German Immigrant Ancestors
in Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York

Old Newspaper Articles

How the Syracuse Liederkranz Came Into Existence.

[From the Syracuse Sunday Herald, 4 June 1893, page 16]

In this city of almost countless societies of men and women, banded together for one purpose or another, there is one that for length and success of its career has won a very conspicuous place among them all. It is the Syracuse Liederkranz.

The city, itself, was not yet ten years old when the Liederkranz came into existence and since then, when there have been any great movements in the way of charitable entertainments, besides on a great many other occasions the Liederkranz has been expected to appear in public, till, not alone among the Germans, the name of Liederkranz has come to be as familiar as that of the city itself.

President Jacob Gilcher

President Jacob Gilcher

Yet, familiar as has been the name for the last almost forty years, there are comparatively few in the city who know who the Liederkranz are. They associate the same with a long line of fine-looking men whom they have seen repeatedly standing on public rostrums and singing very sweet music, mostly in the German language. As to who they are or to what they do when not appearing in public there is not one person in a hundred throughout the town who can give very much information.

The Liederkranz has held a place in the social and musical life of the city of Syracuse since September 11th, 1855.

On that day, or rather in the evening of that day four representative Germans, all of them fine singers, got together and formally banded themselves into a society, with Henry Drescher for leader, the permanence of which has even exceeded the hopes of its leaders and which has already outlived half of the original members. The five men who thus organized the Liederkranz were Christian C. Eckerman, Charles Steingrebe, Charles Witneben [Wittneben], John Ziegler, and Henry Drescher.

Past President Eckerman

Past President Eckerman

They had formerly been members of the old Saengerbund which had gone out of existence a short time before and they banded themselves into the new society which has flourished and increased in membership since that time. The rich bass voice of Christian C. Eckerman is yet heard in the society, he being the only survivor of the five, and he now occupies the honorable position of “fest president,” which means that he presides at the festival occasions of the society and is expected to act as orator on all occasions when the members are entertained abroad by other societies.

Mr. Eckerman now lives a retired life at No. 912 McBride street, and though he is too old to be as active as formerly in the society he will ever be looked up to by its members as one of the most honored of their numbers. His portrait appears with this article. He was born on April 3d, 1827, in Cologne on the Rhine in Prussia, and came to America in the year 1853. He lived for about two years in Utica and moved to Syracuse in 1855. He worked from 1855 till 1890 as a clothing cutter for A. C. Yates and later for Theodore Dissell. Then he retired. He is the only survivor of the five founders of the Syracuse Liederkranz.

The Saengerbund out of the wreck of which the Liederkranz started preceded the latter society by several years and had dropped out of existence four or five years before. Henry Drescher, the first leader of the Liederkranz, was the father of Otto Drescher, who has in late years been rising to prominence as a musician. Mr. Drescher was succeeded as leader by Benedict Haberle, father of the brewers. Mr. Haberle had been a teacher in Germany and he gave valuable instruction along the line of a musical education. He was followed by Francis Baumer, the wax candle manufacturer, who directed the singing for some time till he was succeeded by the late Anton Will, the father of Louis, Anton and Albert Will. After that Theodore Dissel was leader. Then came Prof. Henri Bitter and he was succeeded by Eugene Neuberger, who was followed by Max Schott who served a year without pay and who received the present of a beautiful album from the society. The present leader is Arthur Plagge.

Vice-President William Welter

Vice-President William Welter

The Liederkranz has in its day taken a number of notable excursions and the first of them was to Utica on May 12th, 1856, to take part in the concert of the Turners’ society of that city. Anton Will was leader then.

The Liederkranz claims to have the honor of introducing into Syracuse the custom of having Christmas trees at public Christmas festivities. The first one of that sort was on the occasion of their Christmas concert festival in the old Turn hall in 1857. The records of the society as preserved by Fest President Eckerman, say that that was the first Christmas tree to appear at a public celebration of the day in this city. It would be difficult to say how many times since then the happy experiment has been repeated.

The society seemed to spring quickly into popularity which it has since maintained and the older members remember yet the fine time they had when they went to Oswego on invitation of the Saengerbund of that city with sixteen men in October, 1858. In 1859 they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Frederich von Schiller when they produced in fine style “Wallerstein’s Camp,” and wound up with a big ball at Pfohl’s hall.

One of the grandest excrusions [sic] that were taken was during the directorship of Theodore Dissel in 1860[?], when the society attended the festival of the North American Saengerbund at Buffalo. In that same year the society moved into Ackerman’s hall in North Salina street, which they leased for ten years and on which they expended $600[?] in fixing up. It was not long after that that the membership was badly broken up by enlistments to go to the civil war and then came the memorable charitable entertainment that was given for the benefit of the families of some of the absent members. On that one evening $300[?] was raised for that purpose and that was a large sum to be gotten together so quickly at that time.

Secretary John George Hettler

Secretary John George Hettler

The first flag was got in October, 1860[?]. It was made by Mrs. Franciska Klein of New York and is yet looked upon as a work of art. It is made of silk finely worked in designs and is still carried by the Liederkranz on all public occasions. To dedicate it a grand festival was held to which were invited the singing societies of Rochester, Utica, Oswego and Auburn.

