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Home > Family History > LaPatka > Michal "Mike" Burik Sr.

Michal "Mike" Burik Sr.

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Michal “Mike” Burik was born on Tuesday, November 15, 1870 (or 1873) in the Hungarian portion of the dual-monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The area where Mike was born is now the Levoca District of the Presov Region of the modern-day Slovak Republic (also known as Slovakia), just west of the city of Presov and near the border of Poland.

The region has seen a lot of change politically. The Kingdom of Hungary, founded 1000, became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. In October 1918, at the end of the Great War (later known as World War I), the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and the area where Mike was born became part of Czechoslovakia. In January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Mike’s parental history is very cloudy, but I believe he was born out of wedlock to Maria Burik(ova) and took her maiden name. Maria was later married to Jan Brinczko and they made their home in the village of Nizne Repase (population 300 in 2005). Jan and Maria had at least one child together, a daughter named Maria “Mary” Brinczkova who was born on June 26, 1882 - when Mike was already eleven years old.

Mike soon lost both his mother and his new step-father. His stepdad Jan Brinczko may have died just before Mary was born in June 1882, and his mother apparently died a few years later. Mike, a young teenager at the time, was probably raised by relatives after this.

In the late 1880’s, mostly due to rampant poverty but also other factors, many peasants from Central Europe, including from Austria-Hungary, began migrating abroad seeking better economic opportunity. Those from Austria-Hungary usually made their way via horse-drawn wagons northwest to the ports of Bremen/Bremerhaven or Hamburg in northern Germany. From there they would travel via steamship, usually via a brief stop in England, for the two-three week voyage to the United States or Canada.

In 1890, when Mike was about twenty years old, he made his way - via Castle Garden immigration point in New York Harbor - to Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania. He was most likely sponsored by an aunt living in the small village of Chewton, a few miles south of New Castle. However, Joseph and Alice Stiglitz, Austro-Hungarian-born merchants in the nearby town of Wampum, may also have played a part in sponsoring him.

Mike took up residence in Chewton, brought some property along the center of the village, and took up the occupation of a farmer. He lived on what was Charles Street, now sitting off the left field corner of where the baseball field is on Reserve Square. He was married in about 1895 to the former Anna Kacki, who was born in Austria-Hungary in 1877. The first of their children, a daughter named Mary, was born a year later in 1896.

In 1899, Mike’s half-sister, seventeen-year-old Mary Brinczkova, made her way from Austria-Hungary to join him in Chewton. Mary did not get along with Mike’s wife and soon left for Pittsburgh to find her own way. She returned to settle in Chewton about two years later with a new husband, a fellow Austro-Hungarian named John LoPatka, and a new baby.

Mike must have had a large dwelling because the 1900 U.S. Census lists five boarders, probably helping on his farm, from Poland-Austria or Hungary living in his household. Records show that between 1904-1907 Mike sold off some of his property in Chewton, including a lot off Plum Way sold to his new (half) brother-in-law John LoPatka for $80. During that time Mike became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in 1906.

Mike and Anna had ten more children named John, Annie, Katie, Joseph, Mike Jr., Frank, Steve, Emma, Daniel, and Helen. Unfortunately, Helen, their last child who was born in early August 1914, died after a lengthy illness when she was only not yet two years old on May 20, 1916.

Beginning in November 1914 the monumental Great War (World War I) raged across Europe, but the isolationist-minded United States managed to remain officially neutral for the time being. The Burik’s were potentially in a bad spot as their home country of Austria-Hungary joined ranks with Imperial Germany. People deemed as “enemy aliens” later came under the scrutiny and harassment of the federal government and the American public, but those of German descent bore the brunt of this harsh discrimination. This may have been about the time when the Burik family altered the spelling of their surname to “Burick.” This was probably suggested as one method to distance the family from their native Austro-Hungarian homeland.

In April 1917, prodded on by the threat of German U-boat (submarine) attacks off the Eastern Seaboard, the U.S. government was drawn in and declared war on Germany. Later that year, on December 7, the federal government also declared war on the Burick’s home country of Austria-Hungary. Mike and his oldest son John both registered for the military draft, held on three separate registration days up until September 12, 1918. I am sure not sure John ever saw service, but at age twenty in late 1917 in seems possible. Mike, at age forty-four in late 1917, probably would not have been called to service, but either way hostilities in Europe came to a close in November 1918.

Mike’s kids attended the public schools in Chewton for grades one through eight and all would have graduated by the mid-1920’s. I believe they all found work after that in the local area, including at such places as at the family farm, a silk factory, the Pittsburgh Coal Company, the New Castle Pottery plant, and at the Shelby Tube Company.

Mike’s wife Anna grew ill in 1933 and passed away in the New Castle Hospital at 11:00pm on Tuesday, October 10. She was fifty-six years old and left behind her husband and ten children. On Friday a viewing was held at the home in the morning followed by a service at St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Wampum. Afterwards she was interred at St. Teresa’s (Hoytdale) Cemetery in Hoytdale.

Mike began having his own health issues and was suffering from heart problems due to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Mike died of a heart attack at home on 8:30pm on Monday, September 13, 1937. According to his death certificate he was sixty-six years old and born on November 15, 1870. However, most records reflect his birth year as 1873. He was subsequently buried in St. Teresa’s (Hoytdale) Cemetery in Hoytdale. Dr. Thomas Duff of Wampum treated him at the time of his passing or arrived just after. I am not sure of the arrangements but I am guessing a church service was held at either at St. Teresa’s in Hoytdale or St. Monica’s in Wampum. Mike was interred with his wife at St. Teresa’s (Hoytdale) Cemetery.

Mike’s son Frank took up residence in the family home in Chewton and the house remains in the family to this day. The descendants of Mike and Anna held a family reunion for many years beginning in 1959. The last one I can remember was in about 2004 or 2005. The last of the original Burick children, the well-respected Emma (Burick) Smith of Ellwood City, lived for many years and died at the age of ninety-seven on November 13, 2007. Mike Burick left quite a legacy with the numerous children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren that followed him.