Search billions of records on


In the great competitive struggle of life there are many men, who, by resolute purpose and exercise of natural capabilities have worked their way steadily upward, reaching the goal of prosperity before others who started out before their entrance into business affairs. The analyzation of such a life history is always of interest, showing the expedients that have enabled the successful one to advance in the face of opposition and to wrest fortune from the hands of an adverse fate. Mr. Berkley is one who owes his prosperity entirely to his own well-directed efforts. He is now the cashier and the leading stockholder in the Hamlin Bank and is also prominently connected with the farming interests of Brown county.

He was born in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, October 1, 1829, and education in the common schools. He is a son of Jacob and Rebecca (Schrock) Berkley, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania, in which state they spent their entire lives. The paternal grandparents, John and Elizabeth Berkley, were also born in the Keystone state and the Berkleys are of German lineage. The grandfather was a deacon in the Dunkard church, was a good financier and an intelligent and enterprising man. In his family were ten children, namely: Jonathan, John, Solomon, Ludwig, Samuel, Catherine, Mary, Elizabeth, Susan and Jacob, the last named being the father of our subject. After arriving at years of maturity he married Rebecca Schrock, a granddaughter of Christian Schrock, a successful farmer of Pennsylvania, in which state he spent his entire life. He, too, was connected with the religious organization known as the Dunkards. In his family were eight children, namely: Jacob, George, John, David, Susan, Rebecca, Hannah and Sarah. Mr. and . Mrs. Berkley took up their abode upon a farm in the Keystone state and the father of our subject, in connection with the operation of his land, also engaged in milling, devoting his attention, to those pursuits until his death. He was a capable business man and acquired a comfortable competence. His wife, surviving him for some time, died March, 1897, at the age of ninety years. Four children graced the union of this worthy couple: Susan, wife of J. Miller; Elias; Israel, who died in Pennsylvania, leaving a large family; Sarah, wife of C. J. Hefly, of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Elias Berkley remained under the parental roof until October 14, 1841, when occurred a very important event in his life history -- his marriage to Miss Ann Miller, who was born in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, May 12, 1831, and is a representative of one of the time-honored families of that state. Her parents, Joseph and Catherine (Livingood) Miller, were both natives of Pennsylvania, where they spent their entire lives, the father following farming as his chief occupation. Both he and his wife were members of the Omish (sic) church. Their children were: Christian; Jacob; Jonathan; Joseph; Gillian; Elizabeth, wife of A. Saylor; Barbara, wife of E. Lichty; Mary, wife of D. Miller; Susan, wife of A. Walker; Catherine, who became Mrs. Homer, and after the death of her first husband married J. Kelso; and Anna, wife of our subject.

After his marriage Mr. Berkley located on the old homestead farm which he purchased and continued its cultivation until 1866, when he removed to Lee county, Illinois, where he rented a farm for six years. He then came to Kansas and has since made his home in Brown county. He bought one hundred and sixty acres, on which he made a small payment, built a little home and fenced his land with wire. That was a primitive period of the development of the county. The settlers lived along the creeks and much of the land was as yet uncultivated. Hamlin contained only three houses and Hiawatha was only a small village. Mr. Berkley became identified with the work of progress and improvement and soon transformed his own land into a richly cultivated tract. In addition to the raising of grain he began dealing in stock, feeding all the products of his farm. As his financial resources increased he added to his property until he became the owner of a large tract of four hundred acres, and now has one of the best improved farms in the county. In 1889 he aided in organizing the Hamlin Bank, of which he served as president until January, 1897, when he resigned and accepted the cashiership. He is practically the sole manager of the bank and his foresight and marked business and executive ability have made it one of the reliable institutions of northeastern Kansas. In 1895 he retired from business and built a commodious residence in Hamlin, where he has since made his home, his time being occupied with the banking business and with the control of his real estate investments, his farm being rented.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Berkley have been born eleven children: Cyrus M., a grain dealer; Gillian F., a farmer; James H.; Grant and Charles, who carry on agricultural pursuits; Ross C., who is assistant cashier of the bank; Henrietta, wife of E. C. Blanchard; Anna, wife of N. P. Egean; Orpha, wife of Professor H. H. Springer; Josie, wife of T. Gibbs, and Mrs. Minnie Shawliss. The family circle yet remains unbroken by the hand of death and the children are all well settled near their parents home.

Mr. and Mrs. Berkley are members of the Progressive Dunkard church and he has served as deacon. He is also a recognized leader in the ranks of the Republican party, exerts his influence in its behalf and gives to it his earnest support. He attends both county and state conventions and has served for three terms as township trustee. He was also commissioner for two terms and served as chairman of the board and for eighteen years has been a member of the school board. He was also assessor for a number of years and president of the Farmers Fire Insurance Company. In all life's relations his sterling worth has commended him to the confidence and regard of those with whom he has been brought in contact. His worth is widely recognized and he is accounted one of the valued citizens of the community by reason of the aid and encouragement which he gives to all matters pertaining to the public welfare and progress.