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  • Kristin Wenger

John Becker Becker of Becker Road (#52Ancestors week 25: Same Name)

Updated: Jul 30, 2018


When I saw this week’s topic, “Same Name,” I immediately thought of two of my husband’s relatives:

  • His maternal grandpa, John Becker Becker (1926-2002)

  • His paternal great-grandfather, Noah Wenger Wenger (1900-1977)

It used to be quite common practice for children to be given their mother’s maiden name as a middle name. In fact, a middle initial has helped me to figure out many an unknown maiden name! In both of these cases, a husband and wife who had the same surname married each other, resulting in children with the same middle and last names.


When I realized today’s date, I chose to write about Grandpa Becker. He died sixteen years ago this week on 19 June 2002 and his memorial service was held 22 June 2002. He died suddenly and unexpectedly while at work in his “retirement job” at a pottery shop in Intercourse.


I really only knew him for a few years.

50th anniversary photograph of John B. and Evelyn M. (Ranck) Becker, 1998



Our wedding with Eric's grandparents: (left) Arthur D. and Mary Kathryn (Heller) Wenger, (right) Evelyn M. (Ranck) and John B. Becker, 19 December 1999


Grandma and Grandpa Becker enjoyed playing their accordions together


Four generations: great-grandparents John B. and Evelyn (Ranck) Becker, Grandma Alma (Becker) Wenger, father Eric Wenger, and our oldest child Joshua, 27 January 2002


A newspaper clipping of his June 2002 obituary [1]


A daughter’s memories:

Most of what I know about Grandpa Becker's life comes from my mother-in-law, his daughter Alma. In his memorial service, she shared a few stories that illustrated her father’s personality and the way he showed his love through his actions.

He was always Daddy. I never started to call him a more grown-up name like Dad, Pop, or Father! I guess I was always “Daddy’s little girl, and I was his only girl.”
Daddy raised turkeys, tobacco, and alfalfa. “I was his right-hand-man or hired-girl, as the case may be. I drove the tractor that pulled the baler and wagon. We had a hilly farm and one day, I remember driving that rig right through a ground hog hole and dumping half-a-load of hay bales back into the field. Daddy was irritated, but he never said a word. He just jumped off the wagon, picked up the bales, and stacked them back in order on the wagon. He was so patient with me!”
“In high school I was part of a vocal ensemble. When I was sixteen, I had a convertible, push-button Dodge Dart car! Our group was headed to a dinner theatre near Philadelphia. On Route 1, near Longwood Gardens, I drove my overheated car non-stop because I didn’t want to get separated from the other carload of girls up ahead. It got to the point where I blew the engine and I had to stop! I called Daddy and he never once yelled at me. I knew I did something really stupid, but you would never have known it from his reaction. He just borrowed a truck, loaded up that car, and brought it home. All the valves were burned and had to be re-bored, but he never complained or told me what a stupid thing I had done. He just allowed me to help him fix the car and learn about an engine (I didn’t retain any of that knowledge) but I do remember the way he treated me. Daddy was such a happy-go-lucky guy. I will always remember his laugh and his pleasant attitude. He never seemed to have a bad day, although I know he did." [2]


Double the Beckers, Double the Fun

As I became interested in family history research, I began to learn more about the various branches of the Becker families. Here are two previous articles I’ve written about the Beckers:

Mary Wenger Becker recently published a book on the Pine Hill Becker genealogy[3] and my mother-in-law gave us copies for Christmas. She submitted the next two photos for inclusion in that book.


After marrying on 21 February 1948, John and Evelyn lived on John's home farm, where his parents Ira and Alice had raised him. They are pictured with their two children, Clair (1949) and Alma (1953).

Note: Oregon is NOT the state of Oregon, but a small area in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, now best known to locals for Oregon Dairy.


In 1957, they moved to Ronks, Lancaster County, near Evelyn's parents and became turkey farmers.


Here is an additional 1961 picture of Evelyn and John on their turkey farm.


Later Years

After leaving the turkey farm, Grandma and Grandpa Becker moved to Blackhorse Road in Paradise, PA. During this period, John worked as a plumber and also was a driver for his Amish neighbors. Eric fondly recalls many childhood visits to his grandparents’ home which were memorable because they could watch the trains from the Strasburg Railroad pass by. When our kids were younger, we rode the Strasburg Railroad several times and Eric always pointed out their house.



This picture of the Blackhorse Road house was taken from the train window. The house is now owned by an Amish family and has been substantially expanded.



On the day of Grandma Becker's burial in the Strasburg Mennonite Cemetery in August 2011, we took the kids on a final train ride in her honor before going to the cemetery.

Riding the Strasburg Railroad in memory of Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Becker



After Blackhorse Road, they made one final move to a cottage at Landis Homes, very close to John's original home, the "Oregon" Becker farm on what is now called Becker Road.

