East Feliciana Parish
Mr. Becker started what was to become an illustrious business career in Brookhaven, MS at the age of 14, by seeking a contract for cross-ties to be delivered to the Illinois Central Railroad. The railroad agent was so impressed by his earnestness and enterprise that he made the contract despite the youth's legal minority. Ferdinand fulfilled his trust and delivered the ties on time. Next, Ferdinand realized that the workmen were spending their money buying work clothes. He decided that he and his mother could make the shirts and subsequently spent many hours on the floor running the sewing machine for her. As soon as possible, he opened a little country store, and then moved to Wesson, MS when that town was flourishing, as his father had done previously.
When he was 20 years old, Ferdinand fell in love with Mary Ellen McGrath, the beautiful oldest daughter of a large and prominent Catholic family which had settled in Brookhaven in 1858. He asked her father for her hand in marriage and was told they might be married as soon as he could build her a home. He set to work constructing their first home on South Church Street about a block away from the imposing McGrath residence. They were married in 1877, beginning a devoted union of two outstanding people; he with a vision of business enterprise and civic service; she with a kindly nature marked by unselfishness, patience and dedication to her family.
After his marriage, Ferdinand made several successful real estate deals. He was successful with his merchandising business in Wesson, and returned to Brookhaven in 1887 to organize the Commercial Bank, which thrived under his management, contributing to the commercial and industrial growth of the area. He also had an active part in the organization of the Brookhaven Compress Company, Brookhaven Pressed Brick and Manufacturing Company, Pearl River Lumber Company, the Brookhaven Creamery, and other business interests.
With his businesses flourishing in the early 1890s, Ferdinand then bought a spacious house on Chippewa Street. The house had been built prior to 1840 by the same Major Millsaps who founded Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. The big house was filled with love and warmth and fun and fights and hospitality. All twelve of Ferdinand and Mary's children attended St. Francis School, run by the Sisters of Notre Dame. However, the idyllic life in the large home on Chippewa Street was not to last. The invasion of the boll weevil and the Texas fever tick, severely depressed cotton and timber markets, the closing of the Wesson textile mill and the Pearl River Lumber Company brought on devastating business reverses, culminating in the Panic of 1910 and the closing of the Commercial Bank. Later, the semi-weekly "Brookhaven Leader" would write: "When the Commercial Bank collapsed, then Mr. Becker's manhood met the test and his sterling character shone brightest. Without hesitation or delay, Mr. and Mrs. Becker deeded their beautiful home and other property to the receivers for the benefit of the depositors of the bank and too up the struggle where they began 35 years earlier. The sacrifice was not in vain. They rejoiced that in the final settlement, depositors received not only one hundred cents on the dollar of their deposits, but an additional four cents in the way of interest–a record unique indeed."
This was a very dark time in Ferdinand's life, but his clear conscience and integrity carried him through a period of criticism by former business associates. Turning his attention to the Brookhaven Creamery, with the assistance of his sons, he built it into one of the strongest business assets in southwest Mississippi. He traveled the county, preaching modern methods to the farmers–diversification of crops and better sanitary conditions. He was honored by the State of Mississippi and neighboring states for his monumental contribution to the dairying industry in the area. According to local historians, the brick plant and the creamery were the two most solid industries in Lincoln County during the Great Depression of the early 1930s.
As his children recalled, Ferdinand was the king of his household. He ruled with a firm but fair and kindly hand. Many times the sons and grandsons gathered for poker games with him, which often became family councils where decisions were made as to whether one son should buy a business, another sell or expand, to discipline one who had taken a wrong step, or often to help a family member or friend in trouble. Ferdinand maintained his same sharp interest in local business and community affairs as he age. On clear days, he would set out from his house, head high, eyes sparkling, swinging his gold-headed cane, striding along as vigorously as a young man heading for new worlds to conquer. Ferdinand and Mary celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at a reception in 1937. Lovingly known as Papee, Ferdinand died peacefully on a Sunday afternoon after a short illness in 1938, surrounded by his family. He was respected by his community and state as a man of vision and integrity. All of the businesses in the town of Brookhaven closed for Ferdinand Becker's funeral, the only time this has ever happened.
(Source: written by Adine Becker Hill, for the 1994 Becker Family Reunion; contributed to this memorial by Bettie Hatcher Cox)
Pierre Becker (1814 - 1883)
Susana Huber Becker (1816 - 1898)
Mary Ellen McGrath Becker (1859 - 1951)
Mary Aileen Becker Phillips (1879 - 1959)*
Ferdinand Victor Becker (1881 - 1972)*
Susie Becker Seemann (1883 - 1971)*
Josephine Mercedes Becker Drane (1885 - 1960)*
William Henry Becker (1887 - 1961)*
Kathleen Raphael Becker Wuescher (1889 - 1978)*
John Thomas Becker (1891 - 1964)*
Pierre Johnson Becker (1892 - 1968)*
James Angelo Becker (1895 - 1984)*
Martin Grover Becker (1898 - 1969)*
Jasper Benoit Becker (1899 - 1997)*
Margaret "Evelyn" Becker Briscoe (1902 - 1959)*
Peter Becker (1849 - 1889)**
Barbara Becker (1851 - 1866)**
Ferdinand Francis Becker (1856 - 1938)
Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Cemetery
Maintained by: Caroline Passmore
Originally Created by: FamilyResearcher
Record added: Jan 17, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 32993610