THE EARLY NIAGARA COUNTY SHERIFFS 1808-1821 - page 29 - 31

  The early sheriffs discussed in this chapter are those men who held the office before the division of Erie and Niagara Counties. Much of the activities taking place between 1808 and 1821, occurred in present-day Erie County. It is important to provide this information because of the obvious impact on what was to become Niagara County.


Asa Ramson  Asa Ransom, one of the first pioneers to Western New York, has the distinction of being the first settler to accomplish many things in this area.
  Asa Ransom left Sheffield, Massachusetts in 1789. With his wife and infant daughter, Ransom settled in Geneva, practicing the trade of silversmithing. A year later he journeyed farther west, settling in New Amsterdam. Here he continued to manufacture ornaments for the Indians and any other articles that could be sold or traded. The Ransoms had another daughter, born in 1797, and believed to be the first white child born in western New York (outside Fort Niagara).
  On September 1, 1799, Asa Ransom left Buffalo, settling in what is
now known as Clarence Hollow. As part of an agreement with the Holland Land Company, Asa built a “backwoods” hotel for travelers. In
December of 1801, Governor Daniel Tompkins appointed Ransom justice of the peace, the first appointment of an official in this portion of the state. Later, Ransom served on the first grand jury west of the Genesee River.
  Ransom built a sawmill and the area’s first gristmill around 1805. Also in 1805, at the first town meeting for the Town of Willink, Asa Ransom was elected assessor. Willink is a large area of land, which takes in the present-day towns of Hamburg, Eden, Concord, Boston, Evans, Brandt, Sardinia, Collins and North Collins. In 1807, the town elections were again held and the people elected Asa Ransom town supervisor.
  In 1808, the state legislature established Niagara County (all lands
which are present-day Niagara and Erie counties). On March 6, 1808, Governor Tompkins appointed Asa Ransom the first sheriff of Niagara County. At the time, Ransom held the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the local militia, the Niagara Regiment. The appointment as Sheriff compelled Ransom to resign his commission in the militia...


The Bergholz Murders - page 70 to 73

  One of the most mysterious and heinous murders in Niagara County history occurred in the small Prussian settlement of Bergholz. This crime had no equal in the sinister way it was carried out. Nonetheless, the massacre drew very little attention in local newspapers. Coverage consisted of three small articles, less than one column in length in the Niagara Falls Gazette (October 3, 15, 29, 1856). The Buffalo Courier (January 12, 1877), had a follow up article some twenty years later. Most of the information used in this account was obtained from Eugene Camann of Bergholz, a local history expert on Bergholz and author of the book, Uprooted From Prussia, Transplanted in America (1991).
  A doctor, Emiel Stang, emigrated to Western New York from Bavaria, an area in Germany different from where most of the Bergholz inhabitants came. Despite this fact, Dr. Stang was well received in this small community where many residents described him as a generous and warm hearted man.
  When he departed Germany, Stang left behind his wife. It was no secret that the two were having serious marital problems. Mrs. Stang soon joined her husband in America, but before long, problems started again.
  Mrs. Stang, portrayed as a “handsome black-eyed lady,” possessed some very diabolical ideas. Shortly after settling here, she met a doctor who lived in nearby Martinsville. The two formed a “bond of mutual interest.”
  One day, in 1856, Dr. Stang caught his wife preparing a deadly meal for him. He discovered that Mrs. Stang had laced his soup with bichloride of mercury. After a violent argument, Mrs. Stang left and took up residence with the Martinsville doctor.
  Shortly after his wife’s departure, Dr. Stang hired Sophia Ottman as a housekeeper. Mrs. Ottman and her daughter Dorothea had just arrived in Bergholz from Prussia. Without a place to live, the mother and daughter stayed with the doctor until she could raise enough money for Mr. Ottman to join them from Germany. Mrs. Ottman had sent her husband the money in September and expected him to arrive at anytime.
  October 5, 1856, was like any other Sunday morning in the tiny hamlet. Members of the local congregation prepared themselves for Sabbath services. On this crisp autumn morning, many walked the short distance to the hamlet’s small church. The churchgoers came upon a gruesome sight that they would not soon forget.
  Traveling by the doctor’s house, members of the congregation discovered Dr. Stang’s body along side the road, his faithful little dog remained nearby. Blows from an axe had horribly mangled the doctor’s head. The tall grass near the body had been trampled, indicating this is where the struggle had taken place.
  One of the bystanders went to the house for help and found the front door wide open. Inside he was met with a more repulsive situation. The body of the housekeeper lay in the front sitting room. Dressed in her nightclothes, a candle was near her hand. It appeared the murderer had awakened her. Mrs. Ottman’s head had been split open by the same type of murder weapon.
  In an adjoining bedroom they found ten-year-old Dorothea. As the young girl lay sleeping, the fiend crept into her room and struck her twice in the head with the axe. Apparently, she had not been disturbed by the murderous acts that had taken the life of her mother and the doctor. As senseless as the first two murders were, this last one was beyond comprehension. Speculation spread as to the identity of the murder or murderers...


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Christopher J. Carlin - 716 628-4876 -

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