My great-great-grand uncle, Charles Albert Becker (1848-1926), was born in Germany, but he probably had no recollection of it. At the age of two, his parents, his four older siblings, and his mother’s half-sister sailed across the Atlantic to the US. His mother didn’t survive the Atlantic crossing. I imagine he had little or no recollection of her.
The family soon found themselves living in Illinois, along with lots of other German immigrants. They became farmers. They were Catholics.
In 1872, at the age of 24, Charles decided to head off to the wilds of Kansas to hunt buffalo. He relocated almost 600 miles westward to Logan, Kansas, which had been established only two years earlier. Even now, Logan has a population of less than 600.
This was about when the song “Home on the Range” was written, in the next county over from Logan. The song became an anthem for people like Charles, who had headed west to build new lives. It eventually became the state song of Kansas. The Little House on the Prairie series (published 1932-1943) was set in Kansas at about this same time.
Charles didn’t build a little house on the prairie, however. He built a dugout on the bank of Cactus Creek a couple of miles outside of Logan. This hole in the ground would be his home for years to come.
In 1878, after six years of living in his dugout, he got married to Emily (“Emma”) Elizabeth Walton. A probate judge performed the ceremony. At some later time, a Catholic missionary priest was passing through, so Charles and Emma got married in a Catholic ceremony. The first-ever Catholic Mass in Logan was at the Becker dugout.
Charles and Emma continued to live in the dugout after the wedding. Their first child, a daughter, was born nine months later.
They’d have three more daughters while living in their dugout. Charles continued to hunt buffalo, and he also trapped smaller game for food and hides. He did some farming, too.
In 1883, the Beckers had fallen on hard times, along with everyone in the area. Food and work were scarce. The aid arriving by train from the eastern states wasn’t enough, apparently. Charles, Emma, and their four daughters left their dugout for Washington County, Kansas. I’ve got no info on what they did there, but apparently they were successful. They returned to Logan in 1885 and began building a house, which was completed the following year.
They started having kids again, eventually reaching nine children, one of whom lived to the age of 100.