Biography of Charles A. Becker

Charles A. Becker was a pioneering settler in Palmyra Township, arriving in 1839 and remaining until his passing in 1859. Born in 1810 in Prussia, Charles fled compulsory military service and immigrated to the United States, where he practiced as a jeweler and clock-maker. Married to Mary Kessler, he ultimately settled in Lee County with her. Charles was an enterprising jeweler and the first in his trade west of Chicago, establishing a thriving farm which his widow later expanded. The Beckers were a well-regarded family in their community; many of their children married and settled nearby, contributing variously as farmers, soldiers, and professionals.

Charles A. Becker, now deceased, was one of the honored pioneer settlers of Palmyra Township, where he located in 1839. Upon the farm which he there developed, he continued to make his home until his death, which occurred on February 27, 1859. He was born in Nordhausen, Prussia, Germany, on January 7, 1810, the city being that to which Martin Luther once fled to escape from his enemies. There Charles was reared to manhood and learned the jeweler’s trade under his father, John Becker, a jeweler who was also born, reared, lived, and died in Nordhausen. Our subject was the second child of the family, numbering four sons and two daughters. He had acquired an excellent collegiate education, and just before attaining his majority, knowing that he would have to enter the German Army or escape to this country, he decided on the latter step, and after securing the consent of his parents, bade them adieu and sailed from Bremen to Philadelphia, Pa. He first located in what was then New Holland, Lancaster County, Pa., from whence he removed to Reading, that State, where he followed his trade as a jeweler and clockmaker.

It was while in Reading that Mr. Becker was joined in wedlock with Miss Mary Kessler, a native of that city, born on January 30, 1813. Her parents, Charles A. and Catherine (Ritter) Kessler were natives of Saxony, Germany, and Berks County, Pa., respectively. The father acquired a university education in his native land and when a young man crossed the Atlantic to the United States. He traveled through the South for some time and after locating in Reading married Miss Ritter. In the War of 1812, he fought for the flag of his adopted country. In connection with his brother-in-law, John Ritter, he established the first German newspaper in Reading, known as the Reading Adler, which paper is still in existence, being now carried on by a kinsman. For sixty-five years it was conducted under the firm title of Ritter & Co. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kessler died in Reading, Pa., the former when his daughter, Mrs. Becker, was only ten years old. His wife reached a very advanced age and died in the faith of the Lutheran Church, to which Mr. Kessler also belonged.

On leaving the East, Charles Becker located in Cleveland, Ohio, where he engaged in business as a jeweler and watch-maker for some time. Many of the watches which he sold in those days were imported from Switzerland. He came to Lee County in 1839 and made a claim of one hundred and sixty acres on section 9, Palmyra Township, for which he paid $650. The land was in its primitive condition, but the site which he selected was a favorable one, and is bordered on the south by the Rock River. With characteristic energy, he began the development of the land and at the time of his death had a fine farm, well cultivated and improved, and a comfortable and commodious residence. He had brought with him to the county many of the appliances of his trade, and in the early days followed that vocation for some time. For two years he engaged in business in Dixon. He was the first watch-maker and jeweler west of Chicago, and as he had no competition, all work in his line was brought to him, his income thereby being materially increased. He was a successful businessman, enterprising and progressive, and won a well-deserved prosperity. With his fellow-townspeople, he became quite popular, and at his death, left many warm friends. He took an active interest in all public affairs, and the community found in him a valued citizen.

Mrs. Becker acquired her education in her native city and is a lady of much force of character, capable, and energetic. Since the death of her husband, she has carried on the farm successfully with the aid of her children and has also increased it in extent by the additional purchase of a sixty-four-acre tract. She is a consistent member of the Lutheran Church, to which Mr. Becker also belonged. Their family numbered eleven children, but Francis and Elizabeth are now deceased. Charles has also passed away. He was a Corporal in the service during the late war and at the first attack on Vicksburg was shot. A few days later, he died on the 8th of January, 1862, at the age of twenty-three years, and was buried opposite White River on the bank of the Mississippi. He was a brave young soldier, and his death was sincerely mourned by many friends. The other members of the family are Mary, wife of James McGinnis, a farmer of Palmyra Township; Sarah, widow of William Briner, who served in the late war as a Major and was an insurance agent of Reading, Pa., where he died in 1891, and where his widow still resides; Julia, wife of Christian Kauffman, a druggist of Avoca, Neb.; Cecelia, wife of Patrick Hall, a farmer of Cass County, Neb.; Francis, who married Ella Heaton and operates the home farm; Fannie, wife of James Brooks, a grain merchant of Avoca, Neb.; Pauline, who lives with her mother, and Lizzie, wife of Dr. David Meese, a physician of North Auburn, Neb. The Becker family is one of the worthy families of Lee County, its members being held in high regard by all who know them for they are men and women of sterling worth and integrity of character.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top