By Deb Everts

As part of the town of Ellicottville’s 200th birthday celebration, Pioneer Certificate applicants have been given the opportunity to honor their own ancestor with photos and an full-length article, or brief information.

To begin the series, applicant Judith Rohrich of Colorado is honoring her ancestor, Johann Georg Braun, and other family members in her Rohrich and Braun line who came to Ellicottville in search of a better life.

The Rohrich and Braun — later changed to Brown — families all settled in Ellicottville after emigrating from Germany. They became neighbors and friends and eventually became family. 

Rohrich’s great-great-grandfather, Johann Georg (John) Braun, was born November 1808 in Germany. He married Anna Maria Barbara (Mary) Rapp who was born in January 1812 in Schlat, Goppingen, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

The Brauns left their homeland in April 1853 and set out on a three-month-long journey, arriving in Buffalo in July 1853. They settled in Plato near Cotter Road. The couple had 14 children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. John died in September 1867 and Mary died in October 1897, both in Ellicottville. 

According to Rohrich, three Rohrich children married three Braun children. Elizabeth married John George Braun, John Gottleib married Anna Maria (Mary) Braun and Christian Frederich (Frederick) married Agnes Braun.

Other Rohrich children who made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic from Germany included Johann Karl (Charles), Johann David (David) and Carolina Christina. There are no records indicating that these last three children lived into adulthood. They are buried with their father.

Born in 1812, her great-great-grandfather, Johann Gottleib Rohrich, married Christine Karline Schmidgall in February 1838 in the Wurttemberg area of Germany. After her death, he left his homeland and set sail for America about 1852 with his six children, aged one to 14.

“It’s unknown what may have possessed him to pack up the family and board that ship for America, but I know he must have had a dream and a vision for a better future for himself and his children,” Rohrich said. “After many days at sea and much traveling over land, they finally made their way to Ellicottville and eventually settled in an area called Plato.”

Rohrich said the roads they lived on in the Ellicottville area are named after Johann and his family. The names have since been shortened to just Rohr Road and Rohr Hill Road.

According to the “Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus County, History of the Town of Great Valley,” John G. Rohrich, a son of Johann, resided in Ellicottville until 1885. 

John G. held several town offices and, in 1880, built the first iron bridge in the town of Ellicottville. He moved to Great Valley, in 1885, and purchased a farm, but was also in the lumber business.

Rohrich said the union of her great-grandparents, Anna Mary Brown and John G. Rohrich, occurred in 1863. Their five children, Charles, Emma, George, Ida and Carrie, were born in America. She said John and Mary are buried in Chamberlain Cemetery in Great Valley. 

“My grandpa George married Edna Mildred Wright in 1900,” she said. “They lived near Edna’s great-grandfather’s Echo Poultry Farm in Willoughby, but moved to Perrysburg sometime after the birth of my dad, Merl Rohrich, in 1905.”

The Braun and Rohrich families came to Ellicottville where they found their American dream. Their hardships have long-since passed and they will forever be within the land they loved and so fiercely sought to find.

TO HONOR THEIR ancestors during the town of Ellicottville’s bicentennial year, descendants were given the opportunity to apply for Pioneer Certificates.

Organizer Dawn Westfall said the Ellicottville Historical Society’s Bicentennial Pioneer Certificate Program has been a resounding success. She said there were approximately 50 total applicants and 160 certificates requested by the program’s deadline in February. 

The ancestors were placed in three main categories based on what year they resided in the town. The descendants of 44 different pioneers honored their forebears. They are listed as follows within the categories including the number of certificates given in the name of each ancestor.

Founding Father (or Mother), 1840 or earlier: Christopher Church, 1; Lucy Dixon Leonard Saxton, 7; Grove Hurlburt, 2; Ensign Litchfield, 7; Theobald David Oyer, 2; Orin Pitcher, 7; Arza Searl, 4; and Chester A. Vibbard, 14.

Early Setter, 1880 or earlier: Johann Georg Braun (Brown), 1; Charles Jerry Bridenbaker, 2; George Bridenbaker II, 2; William Bridenbaker, 2; John Crowley (and wife, Hanora Donovan), 10; Thomas Fitzgerald, 8; Huldah Green, 1; Chester Hard, 3; David Jerome Harvey, 2; James Smith Johnson, 2; John Lowry (and wife, Maria Theresa Gentner), 16; Joseph McKinley, 4; John F. Nelson, 1; James O’Brien, 1; Thomas O’Connor (and wife, Mary Therese Mullally), 5; Amos Pettit, 5; Anna Maria Barbara Rapp, 1; Johann Gottlieb Rohrich, 1; Harriett C. Saddler, 1; John F. Shults, 2; Joshua Smallman (and wife, Agnes MacDougall), 1; Catherine White Walsh, 3; and Christopher Weishahn (Weishan), 2.Early Resident, 1920 or earlier: Ernest L. Bonsteel, 1; Helen Bertha Bridenbaker, 2; Edward Simon Chapman, 2; Casper Gebauer, 4; Kathryn Lowry, 1; Lawrence F. O’Connor, 3; Albert John Ploetz, 4; Leo Edward Scharf, 12; Jacob Wineford, 6.