From Volume 4 Baker Family News Int./ researcher: Charles R. Clemson
Everyone interested in an American Baker or Becker family history should know that a remarkable portion of the writings, chartings, and printings now existing were altered by past widespread dishonest “research”, and false genealogy chartings created and circulated by swindlers. This was the largest set of genealogy frauds ever, estimated as bilking up to 3 million dollars, when a dollar was a lot.
Over many years, they preyed upon and built from legends that arose by mid-19th century, of Philadelphia riches waiting for the right heirs. The consequences to family genealogies appear in letters and papers in Becker-Baker data collections and surname file folders in many libraries; and in LDS (Mormon) library and microfilms. Many later 20th-century descendants were not aware of the Philadelphia Baker Riches false genealogies, nevertheless often merged as part of what was obtained by correspondence or received in family papers, and by now, often assumed and written as “family tradition”.
A partial explanation appears in the 19 Aug 1937 Toronto newspaper article, herewith by typewritten transcription. It tells of the U. S. Postmaster General’s announcement, after full investigation by his inspectors and the Justice Department put down all claims about Baker-Becker PA land wealth and persons involved. Two versions were of ownership of, and money from 99-year lease on, properties in what became the heart of Philadelphia City. The $50 million alleged value was a very large amount in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when dishonesties were at peak.
In 1936 and 1937, the government investigators identified 44 of the organizations and persons dishonestly involved during the previous half century. 24 persons were reported as then tried and convicted.
In one wide-scale promotion, contributors of $100 or more had received false 10-generations charting from 1450 A.D., in a brochure. This led to and through an alleged George Peter Becker of Strassburg/Strasbourg, not himself emigrating, but sending four minor sons and one daughter to Philadelphia in 1727; or beginning in 1727.
Wrong descendancies became attached to three alleged sons Peter, Jacob, and George, although George was usually presented as dying soon after PA arrival. Henry was said to have been unmarried (but rich); in one version the Philadelphia property was recompense for Jacob and Henry lending George Washington 60,000 for war costs. Most erroneous genealogies were attached via sons Peter and Jacob. A number of variations were used by the fraudulent; others grew as they have always grown in retellings for families without early recorded information, with some dates and spellings varying, as always after multiple recopyings.
Birth years for the minors became various; immigration varied to as late as 1750 and 1752, sometimes father also; some lists have more than 4 immigrant sons. Most often the alleged undistributed wealth heirs were supposed descendants of a Jacob, Colonel &/or banker; either as son of George Peter or as son of alleged son Peter. No evidence has been found that any real George Peter existed as the model used by the swindlers certainly not in Strassburg/Strasbourg as mainly circulated; e.g., records of all 15 churches there have survived, without any such; minister as one version claimed, or not.
Some of the data combinings are manifestly very anachronistic; and church was bypassed, such as Lutheran or Reformed or Brethren. Some George Peter children lists fit the documented family of 1750 immigrant at 44, Jorg Ernst Becker, Baker at Easton, PA, from 1752 with children evidently having immigrated sooner as minors. As the son Peter, many accounts involve my ancestor (Joh.) Peter Backer/Becker/”Baker” Sr., of Earl Twp., Lancaster Co.; will probated 3 Feb 1785.
He married first Susanna Holtzbaum in 1735, with children to 1753. His first wife was NOT nearby Leah Ferree, with alleged 4 to 10 children; her name altered to Ford in some versions. (She was shown unmarried in her father’s 1753 will.) Her sole surviving son Jacob Baker, of birth year tellings from 1740’s to 1780’s, by headstone: died 17 May 1822 “in the 59th year of his life” (age 58).
Researcher: Charles R. Clemson, PA, 11 March 1989
Introduction: Baker Family United States and Canada
The Family of Jacob Baker of Pennsylvania 1731-1794
Baker Family History, United States and Canada: Allied Families compiled by Merritt Peterson & Margaret Hanks Publication Information: Jeddo, Michigan, M. Peterson, 1988
NOTE: Added to info filed at Berks Co., PA. and other libraries.
By request of Merritt Peterson, compiler of this genealogy collection, this updated 1990 introduction replaces the 1987 original pages i and ii of Baker Family United States and Canada. This is the Baker family of Jacob Becker (Baker) of Pennsylvania, of origin and parentage still unlearned as of mid-1990, who by family records, was born 25 August 1731. He last lived in the part of Bedford County, Pa. that in 1795 became Somerset Co., and dictated his will in Quemahoning Township in 1793. Its record of probate, after his 1794 death, became lost at Bedford. The English translation was willbook-recorded in 1956.
As of mid-1990, no records of the subject Jacob Baker before his marriage have been found, and no descent traditions are known that could be fully correct. As in many Baker families, the family history information received by some descendants has been affected by the widespread wrong legend of Baker Riches at Philadelphia, that was further built up by dishonest persons from the latter 1800’s until finally put down by the U. S. government in 1937.
