Bernard Becker was born in Gross Moyeuvre, Germany on Nov. 18, 1890.
Gross Moyeuvre, located in northeastern France in the Alsace-Lorraine region, was, at the time of Bernard's birth, a part of Germany. In 1871, Germany gained control of this mainly German speaking area from France. They would keep control of it until the end of WWI, when the area reverted to French rule. Today, the town of Gross Moyeuvre is known as Moyeuvre-Grande and is located about 26 miles from the nearest German town. Later, Bernard's place of birth would be listed on various U.S. Census records as Germany, France, and Alsace-Lorraine.
In 1890, the population of Gross Moyeuvre was about 5400. For centuries it was an iron mining town and also the location of many steel forges. By the end of the 1960s the steel forges were all closed and the last iron mine closed in 1993.
The solid black lines on the map show the current boundaries of France with Germany and Luxembourg. Today, Moyeuvre-Grande is about 26 miles from the closest German town.
In 1894 at age 3, Bernard emigrated from Germany with his mother Maria (age 23), and his two siblings, Marie (age 2), and Stanislaus (age 7 months).
They sailed from Antwerp on the ship Noordland and arrived at Ellis Island in New York City on May 3, 1894 with just two pieces of baggage.
Their final destination was Assumption, IL. Bernard's father did not travel with them and it's not clear if they would be meeting him in IL or if he would be sailing over later.
At the time of the 1910 U.S. Census, Bernard (age 20) lived in Assumption, IL with his mother, listed as Mary Becker. She was now 39 years old and widowed. She had born three children, all living. In addition to Bernard, Stanislaus, now 16, was living with her. Her daughter, Marie, had presumably married as she is not living at home. Bernard worked as a foreman at an "express company" and his mother worked for a private family doing housework. Stanislaus worked as a farm laborer. Maria owned her own house and did not have a mortgage.
Bernard Becker married Anna Whyte around 1911. Anna Whyte was born in St. Louis, Missouri on Aug. 1, 1893. She was the daughter of Nicholas Whyte (1853-1920) and Anna Walsh (1861-1915), both American-born children of Irish immigrants.
Bernard and Anna had a total of 15 children, all born in Saint Louis, Missouri:
1) Bernard R., born Feb. 7, 1913.
2) Francis N. "Frank," born 1914.
3) Edward M., born July 11, 1915.
4) Elmer Julian, born Aug. 17, 1916.
5) Anna Marie, “Marie,” born Apr. 1, 1919.
6) (twin) Lawrence W., born Feb. 26, 1921.
7) (twin) Loretta, born Feb. 26, 1921.
8) Bernardine M., born Feb. 18, 1922.
Donald, born about 1923.
10) Joseph A., born about 1924.
11) Leonard V., born Oct. 5, 1926.
12) Robert Anthony,
born June 13, 1928.
Patricia Mae, born July 6, 1929.
Theresa, born about 1931.
15) Charles L., born 1934.
Sadly, five of their children would die young; all are buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
- Elmer Julian died on Sept. 9, 1917. He was 1 year and 22 days old. The cause was acute gastroenteritis.- Bernard R. died on Dec. 23, 1919. He was 6 years and 10 months old. The cause was Ludwig's angina.- Lawrence died on June 14, 1921. He was 3 months and 18 days old. He was a twin and was undernourished from birth.- Edward M. died on July 27, 1924. He was 9 years and 16 days old. He died from rheumatic fever, the leading cause of death in the 1920s for individuals between ages 5 and 20.- Leonard V. died on Sept. 19, 1928. He was 1 year and 11 months old. The cause was meningitis.
On May 25, 1917, Bernard made a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. This may well have been in reaction to the U.S. formally entering WWI on April 6, 1917, possibly to show his support of the U.S. and that he was no longer loyal to Germany.
In any case, this document supplies a detailed physical description of Bernard: he had a fair complexion, black hair, brown eyes, stood 5'5" tall, weighed 140 pounds, and had a scar on the right side of his neck and the right side of his face near his eye.
The 1920 U.S. Census shows that Bernard had immigrated in 1894 and had filed his papers to become a naturalized citizen. However, it also shows that his wife, Anna, was born in Missouri, but was an alien, not a U.S. citizen.
It is interesting to note that a law passed in 1907 tied a woman's nationality to her marriage. Thus, a U.S. born woman could lose her citizenship by marrying an alien. In this case, when Anna married Bernard around 1911, she became a German citizen and would not become a U.S. citizen again until Bernard completed the naturalization process in 1921, one year before the law was changed so that nationality was no longer tied to marriage.
Bernard became a naturalized citizen of the United States on April 27, 1921 in Saint Louis. Anna also regained her citizenship at this time.
Bernard's wife, Anna, died on Aug. 11, 1938, just 10 days past her 45th birthday. The cause of death was stomach cancer, for which she had been treated since June 1933. Her youngest child was about four years old at the time of her death.
The 1940 U.S. Census shows the hardship of Anna's death on the family. Bernard is living with his children Francis (age 25), Loretta (19), Bernardine (18), Donald (7), and Charles (5). He worked as a money clerk at an express company earning $2,111 in 1939.
Marie (age 21) was now married to William Griffin and living in St. Louis. They had a one year old daughter named Catherine.
Joseph (age 15) and Robert (11) were
living at Father Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home (Home for Boys) in St. Louis. Joseph had
completed 5th grade and Robert had completed 4th
Patricia (age 10) and Theresa (9) were living at St. Catherine’s
School in Webster Groves, MO (southwest of St. Louis). Patricia had completed 5th
grade and Theresa had completed 4th grade.
Both of these orphanages were Catholic run; the Becker family was Catholic.
Not quite four years after her mother's death, Loretta died on Jan. 21, 1942. She was 20 years old. Her death certificate shows that she died from rheumatic valvulitis and mitral stenosis due to a cerebral embolus and that she had had this condition for 10 years.
The 1940 U.S. Census showed that Loretta was unable to work and had only completed school through the 5th grade even though her other siblings had had much more schooling.
Bernard died in St. Louis on Wednesday, July 10, 1968, “fortified with the
Sacraments of Holy Mother Church.”
He was 77 years old.
Bernard's funeral was Saturday, July 13. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery alongside his wife, Anna.
What happened to the rest of Bernard and Anna's children?
- Francis (“Frank”) - Unknown, but he may have married Margaret Fletcher and died Dec. 23, 2009.
- Marie married William Griffin and died Aug. 4, 2003. Both are buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Oakville, MO. Children: Catherine, William, Marge, Anna, Terri.
- Bernardine married Chester Peter Blancett and died Jan. 19, 2000. Both are buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Oakville, MO. Children: Debra and Thomas.
- Donald - Unknown.
- Joseph died in Aug. 1996. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery. Spouse and children, if any, unknown.
- Robert Anthony married Gertrude Torrey and died June 13, 2013 in California. He served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and earned a Bronze Star Medal. He is buried at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, CA. Children: Patricia, Barbara, Robert, Randall, Kimberly, and Kathryn.
- Patricia Mae married Frank Guerra and died May 30, 2004 in Foxfire, North Carolina. She worked for 22 years in religious education for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Children: Kevin, Debby, Christine, and Dianne.
- Theresa married Robert Wilson. Death unknown. Children, if any, unknown.
- Charles died in Jan. 2003. Buried at Calvary Cemetery in Saint Louis. Spouse and children, if any, unknown.