BURKE, MICHAEL, was born on the 29th of September, 1797, in Templetrathen, county Tipperary, Ireland. Having received a liberal education, he left his native land in his eighteenth year for Newfoundland, where an uncle was extensively engaged in the fisheries off that coast. There he remained only a brief period, being eager to reach the United States. His first destination was Lockport, N. Y., where he secured a position as bookkeeper for a prominent contractor. He here gained his first idea of a business which he subsequently successfully followed. In 1824 he secured a contract on the Erie canal, and upon its completion went to Akron, 0., to construct a section of the canal at that place. From thence he came to Pennsylvania, that State being largely engaged in perfecting her system of internal improvements, and a wide field for Mr. Burke's business energies was open before him. Securing the contract for that portion of the Juniata division of the Pennsylvania canal between Mexico acrd Lewistown in 1829, he fixed his permanent home at Harrisburg. Identifying himself with the business and welfare of the town of his adoption, he was chosen to the borough council, and in the establishment of the first system of water works took an active and warm interest. During a portion of this period he was president of the legislative body of the town, and on several occasions became personally responsible for the payment of loans secured for the construction of the water work. Upon the completion of the through transportation to Pittsburgh by the Pennsylvania canal, Mr. Burke, with several others, commenced a packet line from Philadelphia to the former place, he having his office at Harrisburg. He also became interested in the Portable line, in which enterprise, however, he sustained a loss of thirty-five thousand dollars; but not discouraged, he continued in other business ventures. The first or pioneer blast furnace erected at Harrisburg was by Mr. Burke and Governor Porter. It was erected along the line of the Pennsylvania canal above State street. While in successful operation several years, Mr. Burke withdrew from the firm, owing to his connection with some contracts on the various railroads then building in the State. He constructed portions of the Pennsylvania road between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, and on the Northern Central, between Harrisburg and York. He had heavy contracts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and was also engaged in the construction of reservoirs, building one at Baltimore, Md., in 1860, and was engaged in the erection of one in the city of Washington at the time of his death. He died at Harrisburg on the 15th of August, 1864, in his sixty-seventh year. Few men have exhibited more public spirit than Mr. Burke, and during his entire residence at Harrisburg he was held in the highest esteem by his fellow citizens, who admired his energy and remarkable business capacity. To those who knew him best he was kind, obliging, genial, and noble-hearted. Mr. Burke married, on April 6, 1824, Marv A. Finley, of Lockport, N. Y. Their children among others have been: William (deceased), John Michael (deceased), George Washington, Josephine, married James Brady, and Martina, married Edward P. Kearns.
Historical Review of Dauphin County
Transcribed by Robert Demyrdemy@earthlink.net for The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project – http://maley.net/transcription.
Date of Transcription: 29 Oct 2000
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