Biography of William N. Becker
Saunders County, NE Biographies





William Nelson Becker was for a number of years the owner and editor of the Ashland Gazette, which he made one of the leading weeklies of this part of the state, but for several years before his death he retired from active life. He was a man of high ideals and possessed the strong personality that enabled him to make those ideals count for good in the life of his community. He was born in Sharon Springs, New York, on the 16th of April, 1852, a son of William M. and Cynthia A (Parks) Becker, also natives of that state. His paternal great grandfather took part in the Revolutionary war and the family has always been characterized by patriotism and public spirit. The father engaged in merchandising in the Empire state until 1875, when he removed to West Side, Crawford county, Iowa, where he owned a store for a number of years, or until 1889. His wife died on the 22d of January of that year and subsequently he removed to Mead, Nebraska, where he made his home with our subject until his death, which occurred in the fall of 1890.

William N. Becker was reared in his native state and received his education in the public schools. He continued to live with his parents for a number of years after reaching maturity and was associated with his father in merchandising until 1879. In that year he removed to Mead, Nebraska, where he conducted the second general store in the town, remaining there for three years. He then returned to West Side, Iowa, and entered the newspaper field, publishing the West Side Dispatch until 1885. He then sold out and again settled at Mead, Nebraska, where he conducted a general store and also published the Mead Advocate. In his newspaper business he was associated with Peter Anderson, the that name being Becker & Anderson. After their plant was destroyed by fire Mr. Becker severed his connection with the newspaper and concentrated his energies upon his mercantile interests, but for two years before leaving Mead.in October, 1892, he lived retired. He then removed to Ashland, and purchased the Ashland Gazette, the oldest newspaper in the county, which he published until August, 1911, when he sold out to F. L. Carroll and retired. He understood the business of newspaper publication thoroughly and was very successful in the conduct of the Gazette. He built up a large circulation and also gained a good advertising patronage and the paper became known as a progressive and reliable weekly. He made it not only a medium of disseminating local and general news but also a force in the advancement of the community, as he at all times stanchly supported movements seeking the material, civic or moral advancement of Ashland and Saunders county.

In January, 1872, Mr. Becker was united in marriage to Miss Amanda Patterson, a daughter of Chester M. and Amanda (Dake) Patterson, both natives of New York. Her father was a minister of the Universalist church in his early manhood but subsequently affiliated with the Methodist church. During his later years he engaged in farming in New York and passed away in that state in 1896. He had survived his wife for many years, as her demise occurred in 1854. Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Becker. Emma E., whose birth occurred in August, 1873, is now the wife of Charles L. Narber, a barber of Ashland, and they have a daughter, Margaret Amanda, born October 17, 1911. William E. C., who was born in January, 1876, is deputy postmaster at Ashland. He married Miss Naomi Clark, by whom he has a son, Robert Clark. whose birth occurred May 14, 1915. Mrs. Becker is still living and owns eighty acres in Ashland precinct in addition to a fine residence in the northern part of the city, which her husband erected in 1901.

Mr. Becker was a republican in politics and took a keen interest in public affairs but never sought office. Fraternally he was identified with the Woodmen of the World and the Fraternal Union. His religious faith, which was the motive force of his life, was that of the Universalist church, and he believed strongly in the teachings of that organization, but after removing to Ashland became affiliated with the Methodist church, as there is no Universalist church here. He entered heartily into the work of the Methodist church and did much to extend its influence. As teacher of a men's Bible class he was a factor of no small importance in the moral life of the community and after his death, which occurred July 4, 1915, the class paid him the following sincere tribute: "We, the members of the Men's Bible Class of the Methodist Episcopal church, desire to express our heartfelt sorrow and deep sense of loss in the death of our beloved friend and teacher, Brother W. N. Becker. For three years he ably and faithfully taught the class, bringing to the work a large knowledge of the Bible and a keen sense of the need of its application to daily life. His comprehensive views of Biblical truth, wide study of history, sound judgment, retentive memory, ready expression and deep sympathy made him an interesting, instructive and beloved teacher. Our lives have been helped Godward by his life and work. In the death of Brother Becker the world has lost a citizen, for his sympathies were as broad as the earth; the nation has lost a patriot, for he was unselfishly devoted to his country; the community has lost a generous supporter of every good work, for few were more public spirited than he, and the Bible Class mourns its loss for he was a teacher who taught. World citizen, patriot, philanthropist, teacher - 'His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, this was a man.' We extend our sympathy and consolation to the bereaved in this hour of their sorrow. In behalf of the Men's Bible Class of the Methodist Episcopal church. T. T. Young"

Mr. Becker was highly esteemed by all who came in contact with him in the various relations of life, and the Ashland Gazette wrote of him as follows: "William Becker was a Christian man in the highest sense of the word. For a number of years he was a lay preacher of the Universalist church, the church of his choice, to which he clung with the utmost faithfulness. He was a man well read in questions of theology and in it kept abreast of his times. To those who were fortunate enough to come in close touch with him in matters of practical religion he was a help and a blessing always. His faith in his God and his church was firm and broad enough so that with truth he could say

'I love Thy church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye
And graven in Thy hand.'

and to speak slightingly of the church was a heartpang to him. In matters of religion he knew whereof he spoke. He was a close student of and dearly loved his Bible, whose truths he always taught when opportunity offered. He always harbored the noblest thoughts and was very loath to think slightingly of anyone. The highest ideals were his and those who knew him best knew that he strove to meet those ideals even though he himself suffered thereby. His positive, firm nature asserted itself in his religion so that what he believed must be expressed in deeds. He showed toleration to all, but to himself he was intolerant, demanding that his faith be a part of his everyday life. It would be impossible to enumerate his many benefactions, restricted neither to persons nor places; and in that day many will rise and bless him for what he did for them. The number of those to whom he ministered is legion. Into his business transactions Mr. Becker always tried to carry his religion of stanch integrity; in his everyday dealing he loathed the underhanded business transaction. For many years he was the editor of the newspaper, the Ashland Gazette, and the files of that paper will show the high character and ideals of his editorials. His paper was progressive, clean, helpful and one that anyone might be proud to have on his table or in his home. He was a man of no mean literary ability and used this ability to drive home forceful truths."

From:
Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
Vol. II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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