That incorporated the telling of George Peter Becker of Strasbourg/Strassburg, Alsace, sending 4 sons and 1 daughter to Philadelphia while minors, the sons in 1727. Numerous varying versions arose. Some descendants in this family, too, not mistaken about “the Baker Estate,” had nevertheless thought that “George Peter Becker” was their ancestor; sometimes even as father of Jacob, although Jacob was not born until 1731.
To date, no evidence has been seen, from seekers all across North America, of this legendary George Peter Becker anywhere in Alsace.
The earliest information about Jacob is that he was born 25 August 1731; married Anna Maria Brecht, orphaned 10th child of Stephen Brecht of what became Berks County, Pa.; and their first child Catharine was born 10 September 1759. Without proof, it appears that after marriage they first settled in Heidelberg Township of Lancaster, now Lebanon, County. They were living there for an unknown period ending 1779, but no Jacob was in the surviving 1772 and 1773 taxlists of that township in Pa. Archives Series 3. Few lists survived. Although one report was of 16 chidren born, family records show 14 children of Jacob and Maria, including a 1779 son who died in infancy. Jacob’s will showed his wife and the oldest 11 of 13 children as legatees, 9 by name or nickname.
Anna Maria Brecht’ s grandfather Johann Brecht (1662-1719) of the village of Schriesheim, District of Mannheim, County of Heidelberg, in the Electoral Palatinate, a son of Balthasar and Anna Margaretha (Christmann) Brecht, was survived by his wife Anna Catharina (Hoffmann). In 1726, she obtained permission to come to Pennsylvania with two of her three sons Johann Steffen (Stephan, Stephen), Johann, and Johann Michael. Michael came in the place of Johann, who followed in 1731, reportedly bringing two young sons of brother Stephen. Johann settled in upper Bucks Co., Pa. His brothers had settled in then-Lancaster Co., at two locations not many miles apart; Stephen along Tulpehocken Creek in now-Berks Co., and Michael in Heidelberg Twp., now-Lebanon Co., not far from now-Schaefferstown. Jacob Becker (Baker) later lived in Heidelberg Twp.
Stephen Brecht (17 Feb 1692 - 24 Sep 1747) settled in what was, at the time he died, Bern Twp. at its border with Heidelberg Twp.; still part of Lancaster Co. until 1752. He married a third time in Pennsylvania; had a total of 11 children, 1 by his last wife. Several years before his death, he left the Reformed church, and became the first person buried in the cemetery of a nearby new small Moravian church, that later became North Heidelberg Reformed Church.
Anna Maria Brecht (c1740-?1827) was the last child of Stephen’s second wife Praxedis (“Praxeter”) Kremer, whom he married at Schriesheim, 23 May 1725. Anna Maria (Mary) was baptized at Bern Reformed Church, 4 May 1740. Two items of evidence suggest that Jacob and Maria probably first settled in Heidelberg Twp. of Lancaster, now Lebanon, Co., not far from Michael Brecht: A pioneer Jacob already lived there, but a second Jacob entered taxing there in 1759, just when Jacob’s and Maria’s first child Catharine had been born in September. The Millbach Reformed Church baptism 31 January 1762 of John son of Jacob corresponds to the birth of eldest son John on 5 January 1762. A 1779 deed shows lacob was residing in Heidelberg Twp. when he bought a 150-acre farm in Drumore Twp., southern Lancaster Co., as high bidder at an estate sale. He appears in surviving tax records of Drumore Twp. from 1779 to 1782.
No occupation of Jacob has been seen except the principal one of the times, farming. In the difficult times toward the end of the Revolutionary War, Jacob was not able to meet loan payments, and lost all property. Adam Fackler (Fockler), in the next township, Martic, believed father-in-law of eldest daughter Catharine, cosigned Jacob’s loan and also lost all. The Baker family then migrated to southwestern Pennsylvania by 1784, where Jacob in 1787 purchased a 181-acre property in Quemahoning Twp., Bedford Co., that he was farming when he dictated his will in 1793. His will references to personal property indicate success there. He died before the new Somerset Co., formed in 1795, became a will probate location. In 1790, son Michael was purchaser by deed of the other 150 acres of what had originally been one 1785 land-grant tract of 331+ acres.
A wrong family legend developed for some that Jacob was killed by Indians in 1790. Another arose, more widespread, that he disappeared en route to Canada separately, when Maria and 8 children arrived together about 1800. Successive arrivals in Canada near Niagara, of those known, actually occurred from 1793 or 1794 to 1801; some proceeding in 1801 and 1802 to settle in York Co. When Jacob dictated his will in Quemahoning Twp., dated simply “1793”, it indicates that no migration plan had yet existed; it. allowed 17 years for completion of payments to the estate by home property legatee Benjamin. But Benjamin sold to brother Michael in April 1798, except the part Jacob had given in life to eldest son John. By 1800, those found censused in Somerset Co. were son Michael and son-in-law George Fockler; John was taxlisted, also.
