John Berkstresser, Buda, was born in Bedford County, Penn., January 1, 1818. He is the son of John and Barbara (Sheckler) Berkstresser, both natives of Pennsylvania but of German descent. Their ancestors had lived in the State for several generations, except the mother’s mother, who was born in Germany. They were the parents of seven sons and one daughter, all of whom yet survive, except the eldest son.
Our subject was reared on a farm among the hills of Pennsylvania, with but very limited means for an education; but with a determination to succeed in life and to overcome all obstacles, he entered life’s contest fearlessly. His first work for himself was to clear land, and for his work have his first crop. So the first season he succeeded in clearing seven acres, on which he raised a good crop of wheat, but the price being low, the net profits were but about $75, He then purchased a saw-mill which was built for the purpose of sawing up the timber on a tract of land supposed to be owned by our subject’s uncle, and each to have half of the timber, the one for furnishing the timber, the other for sawing. After Mr. Berkstresser had run the mill for one week, it was destroyed by fire; but nothing daunted, he again rebuilt the mill, but before it was completed the water of the stream was too low to run it, and so work was suspended for the season, and before the next season came, it was found that his uncle’s title to the land was not good, and so the mill had to be stopped, and was worthless property, and except a debt of $300 hanging over him, and the time appointed for his marriage rapidly approaching.
Being a man always prompt to keep any engagement, he was married at the appointed time, but for the six succeeding years his struggles were such that a less determined and ambitious man would have failed. He rented land in Huntingdon County, Penn., and began working on it, and knew no rest day or night scarcely for six years, at the end of which time he had paid his way through, and in 1854 sold out what property he had accumulated and then found himself clear of debt and $700 ahead, with which he came to Bureau County, Ill., in 1854, and located in Section 16 in Macon Township. He remained on that farm till 1876, when he removed to his farm of 400 acres adjoining Buda, where he now resides, but still retains his farm adjoining town.
In March 1878, he bought one-half interest in the Buda Bank of Benedict & Son, and two years later bought the entire banking and clothing business, which had been carried on together. This was the first established bank in Buda. In 1882, at the earnest solicitation of citizens of Hennepin, Putnam Co., Ill., Mr. Berkstresser established a bank there, and leaves it in charge of the cashier, Mr. I. B. Lesh. Mr. Berkstresser has been very successful in business since coming to this county, but he was used the same energy and determination which carried him through his early years of struggle.
In 1844 he was married in Bedford County, Penn., to Miss Elizabeth Carper, who was born in Lebanon County, and is the daughter of Samuel and Christina Carper, both natives of Pennsylvania but of German descent. Mr. and Mrs. Berkstresser have the following children; William Henry, who died at six years of age; Christina, now of Clay County, Neb. and wife of George Lee; Levi, who was in the bank of J. Berkstresser & Son, of Buda; Rev. William Irving Berkstresser, of Carroll County, Ill., who is a minister in the Church of God; Mary, who is also a minister, and has for three years had regular charges; Martha, of Clay County, Neb., wife of William Pitt; Lizzie, who died after reaching womanhood; Beckie, wife of S. L. Ewing, of this county. Mr. Berkstresser and family are members of the Church of God. During his entire life he had taken an active interest in political matters, first as a Whig and then as a Republican.
Source: History of Bureau County, Illinois, H. C. Bradsby, Editor. World Publishing Company Chicago 1885