Historical records matching John Becker, Sr.
About John Becker, Sr.
According to family stories John Becker came from Germany to the United States and settled in Effington Township, Otter Tail County, Minnesota, in 1872. He Came from the part of Prussia near Luxembourg. On the back of a family portrait taken around 1900, there is a notation listing his birthplace as Moselkern Kreis Cochum Collintz and the year 1840 for his birth. It names his father as Peter Becker and his mother as Gertrude Sellman. His Obituary states that he was born on August 14, 1840, in Masel Kern, Rhineland, the son of Peter and Gertrude Becker.
He built a log cabin which was used as the family home until a larger home was built nearby in 1921. It is believed that he returned too Prussia in 1878. Supposedly, he went there twice to check into an inheritance. We do not know exactly when he returned to Minnesota, but the 1880 federal census for Effington Township lists a John Becker, age 38, a cooper from Prussia. He was single and livingwith John and Katherina Fridgen and their three small children. Since he is the only Becker known to have lived in Otter Tail County at that time, and we know that Katherina was his sister; we must assume this is our John Becker, back in MN by 1880.
He must have returned to Prussia after that. Family stories relate that he married Susanna Koep while there. His obituary gives 1883 as the year of his marriage. The 1885 state census list John, age 44; Susanna, age 33; and Theodore Koep, age 18; living in the same household then. Theodore was Susanna's brother. The 1884 plot map of Effington Township shows John to be owner of about 70 acres of land in Section 7.
Because of his travels back to Prussia, he did not fulfill the homestead requirements. Therefore, he had to purchase his property. On January 23, 1885, he had a contract for a deed to land in Effington Township, the south half of the southwest corner of Section 7, counting 80 acres. The cost was $229.38 from Edward Sawyer. He got a mortgage for $200 from Hannah Osgood and one for $20 from O.N. Ostrom. In 1890 he paid the mortgage for the original land. On Jan. 15, 1890, he obtained a mortgage from Wilder Liberty for $350. In March 1894, he bought more land. He got a mortgage for $550 from Henry Fletcher to pay for it.
In 1895 the MN census lists the family:
John Becker, age 55, born in Germany, resident of MN for 22 years.
Susanna Becker, age 45, born in Germany
John Becker, age 8, born in MN
Katrina Becker, age 7, born in MN
Gertrude Becker, age 5, born in MN
Hubert Becker, age 2, born in MN
Theodore Becker, age 2, born in MN
Theodore Koep, age 29, born in Germany, Resident of MN for 12 years.
The family living next to the Beckers in 1895 was the Fridgen family: John, Katherina, and their children John, age 21, born in Ohio; and Katrina, 19, Joseph, 15, Gertrude, 12, Eva, 10 and Michael, 5, all born in MN. They reported living in MN for 21 years, 8 months. This indicates that John and Katherina Fridgen and her brother John Becker had come to the area at about the same time.
The family living on the other side of the Beckers included Susanna's brother Hubert Koep, age 37, from Germany; Elizabeth, age 35, born in Germany; and their children Peter, 11; John, 10; Thomas, 9; Theodore, 8; Gertrude, 7; Peter Jr. or Jos., 5; Hubert, 3; Mathias, 2; and Maria, 6 months; all born in MN. Living with them was Susanna's mother Gertrude Koep, age 68, born in Germany. They had lived in MN for 12 years. The next family listed is headed by Peter Peters, age 48, and his wife Marian from Germany, residents for 12 years. Marian is a sister of Susanna Koep Becker. Susannah had other siblings living in the area also.
From these records we can see that the Becker and Koep families had several members coming to MN around 1883, at the same time that John Becker was returning to MN for what may have been the third time, this time with a wife. Family stories tell that John had a brother Peter who came with him to the United States. They had a quarrel, perhaps about the inheritance, and separated in Ohio. We have no information about exactly when this might have occurred or what became of Peter.
