Mrs Nellie E. Becker (née Baumgardner)

Mrs Allen Oliver Becker (Nella Estella/Elizabeth Baumgardner)1 was born in New Lexington, Ohio on 19 June 1876.

She was the daughter of John Albert Baumgardner (b. 1851), a photographer, and Clara L. Fulton (b. 1856), who had been married in Fairfield, Ohio on 2 September 1875, and she had three surviving siblings: Edith Mae (b. 1878, later Mrs Edward McKinnon), Ruth A. (b. 1885) and Fulton Albert (b. 1887). She and her family were listed on the 1880 census living in New Lexington, Perry County, Ohio.

She was married on 20 September 1898 to Allen Oliver Becker (b. 2 January 1872), a Lutheran pastor and a native of Berrien, Michigan. The couple soon left America and settled in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh in eastern India where Mr Becker worked as a missionary. Their first child Ruth Elizabeth was born there in 1899. During a brief return home to Ohio another child was born in 1905, Luther Allen. Luther died in Guntur in December 1907 and that same month Nellie had another daughter, Marion Louise. Another child, Richard Fulton was born in 1910 in Kondaikanal, Tamil Nadu.

In early 1912 Mrs Becker's youngest child Richard fell ill and upon the advice of physicians was encouraged to return to the USA where he had better chance of survival. Therefore, Nellie and her three children left India with her husband remaining behind. For their Atlantic crossing, the Beckers boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as second class passengers (ticket number 230136 which cost £39). Young Ruth later reported that her mother had misgivings about the voyage and spoke to the purser who assured her of the safety of the ship.

On the night of the sinking Mrs Becker had gathered her three children and headed to the upper decks where they waited for a time in one of the public rooms. Ruth recalled climbing an iron ladder to a higher deck, possibly the ladder from B-deck second class promenade to A-deck first class promenade. It was here that several of the aft starboard boats were being filled. Whether the Beckers joined their respective lifeboats from this deck or the boat deck is not clear. Whilst waiting to board a lifeboat, Mrs Becker was concerned at how cold it was and instructed her elder daughter Ruth to return to their cabin for extra blankets. Before Ruth had the chance to return Mrs Becker's two younger children were thrown into a lifeboat (boat 11) and the frantic mother scrambled to join them, calling out to Ruth to get into the next boat, which she did.

Nellie Becker survived the sinking. Aboard the rescue ship Carpathia she spent several hours hunting the decks for her daughter Ruth and they were reunited later that day.

Nellie would later claim $2184.20 against the White Star Line for loss of property. Once in America, she and her three children settled in Benton Harbour, Michigan, until her husband's arrival from India the following year. They spent time living in Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio in the 1920s and by the time of the 1940s she and her husband were residing in Princeton, Illinois. Family later recalled that Nellie's personality was erratic after the sinking and she would become emotional whenever discussing the disaster. Her relationship with her elder daughter Ruth was said to be strained and she became totally estranged from her daughter Marion for reasons that aren't certain. On Marion's death in 1944, Nellie refused to go to her funeral. She became a widow on 19 March 1956 when her husband died.

Nellie Becker died following a heart attack in Berrien, Michigan on 15 February 1961 aged 84. She was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Princeton, Illinois. She left her estate to her son Richard who had not been entirely responsible financially, and left her daughter Ruth out entirely. To add insult to injury, she named Ruth as executrix of the estate meaning that although she would get nothing from her mother, she was charged with the responsibility of seeing to it that her brother got everything.

Credits
Gabvin Bell
Peter Engberg
Phillip Gowan

Notes
  1. Listed in her death certificate as Nellie Baumgardner.  Also, her middle name sometimes given as Elizabeth.  The transcribed birth record gives her name as Nellie Estella Bumgardner, and the 1880 census gives her surname as Bumgardener.  It is possible the records have been later mistranscribed or that family changed the spelling of their name in later years.
References and Sources
News Palladium (Benton Harbor), 1961, Obituary
Michigan Department of Health Certificate of Death (#7495)

Articles and Stories

MRS. NELLIE BECKER

News Palladium  (1961) 

MRS. NELLIE BECKER

 
REMAINS IN HOPE HUSBAND IS SAVED

Cleveland Plain Dealer  (1912) 

REMAINS IN HOPE HUSBAND IS SAVED

 
Rescue of Mrs Becker

Gettysburg Complier  (1912) 

RESCUE OF MRS BECKER

 
LOCAL INTEREST IN TITANIC LOSS

Adams County News  (1912) 

LOCAL INTEREST IN TITANIC LOSS

 
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