Mary Baker’s September 1802 Upper Canada land petition showed that she had come in June 1799 with 3 children; two were sons “not of age.” This was evidently either the third or fourth of the migration moves from Somerset Co., Pa., to settle in Canada. The minors were youngest children Samuel and Emanuel; who was the adult remains unlearned. Eldest son John with wife and 7 children arrived in Canada in May 1801. Maria was reported as dying in Whitchurch Twp. of York Co. in 1827 (although one telling became that she lived to age 105). She was probably the Mary Baker buried in Heise Hill Brethren cemetery, Markham Twp., in 1827, close to Whitchurch Twp. and family locations in both townships.
Daughter Margaret and husband Isaac Reed migrated to Clermont County, Ohio; and In 1805, son Michael went to Montgomery County, Ohio. Information is lacking about three children, with no records found. Son Jonathan was said to have married “Belivid Nicely” (believed a Nicely?]. By one report, he went to Canada but later returned to the United States; another said that he went west from Pennsylvania after he was married with children. No records have been found of daughter Elizabeth, said to have married Dr. John Shaffer; by one report, they lived in Pennsylvania, and had 3 sons and 4 daughters. Also without any records finding is daughter Sarah, about whom some confusion affected this book. Ties were claimed for Sarah, the pre-marriage one wrong, and the marriage one unverified and doubtful. But they caused Chapter XIII, pages 276-294, in 1987, with a page 277 source credit that was incorrect, a result of misunderstanding.
Records research has not ended concerning the circumstantial indication that the subject Jacob may possibly have been the son Jacob of Jörg/Georg Ernst Becker (1706-1788), who landed at Philadelphia 12 September 1750, at age 44. Nothing hints at any connection between George Ernst and the storied George Peter of Strasbourg; but significant documented facts that distinguish the family of George Ernst in Pa. are found in tellthgs of the minors whom “George Peter Becker” supposedly sent to Pa.
George Ernst, of origin unknown, arrived at the newly laid out town of Easton, Pa., in November 1752, and was a baker there. He remarried twice and had a daughter by his second wife. Some of his will named children had evidently arrived in Pennsylvania before George Ernst, while minors. His 17 December 1788 will, probated 7 January 1789, shows that it was his unmarried son Henry who made a will in western Philadelphia (now Montgomery) Co. in November 1761, and died before May 1762 will probate. Henry’s will contained the names of four of his larger number of brothers and sisters -- Jacob and Elizabeth (dou ble shares), and with power of attorney also given them, a brother with the rare name Sebastian (“Bastian”), and a sister with the rare name Anna Gertrauta (Mrs. Gertrude Mowrer). In 1765, Sebastian was living in Heidelberg Twp. by Heidelberg Town (now Schaefferstown); in 1771 he witnessed a will in Exeter Twp., Berks Co. Sebastian Baker was recorded in Washington Co. Md. by or before 1781, and left heirs when he died in 1808 at Hagerstown; a tailor, and long the court crier there. An unidentified Ernst Baker was also a taxable of Heidelberg Twp. for a time, as shown in surviving taxlists of 1770 and 1771, not after that. By 1779, “Earnest” Baker was being taxed in Bedford County, Pa. Not in the 1790 Pa. census, this name, too, was reported later in Mary land. George Ernst’s will, naming his surviving children by his first wife, with token bequests, named no Ernst. An Ernst Becker had immigrated in 1749.
Research has ruled out two and not supported a third of father possibilities considered by Heidelberg Township proximity. Perhaps records will be found, revealing the parentage of the subject Jacob.
This compilation has gathered information from various persons about many of his descendants. Information used from it should be verified, as it may not be error-free.
Sources of the Brecht data given above include family history reported from Schriesheim by Dr. Herman Brunn; a 1982 compilation by David C. Brecht; and research by Richard K. Bright. Pennsylvania records cited of Jacob Baker (1731-c1794), and of George Ernst Becker (1706-1788), and family members, include research by and data from others to Mrs. Margaret Hanks; Pennsylvania research by Charles R. Clemson; and Canada and Pennsylvania research by S. D. E. Marshall.
Many persons have shared lore of “George Peter Becker”, or data revealing how their family history information has been affected by the Baker Riches legend and then frauds.
Charles R. Clemson, Pennsylvania, with
Margaret Hanks, Minnesota, and
S.D. E. Marshall, Ontario, Canada
August, 1990; addresses updated to January, 1992.
FootNote: Nicely/Niceley; may have been Kniceley/Knicely. CJ