Back in May before my family reunion, I did some research into my Dad’s side of the family. His parents were Lou Ella Morgan and Fred W. Barker. We can trace Lou Ella’s family back to the Revolutionary War, and I am a DAR member to prove it. Fred, though, is a bit of a problem. When he died in 1955, his discharge papers from the US Army were found in order for my grandmother to get his pension. The problem was that his name on the discharge papers was Fred W. Bernecker instead of Barker. My grandmother did not want to know why his name was not Barker, and she put the papers away and refused to discuss it.
We know very little about my grandfather. We know he was born in Longwood, Florida, and lived in North Carolina At some point, he moved to Chicago where he was drafted into WWI. After the war, he ended up in Wichita Falls where he met and married my grandmother, Lou Ella. He was a chef/caterer and man of many talents. My mother said he was a handsome little man at 5’ 6” (my grandmother was 5’11”), and that he could be quite charming. He was a boxer and told stories about fighting someone very famous, but I cannot remember the boxer’s name. In 1952 he wrote a letter to the President of the US in order to get my father out of the military. I have letters from the Secretary of the President, William D. Hassett on White House Stationary and a letter from WM E. Bergin, Major General, USA, Adjutant General forwarding his letter to FT. Bragg where my father was honorably discharged due to hardship. We assume my grandfather knew someone high up the ladder to pull that off.
Here is what I found while researching my grandfather. Through Ancestry.com I keyed Fred W. Bernecker into the WWI military records. I came up with his draft card from 1917. His name was Fred W. Bernecker at that time. He was 30 years old, born Dec. 6 1986 in Longwood, FL. It lists his occupation as Butcher at the Sherman House on Randolf and Clark St. in Chicago, IL. Under “previous military” it says he was in the Appalchian Navy for 3 years. The word “Appalachian” is difficult to read, but I am pretty sure that is what it says. The only other thing interesting about the card is that under dependants listed is “child”, but who knows what that means.
Continuing to use Ancestry.com, I keyed “Fred W. Bernecker” into the regular search program. In the 1900 Census there was a family of Berneckers in Ashville, NC that could be my grandfather’s family. The parents were Julius (1847) and Frances (1852) who migrated to the USA in 1882 from Germany. They had Freda (21), Paul (20), Anna (18), all born in Germany, Henry (17), Fred (14), Clara (12) born in Florida, Amelia (8), and Bertha (6) born in NC. It lists the father, Julius, as a carpenter.
In the 1910 Census in Ashville, NC, the Berneckers are still there, but now it is only Julius (carpenter), Freda (dressmaker), Clara, Anna (bookkeeper), Bertha and someone named Lillie Lavine listed as a border. Apparently, Frances has died and some of the children no longer live at home.
In the 1930 Census still in Ashville, is Julius (83), Bertha and Freda listed in the same household. I did find a Clara Bernecker in Savanah, GA, as a governess. I found a Henry Bernecker in Charleston, WV, who was a printer and had served in WWI. Also there was a Paul M. Bernecker in Chatham, GA, who was a printer and also served in WWI. Whether these are the same children of Julius and Frances, I do not know for sure, but their info seems to be similar.
I also found the death records of Bertha Bernecker who was born in 1893 and died in 1973 in Ashville, NC. She never married.
I think this could be my grandfather’s family. I think he was born Fred W. Bernecker and changed his name to Barker sometime after leaving the military in 1919 and marrying my grandmother in the early 20’s. The “why” is the big question. I also find it very interesting that he possibly had a whole family on the East Coast and none of us ever knew any of them. What would make a young man leave his family and never look back? I wish I had known the man.