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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 912~




In whatever sphere of life, humble or high, a man moves, the moral element determines his grade and reward. Governed by this rule, the subject of this sketch must command the respect and esteem of his neighbors and fellow citizens to a marked degree. His influence for good has always been widely felt and acknowledged in the community where the greater part of his life has been spent and his high standing in his profession is a refutation of the charge so often thoughtlessly made concerning the moral integrity of those who practice law. During a long and eminently honorable professional career, he has won a large place in the confidence of the people of his adopted county and, notwithstanding having been much before the public in the line of his calling, his life has been singularly free from the faults characteristic of too many professional men.


Jameson J. Berkey, attorney-at-law and claim agent, was born in Holmes county, Ohio, August 3, 1833, being a son of James and Elizabeth (Faith) Berkey, natives of Somerset county, Pennsylvania. They moved to Holmes county, Ohio where they remained a number years, and then located in Elkhart county, Indiana, where both died many years ago, well advanced in years. Of their family of twelve children, seven sons and five daughters, Jameson J. is the seventh in order of birth. Lewis, and older brother of the subject, came to Iowa in an early day and was a pioneer merchant of West Union. He was identified with the business interests of the town during its formative period, did much to advance the material affairs of the county and later, as senior member of the firm of Berkey & Winet, gained wide publicity and honorable repute as an enterprising and far-seeking business man. The above firm operated for some years a large general store, which included hardware, agricultural implements, drugs, millinery, in addition to dry goods, groceries, notions, etc., and was long the leading mercantile house in the county of Fayette. Lewis Berkey located at West Union in 1852 and his business career, which extended over a period of about twenty years, was more than ordinarily successful. Disposing of his interests here at the expiration of the time indicated, he moved to Kansas and purchased a tract of land near Beloit, where he resided some years, his death occurring subsequently in the Indian territory.


Jameson J. Berkey acquired his education in his native county, where he also taught school during young manhood, and in the early fifties went to McLean county, Illinois, where for a period of five years he was alternately engaged in teaching and farming. In 1855 he came to West Union, Iowa, where his older brother was then living, and later entered the law office of Judge Milo McGlarthery, under whose tutorship he made rapid progress in his legal studies and in due time was admitted to the bar. Mr. Berkey entered upon this life work well prepared for the duties of the same and it was not long until he gained his proportionate share of the legal patronage and won an honorable standing among the rising attorneys of the county bar. For some years he was engaged in the general practice of his profession, but having demonstrated unusual ability in the matter of pensions and claims, he was gradually drawn into those lines of business and ever since the close of the Civil war has devoted special attention to the same. From the beginning his patronage has steadily grown in magnitude and importance, and it is a fact worthy of note that he has secured more pensions for worthy claimants, their widows and orphans than any other attorney in the forth congressional district, besides doing an extensive and lucrative business in the general practice.


Mr. Berkey’s financial success has been commensurate with the interest and energy which he has always displayed in behalf of his clients and for a number of years he has been rated among the well-to-do men in Fayette county, a conservative estimate placing his wealth at considerably in excess of fifty thousand dollars, a part of which resulted from judicious speculation. Although well advanced in life, he still looks after his large and growing interests, in which for some time he has been associated with his son, Lewis C. Berkey, a young man of much natural and acquired ability, especially proficient in the matter of pensions, which branch of the business has fallen largely to his care.


On August 9, 1862, Mr. Berkey received a commission from Governor Kirkwood to organize a company of troops for the Civil war, and nine days later the quota was full and the organization took place at West Union, with the subject as first lieutenant. This company, which was mustered with one hundred men, was designated Company A of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, which regiment was subsequently consolidated with the Thirty-fourth Iowa, and saw much active service during the three years it was at the front. As already stated, Mr. Berkey entered the service as first lieutenant, but at the end of eleven months he was promoted to captain, in which capacity he continued from July 1, 1863, until discharged by reason of the consolidation referred to above. He was with his command throughout its varied experience of campaign and battles, sharing with his comrades the vicissitudes of war on many bloody fields and under all circumstances proving a brave and gallant soldier and popular and trusted leader. Among the engagements in which he participated were the siege of Vicksburg, storming of Fort Morgan, the charge of Fort Blakely, and a number of others, to say nothing of skirmishes and minor actions, in all of which he bore himself as a fearless officer, whose aim was the upholding of the integrity of the union. He was one of the charter members of Abernathy Post No. 48, Grand Army of the Republic, and served as commander of the same, besides taking and active and influential part to maintain an interest in the organization and make it answer the purpose for which designed. Previous to the breaking out


of the Great Rebellion Mr. Berkey was a strong Democrat, but since the war he has been just as ardent in his support of the Republican party and for a number of years he was a recognized leader of the latter in his locality and ever ready to make sacrifices in defense of his principles. He served two terms as mayor of West Union and during the last fourteen years he has held the office of justice of the peace. In both capacities he demonstrated ability of a high order, his career as an officer of the law proving especially acceptable in that he possesses a fine legal mind, which, fortified by thorough legal training and many years’ experience at the bar, has enabled him to transact such business as comes before his court with promptness and dispatch and with little fear of his decisions being reversed at the hands of higher tribunals.


Mr. Berkey has been a member of the Masonic brotherhood since 1862, joining the fraternity at Dubuque while awaiting transportation to the army; he retained his membership with Metropolitan Lodge in that city for about ten years, when he demitted and joined Lodge No. 69 at West Union, with which he is still identified. He belongs to the chapter of Royal Arch Masons at Decorah and Langridge Commandery, Knights Templar, at West Union, his name appearing on the charter of the latter organization.


The domestic life of Mr. Berkey dates from November 13, 1856 at which time was solemnized his marriage with Mary Ann Marihugh, of St. Lawrence county, New York, the ceremony taking place at West Union. After a mutually happy and prosperous wedded existence of forty-four years, Mrs. Berkey was called to her eternal rest, dying on the 25th of March 1900. To Mr. and Mrs. Berkey two children were born, Lewis C., his father’s business associate, and Laura Belle, who died in infancy. As indicated in a preceding paragraph, Lewis C. Berkey is a young man of fine mind and much more than ordinary intellectual culture, being well versed in the law and very successful in the line of business to which he devotes his attention.  


~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Mary Ann Strohmeyer


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