Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. II, p. 1432
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
Mr Barkell has a remarkable record, and from the study of his life history one may learn valuable lessons. The spirit of self-help is the source of all genuine worth in the individual and is the means of bringing to man success when he has no advantages of wealth or influence to aid him. It illustrates in no uncertain manner what it is possible to accomplish when perseverance and determination form the keynote to a man’s life. Depending upon his own resources, looking for no outside aid or support, Mr Barkell has risen from comparative obscurity to a place of prominence in the business world.
Michael Barkell was born in Belgium, May 1, 1846, a son of Michael and Catherine Barkell, also natives of that country. They were the parents of four children, but the eldest became separated from the family when quite young, and no trace of him has ever been found. The second child, Anthony, came to Kansas in 1874, locating a homestead and a tree claim in Union township, Rice county, where he made a number of improvements, and his death occurred there in 1879. He was never married. The third son, Nicholas, is a resident of Michigan. Michael, the youngest of the family, and the subject of this review, came to America with his parents when only two years of age, in 1848, but soon after their arrival here the father died. In the following year the mother lost her eyesight, and she was then obliged to become an inmate of the alms house. The children were thus obliged to depend upon their own resources for a livelihood, and alone and in a strange country they early began the battle for existence, but they were determined, self-reliant boys, willing to work for advantages which others secure through inheritance, and being destined by sheer force of character to push to the front in one important branch of enterprise or another. When four years of age Michael Barkell was bound out to a farmer, with whom he remained until eighteen years of age, when he removed to Michigan, and was there employed with a barge company, in the lumber regions, working for them on the lakes for three years. He was then employed as a clerk in a hotel for two years, and on the expiration of that period he became an employe of the Northwest Water Pipe Company, remaining with that corporation for seven years. In 1876 he was married, but thereafter retained his position with the above company for six months, and he then made some prospecting tours to different parts of the country. The year 1878 witnessed his arrival in Kansas, where he took charge of the claims entered by his brother, who had there died. Forty acres of the tract had been broken, but Mr Barkell has since made all the other improvements, including the erection of a commodious residence, a good barn, a windmill and all necessary farm buildings. His fields are under a high state of cultivation and annually yield to the owner a handsome financial return. Ten acres of the place is devoted to timber.
As a companion and helpmate on the journey of life Mr Barkell chose Miss Amanda A Rikert, who was born in Tuscola county, Michigan, February 20, 1854, a daughter of Philip H and Amanda A (O’Neill) Rikert. The mother was a native of Canada, and a daughter of John O’Neill, who followed blacksmithing there. He had two children, and the son, John O’Neill, was a seafaring man. Philip H Rikert, the father of Mrs Barkell, was a native of the state of New York, and was of German descent. He followed ship carpentering as a life occupation. He was married in Detroit, Michigan, and afterward located with his family on a farm. He died in Bay City, Michigan, in March, 1893, but his wife survived him for a number of years and passed away January 1, 1899, in the faith of the Episcopal church, while he was a member of the Methodist church. This worthy couple were the parents of eight children, namely: Elizabeth, who died when young; Nelly, now Mrs Peter King; Amanda A, the wife of our subject; Henry, who died at the age of sixteen years; Lomila, the wife of T Atwell; Gertrude, who passed away at the age of sixteen years; Mathias, a resident of Michigan; and Martha, who is still unmarried. The marriage of Mr and Mrs Barkell has been blessed with five children: Henry, born February 16, 1877; Mary, who died at the age of fourteen years; Emma, who was born May 2, 1882; Martha E, born August 29, 1884; and George W, born July 31, 1886. Mr Barkell is a Master Mason, being a member of Little River Lodge, No. 219, F & A M. “We build the ladder by which we rise,” is a truth which is certainly applicable to our subject, for since the early age of four years he has fought the battle of life alone and unaided, and the indomitable perseverance and resolute purpose which have characterized him have been the means of bringing to him the high degree of success which is today his.