[ This article was excerpted from the book "Progressive Men of the State of Montana"]
In reviewing the life of this well known citizen of Boulder, Jefferson county, it would be excusable to say that "he is to the manor born," as much of his boyhood was spent in fruitful wanderings over Montana's plains and in her mountain wilds. Still he was born in Leicestershire, England, on April 11, 1865, but accompanied his father to America, who settled on a farm near Boulder when John was but a lad of five years.
His education was secured in that city, and he was noted for his intuitive grasp of subjects and of thought beyond the average boy of his years. Reared in the wild life of the plains he early became master of the rifle, and before reaching his majority passed much of his time in the mountains, hunting game and prospecting for gold and silver. When not upon one of these exploring expeditions his time was employed at carpenter work. He was the discoverer of the placer mines on the tributary of the North Boulder, and had the energy and ability to bring water over three miles to his claim, and thus was enabled to take out $1,300. He subsequently sold his claim to George Hauser. The discovery and the surmounting of the difficulties of obtaining water from such a distance when he was but a boy showed that Mr. Berkin was possessed of far more than ordinary talent.
So impressed were Messrs. Hauser and Vail of his capabilities that he was employed by them to prospect the mountains and streams for mines. He was in Butte when that camp contained only three cabins, and those constructed of logs, but nearly his entire life has been spent in Boulder and the immediate vicinity.
He saw much of Indian life and customs, as the aborigines were quite numerous in that locality, and he was well acquainted with Chief Joseph, the noted Nez Perce chief. While working at carpenter work on a scaffold Mr. Berkin fell and sustained such serious injuries that it largely changed the current of his business life. One of his limbs was fractured in such a way that it seemed certain for a time that he would lose that member, and, although it was saved, he was obliged to use crutches for a long time. During his convalescence he was not idle, devoting his hours to the study of photography, hence the time was turned to excellent profit. He has long enjoyed- a high reputation as a photographic artist of unusual merit, and his elegant art rooms at Boulder are supplied with all appliances necessary to produce the highest and best art effects. He has a fine traveling outfit and has taken many of the picturesque, grand and rare views of Montana.
Mr. Berkin still enjoys the reputation of being one of Montana's most expert hunters, and has undoubtedly killed more large game in a given time than any other man in the state. He has in his studio a number of pictures showing his trophies of the chase; one with twenty-three deer as a result of six days' hunt. Another shows eighteen deer, secured in eight days by himself, W. E. Sanders, Jr., son of the ex-senator, and Charles Walgamot, a brother-in-law, the scene being a log hut on Ouinn Canyon, twelve miles from Boulder. Some of the views are reproduced in oil and present a vivid and realistic scene of events which will no longer be possible in many parts of Montana.
Mr. Berkin has a pleasant residence in Boulder, and, while his attention is principally devoted to his studio, he is interested in several quartz mines, mostly his own discoveries. W. E. Sanders has been his partner in these enterprises since they were young men.
Mr. Berkin was married on March 28, 1881, with Miss Hallie Walgamot, a native of Iowa. They have three children : Nellie, Hazel and Isabelle, all born in Boulder. He enjoys the credit of building the first structure for business purposes in Boulder, located on Alain street, north of the First National Bank. In political matters he affiliates with the Democratic party and has been twice elected public adminstrator of Jefferson county. Socially he is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and Knights of Pythias.
Mr. Berkin from his expert knowledge of mineralogy, particularly the peculiar phases shown in Montana, is often called upon as an expert by investors as well as mine owners. As a promoter of mining deals he has been very successful, and his reliability is such that all parties fee! assured that no misrepresentation of facts will be tolerated by him.