A young man from Russellville, Kentucky, Clayton Francis Becker, spent at least five years at Harvard College in the mid 1800s. He transferred into the senior class in 1858 and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree before entering Harvard Law School.
Clayton Francis wrote often to his sister, Mary Blakey, telling her about campus life. His letters captured customs that sound quaint by today’s standards but offer an entertaining glimpse of life in pre-civil war Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In February 1859 he wrote:
The weather has been considerably colder here than any I have ever felt before…We have had splendid sleigh riding for the last six weeks and some of the sleighs in Boston are as fine almost as the finest forty-horse (four-a-breast) chariot that ever entered Russellville…Skating is the most fashionable amusement of the Cambridge and Boston ladies. I have seen no less than 500 persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions on some of the larger ponds at the same time…The ladies make the most brilliant displays of grace and art…Of course I enjoy myself with the ladies as my acquaintance is quite extensive – numbering as yet “N-O-N-E”.
After graduating with the Harvard Law Class of 1862, Clayton Francis Becker served as a law clerk in Washington, D.C. He married and went west in 1867 to establish a St. Louis law practice. Gold fever lured him to Colorado in 1880 and he hung out his shingle in the mining town Central City. He served two terms as Gilpin County judge and one term as district judge before retiring in 1893 to his new home at 1145 Emerson Street in Denver. Judge Becker died in 1907 leaving behind his 1862 Harvard yearbook, receipts for his educational expenses, and a packet of letters his sister Mary had saved.