Grandma and Grandpa Becker riding their tricycles at Landis Homes


The Becker Road farm

I was particularly interested in finding out more about the Becker Road farm where John grew up and lived as a young husband and father. It is only about three miles from where we live, so I pass it frequently. The property includes a beautiful 1825 stone farmhouse with a unique barn.


Further research revealed that this farm had been in the family for at least four generations when John and Evelyn lived there. As early as 1875, it was owned by Alice Becker’s maternal grandfather, Daniel Myers/Moyer/Mayer.[4] (Speaking of “same name,” the variant spellings of that surname made it a doozy to research.)


Alma shared black and white photos of the Becker Road farm from the time her parents lived there prior to 1957. I have interspersed them with current photos I took on 14 June 2018.


An aerial view. Notice the visible difference in the roof between the original barn and the addition on the right.


Datestone on the original barn. John B. & Annie Becker were John Becker Becker's maternal grandparents. They likely built the barn for their daughter Alice and soon-to-be son-in-law Ira Becker in preparation for them to begin farming there after their November 1914 marriage.


Ira and Alice Becker built an addition to the barn in 1928, when son John was two years old.


The 1957 photo of the barn (above) is a neat contrast with the 2018 photo below


Another view of the barn being used for butchering


A closer shot of the front of the house with the road now paved and named after the Becker family

A view of the rear of the house features John Becker on his tractor in May 1948, his first spring as a married farmer



A Lancaster County farm boy in Japan

Another item that I discovered in my research was John’s registration card for World War II.



Registration Card from John's eighteenth birthday, 17 February 1944 [5]


Eric knew that his grandpa had been in Japan, but that was about it. As I discussed in my previous post about military service, Mennonites have historically been conscientious objectors to war. Upon marrying and joining his wife’s Mennonite faith, John’s prior military involvement would not have been something to which he wanted to draw attention. After asking his son Clair for any information about his time in Japan, I learned that John also had a few traumatic experiences that he probably did not want to relive.


Clair provided copies of his military service record and a few interesting stories:

He was in the construction part of the army. The actual war was over, but he ran D8 bulldozers to clear areas bombed earlier. His mechanical aptitude and farm experience qualified him to run the heavy equipment.
Once he was pulling some large equipment and a cable snapped with shrapnel from the cable just missing him and the crew. Another time in Yokohama, he nearly drowned when his bulldozer flipped over and he jumped into the bay. He did not swim and hated the water. He was rescued somehow. He bought an accordion over there and played with some troops. He shook hands with General Marshall.
Dad was to get a farm deferment because of the size of the farm and age of his father Ira Becker. He eventually was sent home from Yokohama and back to the farm.[6]

The letter in which John requested a deferral due to his farm responsibilities [7]


This portion of his service record provides great detail about the Becker farm operation [8]


Best of all, a photo of John Becker Becker in his uniform, age 20 or 21 [9]


“Same Name”

Here is one final photograph of John as a young school boy, about age 11.


Even though I only personally knew Grandpa Becker in the final years of his life, this is the image I will call to mind whenever I pass the childhood home of John Becker Becker on Becker Road.




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Sources:

[1] “John B. Becker, 76, turkey farmer,” undated obituary newspaper clipping, Lancaster Newspapers (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), about 20 June 2002; scrapbook in possession of Alma E. Wenger.


[2] Alma (Becker) Wenger, remarks for her father’s memorial service, 22 June 2002; written copy provided 10 June 2018.


[3] Mary Wenger Becker, Valentine Becker Genealogy (Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2017), 67-68.


[4] Everts and Stewart, “Manheim Township,” Lancaster County 1875; digital image, Historic Map Works (http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/14352/Rapho/Lancaster+County+1875/Pennsylvania/ : accessed 13 June 2018); D. Mayer, 40 acres, Oregon P.O., house at current location of 605 Becker Road, Leola, PA.


[5] “World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1944,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/: accessed 26 May 2018), John Becker Becker, serial no. W264, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, dated 17 February 1944; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration, NARA Record Group 147.


[6] Clair M. Becker, son of John B. Becker, messages via Facebook messenger, 26 and 28 May 2018.


[7] John Becker Becker to General Lewis B. Hershey, deferral request letter, 17 June 1946; digital image provided by Clair M. Becker, 28 May 2018.


[8] Army of the United States, Separation Qualification Record (WD AGO Form 100), 28 April 1947; John Becker Becker personnel file, serial no. 43 057 158 (discharged 1947); Official Military Personnel Files, World War II; U.S. Army; National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri; digital images provided by Clair M. Becker, 28 May 2018.


[9] John Becker Becker, photograph, 1946; digital image provided by Clair M. Becker, 28 May 2018.