There was a wall, a brick wall, sitting on my family tree behind the name of my great, great, great grandfather, Nicholas Becker. As recorded in his biographical sketch found on page 52 in the 1883 History of Brown County, Ohio, Nicholas was born about 1828 in Lorraine, France, and, with a portion of his family, came to this country about 1854, settling in Decatur County, Indiana. He later moved to Cincinnati and, in 1866 with his wife, Catherine Thill Becker, to Ripley. His parents and another portion of the family arrived in 1855. Apparently, the Becker family had more than several members, but their names were unknown to me...until Tuesday.
That morning, an email arrived in my inbox from a cousin announcing the fact that The Ripley Bee and other Brown County newspapers were available online through the Digital Archives of the Union Township Library. After replying with a very grateful thanks, I forced myself to continue my morning chores because my parents had taught me that work should come before play. I'm not sure just how well those chores were completed that morning, but I was soon searching for family names that I knew would be in the Ripley papers. One of the very first was Nicholas Becker, Sr. and, with just a click, the brick wall came tumbling down!
Professor Nicholas Becker, as he was called in the newspaper, was a teacher of the German language in the schools of Ripley, Ohio during the latter half of the 1800's. He also owned a hat and cap store on Second Street in Ripley which his son, Nicholas, Jr. managed. Catherine Thill Becker, the wife of Nicholas, Sr, operated a millinery shop at the same address.
On page 3 in the May 22, 1879 issue of The Ripley Bee there was a small article that was originally published in the Cincinnati Gazette the week before on May 15. It read
At half-past 8 o'clock last night Mary Ann Becker who resides with a brother, living at No. 238 West Sixth street, while on a visit to her sister, a Mrs. Gross, who lives at No. 522 Elm street, fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck, causing almost instantaneous death. It appears that she had started down the stairs, when her sister called her back and in turning, made a misstep, with the result above chronicled. Dr. Ratterman was called in but nothing could be done. Mrs. Becker was a native of France, and leaves one son. - Cin. Gazette. Mrs. Becker was the sister of Mr. N. Becker of this place."
One short little article about a very sad situation and I knew the names of Nicholas' two sisters and where they were living in 1879! After researching the census and city directories, I determined Mary Ann's sister, Mrs. Gross, was Rosa Becker Gross and with that discovery, I also found the brother, Victor and another sister Katherine. There is a much younger Nicholas Becker also living with the family in Cincinnati who is possibly the surviving son of Mary Ann mentioned in the newspaper article, but that will take more research to determine his relationship to the others.
As more and more newspapers, documents, and blogs appear online, I imagine numerous genealogy brick walls will start tumbling down. I have others that need blasting, but I am so happy to see the Becker one go. I can hardly wait to see what else I can find in the Ripley area newspapers!