The first of the masquerade balls for which the society has since become celebrated was held on February 8th, 1863, in the old Corinthian hall in North Salina street over where Kieffer Brothers’ store now is.

While the members of the Liederkranz have been adopting the ways of America and making the most loyal of American citizens out of themselves, they have never lost the love for the “Fatherland” which clings to every good German through life. So when after the civil war had been begun and several members of the society had enlisted and returned from defending this American government, and Germany soon afterward became involved with war with France, the members of the singing society found themselves almost as much interested in the drift of affairs across the waters. When Germany won, the Liederkranz held a jubilee in this city in 1871 in celebration of the declaration of peace between the two nations.

Treasurer John Juhl

Treasurer John Juhl

The next year will long be remembered by the ravages made by yellow fever in the South and again the sympathies of the Liederkranz were brought to practical service. They cleared a handsome amount by a concert in Turn hall and it was sent to relieve the Southern sufferers.

Nearly all of the German singing societies have a pleasant custom of celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversaries, when the societies are invited in from the different cities. This sort of “silver wedding” anniversary of the Liederkranz was held in 1880 and the occasion was a grand one. There were present the Liedertafel, the Maennerchoir, and Arion of Rochester, the Maennerchoir of Utica and other societies from Elmira and Oswego besides all of the singing societies of this city and the Weingarten of New York. All were lodged and entertained free of charge while they were the guests of the Liederkranz. Concerts were held at the old Wieting opera house and a picnic was held at the lake on the next day.

In 1884 the Liederekranz joined in the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beethovan Maennerchoir of New York and sent nineteen men, who were royally entertained there for three days.

The society sent forty-six men to Baltimore in 1889 and it was then that a very pleasant acquaintance was made with the Eintracht of Albany. Three years ago they assisted in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Utica Maennerchoir and two yeas ago they sent forty-two men to the national saengerfest at Newark, N. J.

Last year they produced an opera and last January they produced the “Flotte Bursche” from Suppe in their own hall at the corner of Butternut and Lodi streets. They also gave a benefit concert for Professor Plagge last March.

Just now arrangements are being made for sending thirty-four members to assist in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of their old friends the Eintracht at Albany.

The present active membership of the Syracuse Liederkranz consists of:

First Tenor—Adam Theobald, John Juhl, Franz Seiter, Carl Trautman, G. Hettler, G. Bartholome, Franz Ruprecht, Julius Gilcher, John Sheid, William Sorgus and Adolph Roth.

Second Tenor—Jacob Gilcher, Henry Mertens, Max Schott, Karl Schick, William Urban, Louis Steinbicker, George Lindemer and C. Ziegler.

First Bass—William Welter, Gustavus Herzog, Fred Herzog, John Werfelman, Fred Hensel, John Horn, August Jungblut [Jungblat?], Max Riepel and William Woese.

Second Bass—C. C. Eckerman, Jacob Geis, Julius Solomon, Joseph Klotz, S. Schlachter, Frank Krotsch, John Cook, Conrad Strippel, H. Langschwager, L. Goettel and Jacob Saxe.

The honorary members are: C. C. Eckerman, Henri Bitter, William Welter, Gustavus Herzog, Louis Steinbicker, Christian Trautman, Frank Seiter, O. Heyne and J. Wolfarth. The president is Jacob Gilcher; vice-president, Wiliam [William] Welter; financial secretary, John Juhl; corresponding secretary, J. G. Hettler; librarian, Fred Goppelt, and collector, Jacob Miller.

President Jacob Gilcher was born in Hadenbach [sic; Hachenbach] on the Rhine [sic; on the Glan] in Bavaria [i.e. in the Pfalz] on August 28th, 1843. In 1871 he came to America and to Syracuse in 1880. J. G. Hettler, the secretary, was born on August 29th, 1852, in Schwalgern, Kingdam [sic] Wurttemburg, and was a silversmith at Heilbronn. He came to Syracuse in 1881 and is now employed at McCarthy’s retail store.

Vice-President Welter was born on April 7th, 1849[?] at Cologne on the Rhine, Prussia. He came to America in June, 1867, and lived one year in St. Louis. Then he moved to Syracuse and was with A. C. Yates & Company for a time. He was in business for himself three years and since then has been with W. S. Peck & Company. Mr. Welter joined the Liederkranz in 1871 as an active member and was corresponding secretary for several years. Now he is an honorary member. Mr. Welter has a rich baritone voice and is a great favorite with the audiences whether in concert or opera in which he has taking [taken] leading parts on several occasions.

Treasurer John Juhl has had that office three years. He was born in North Germany.

Prof. Arthur Plagge, the leader, was born in Dresden, Saxony, in 1860. He has a fine musical education and was for several years a musical instructor in Germany where he taught piano and theory.

With the talented membership which it has the Syracuse Liederkranz is likely to be a leading musical society of the State for a long time to come.

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