New Book chronicles 270 years of Becker family farms in Ephrata, Warwick

By on December 20, 2017

Mary Becker’s love of history and research inspired her recently published “Valentine Becker Genealogy.”

The 294-page book, which contains over 300 pictures, chronicles the story of Valentine Becker and two Becker farms — one in Warwick Township and one in the Ephrata Township. It also traces his descendants through the 11th generation.

Valentine Becker and his wife, Christianna, emigrated from Germany in 1729, seeking religious freedom. He received a deed for a 200-acre Warwick Township farm March 1747 from Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn. As the family grew, a second farm in Ephrata was purchased in 1878.

Today that farm, which is located near Ephrata Public Library, remains in the family as a dairy farm. Becker said there are 210 head of cattle in the herd, including 90 milking cows. The farm was designated a century farm by the state department of Agriculture in 1987.

The Warwick Township farm, which had been in the family for 275 years through nine generations of Beckers, was sold in 2012 by Warren Becker. It’s currently owned by Jesse and Ella Martin, who Mary Becker said raise four acres of watermelons.

“One of the memorable events for Warren and his wife, Ruth, was when their farm was designated a bicentennial farm, in recognition of the same family living on the farm for 200 years. Warren lived on the farm longer than anyone else — a total of 86 years,” Mary Becker said.

She added that Warren’s daughter, Caroline Ziemer, assisted with research on her line of the Becker family.

“I have really enjoyed meeting and learning to know my husband John’s extended family as I interacted with them to obtain photos, oral histories and research for this book,” Mary Becker said. “This is my legacy of love for the Becker family.”

A retired elementary school teacher, Becker taught in the Cocalico, Warwick, and Ephrata Area school districts. She began her teaching career at Ephrata Mennonite School. From there she taught at a school north of Winnipeg, Canada, which she describes as being “in the bush,” as part of a mission project. She then taught at a school in southwestern Alabama before coming back to the county. At Warwick, she taught at John Beck Elementary from 1969 to 1987.

During that time, she learned about the Warwick Township Becker farm, which was located in the Pine Hill area.

“It was always well kept,” she said.

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It wasn’t until she married into the Becker family, marrying husband John 21 years-ago, that she began thinking about the Becker family’s history.

“John didn’t know a lot about his father’s family,” she explained.

After writing a book in 2012 about her family, the Wengers, she started researching the Becker family.

“I wanted both the Wenger and the Becker books to be something the families could be proud of, so it’s not just facts and a family tree,” she explained. “I like people and history; every person has a story to tell.”

In the case of the Becker family, Valentine’s grandson, Christian Becker, built a two-story stone house with an arch cellar on the Warwick Township homestead in 1793, and enlarged the farm by purchasing several adjoining properties. He also built the first whiskey still on the property. His son, Henry, was a farmer and creative inventor. One of his inventions was a larger, more efficient 151-gallon still, which was most likely one of the largest at that time. Becker said for 56 years the homestead also housed a whiskey distillery, which supplemented the farming income. She pointed out that in the 1700s and 1800s, whiskey was commonly used a tonic or for medicinal purposes.

The Ephrata Beckers also have some interesting stories. Mary Becker said Harry H. Becker and wife, Sue, moved into the farmhouse in 1985. During 20 years of farming they increased the dairy herd, and between farm chores, Harry designed a bedding spreader for his own use on the farm. She recounts that neighboring farmers asked to purchase the spreaders for use on their farms, and news of the invention spread. The couple moved off the farm in 2005 to provide more time to manufacture, market and deliver this product. The current owners of the farm are Harry’s nephew, Bryan Zeiset and his wife, LaRhonda.

Mary Becker will give a presentation on the Becker family and the family farms at the Lititz Public Library, 651 Kissel Hill Road, Lititz on June 27, 2018.

The book is available for purchase at Clay Book Store, 2450 W. Main St., Ephrata. For more information about the book, or to schedule a presentation, contact Mary Becker at 717-368-6864 or via email at jmbecker@ptd.net.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

 

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