Post Office, Niagara Falls , New York (distance: 16.6 kilometres) at the intersection of Main Street and Walnut Avenue, is a fine building dating from 1904-1907, designed by James Knox Taylor in French Neoclassical style, with Beaux Arts details. The American Falls themselves are naturally an outstanding visitor attraction.
Lewiston (distance: 17.1 kilometres); the historic Frontier House, in its day classed as an outstanding hotel, is one of a number of noted buildings in its Historic District. The first railway in the United States was built at Lewiston in 1764. This remarkable place also has important associations with the War of 1812.
Broderick Park , Buffalo (distance: 32.4 kilometres) has poignant memories of the Underground Railroad.
How to get there:
A number of airlines fly to Niagara Falls International Airport (distance from Bergholz: 2.5 kilometres) from various destinations in the Southern United States. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance from Bergholz: 30.8 kilometres). I-190 is the nearest Interstate to Niagara Falls, New York, linking near Buffalo, NY with I-290 and I-90 to Albany, NY. From Canada, accessible via the Rainbow Bridge, the QEW links Niagara Falls, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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