We have a citizenship paper stating that John Becker became a citizen on December 29, 1896, in Otter Tail County. Thomas Koep and Bernard Otto swore for him. He signed his name. On July 18, 1896, he paid off the $530 mortgage. In 1899 he paid the $550 mortgage. February 24, 1899, he got a $500 mortgage from Helen Ostrom. His farming must have been successful during this time.
The 1902 plat map of Effington Township shows that John Becker had enlarged his holdings in Section 7 to about 100 acres. John Frigden still owned about 143 acres immediatley south of the Beckers. In 1903 he bought more land for $450. October 15, 1903, he paid the $500 mortgage to Helen Ostrom. He got a $900 mortgage from Julius Krueger in December of 1907. The 1912 plat map shows that John Becker owned 143 acres, a whole square, as did John Fridgen, in the same place as before. The three plat maps show the Koep families living in Section 19 during this time.
The 1910 federal census lists the family:
John Becker, 69, married for 26 yrs., born in German, became a citizen in 1879, can read, write, and speaks English, farmer with a mortgaged farm.
Susanna, wife, 60 years old
7 children, 5 living, can read and write
John 23, born MN, laborer on home farm
Hubert, 19, born MN, laborer on home farm
Theodore, 17, born MN, laborer on home farm.
His citizenship form clearly states that he becam a citizen on Dec. 29, 1896; so there is an error in this census record. Perhaps it was meant to read 1897 instead of 1879.
On April 28, 1917, he sold the north half of his land holdings to Hubert, his son, for a $1500 mortgage and th south half to his son John Jr. for a $1500 mortgage. These mortgages were to provide inheritances of $500 to his daughters and $1000 to his other son Theodore. He and his wife Susanna were to be cared for as long as they lived. On December 1, 1920, he paid the mortgage of $900 to Julius Krueger. He had paid his debts and provided for all of his family, by means of his unusual mortgage.
He died on August 16, 1923, in Vining, MN. It is believed that he had a liver ailment and pneumonia. He was survived by his wife Susanna, 3 sons, 2 daughters, and a sister, Mrs. John Fridgen. He was a lifelong Catholic and was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Urbank.
Susanna Koep Becker lived with the family of John Becker Jr. after his death. Their oldest son Joseph remembers her sitting on the porch smoker her corn cob pipe and telling stories. She would describe life when the Indians still lived there. John Sr. filled most of a lake to encourage them to move on. She said that John Sr. could sometimes get drunk and become loud and abusive to her and the children. They would hide if they heard him like that. Travel was by horse, usually with a wagon or sleigh. Farming was done by horse power and wolves were commonly seen. Susanna died in 1931 and is buried at Urbank by her husband. She had broken her hip, developed pneumonia and never recovered. She was 81 years old. Family stories say she was born in the same town as her husband in 1850.
Their estate was closed on July 25, 1932. Probate records show that Hubert and John Jr. had fulfilled the terms of the mortgage before the date. They now owned the original Becker lands with mortgages of their own. The children had cared for them in their last days. They were typical hard-working immigrants, pioneers who started a large successful American family in MN under difficult conditions.
INFORMATION PROVIDED BY LEN AND MARY LEE BECKER FROM INTERVIEWS WITH FAMILY AND DOCUMENTS FROM THE OTTER TAIL COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM IN FERGUS FALLS, MN AND THE COUNTY COURT HOUSE. 8/2001
John Becker, Sr.'s Timeline
August 14, 1840
Moselkern, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
June 15, 1886
Vining, MN, USA
Vining, MN, USA
April 24, 1891
Vining, MN, USA
August 16, 1923
Vining, MN, USA
He died on August 16, 1923, in Vining, MN. It is believed that he had a liver ailment and pneumonia. He was survived by his wife Susanna, 3 sons, 2 daughters, and a sister, Mrs. John Fridgen. He was a lifelong Catholic and was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Urbank