Biography of Joel H. Rickel

Joel H. Rickel. Among the citizens of Chanute, one who had had a most interesting career is Joel H. Rickel, a resident of this city since 1896, and now the owner of a carriage and repair shop and the owner of a valuable farm. Mr. Rickel is a veteran of the Civil war, and had been a prominent figure in Grand Army circles, being a past commander of several posts in Kansas and a past department commander of the State of Kansas. He was born in Ashland County, Ohio, December 8, 1844, and is a son of John S. and Jane (Fulks) Rickel.

The Rickel family, which originated on the Rhone, Germany, was founded in this country during Colonial times, and three bearing the name fought with the Patriot army during the war of the Revolution, one meeting his death at the battle of Brandywine. Michael B. Rickel, the grandfather of Joel H. Rickel, was born in 1776, in Tascaraugus County, Pennsylvania, and became a pioneer into Ohio, where, in Ashland County, he entered a farm from the Government. There he passed the remainder of a long and industrious life, and died in 1868. John S. Rickel was born in Ashland County, Ohio, in 1813, in the same house in which was born his son, and was reared and educated in the community. He was a millwright by trade and a civil engineer by profession, and in 1841 went to Kosciusko County, Indiana, where he cleared a farm from the heavy timber. There he spent the remainder of his life, and died in 1853. He was a whig in politics and a member of the Masonic fraternity. Mr. Richel married Miss Jane Fulks, who was born in 1813, in Wayne County, Ohio, and died in Kosciusko County, Indiana, in 1858, and they became the parents of three children: Joel H.; Rebecca Jane, who is the widow of Dick Peek, who was a farmer, and resided in Shalby County, Illinois; and J. M., president of the Chanute Tank Company, of Chanute, Kansas.

Joel H. Rickel was reared on his father’s farm in Kosciusko County, Indiana, until he was ten years of age, at which time he returned to Ashland County, Ohio, and was there given a common school education. After the death of his father he resided on the farm of his grandfather until he was fifteen years old, at which time he struck out for himself, but his career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil war. In 1861 he enlisted in the Twenty-fourth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with which he served until June 19, 1864. During this period he saw some of the severest fighting of the entire war, taking part in no less than twenty-two engagements, including such notable battles as Shiloh, Corinth, Murfreesboro and Chickamauga. At Stone River, Mr. Rickel was shot through the right foot, and September 19, 1863, he was again wounded, this time seriously, three ribs being broken. He was unconscious when found, and his comrades thinking him dead, prepared for his burial. He laid on the funeral pile for fourteen hours, when they discovered that life was not extinct. He was five months recovering from this injury, but rejoined his regiment as soon as he was able. Mr. Rickel’s war record was one of which any man might well be proud. He was courageous in battle, earning the admiration of his comrades, and his faithful performance of whatever duty was imposed upon him gained him the respect of his officers.

At the close of the war the brave young soldier returned to Ashland, Ohio, but he had seen enough of the outside world to desire to sec more, and also felt that the West held out opportunities that his home community could never give him. Accordingly, in 1866, he went to Blackhawk County, Iowa, where he engaged in farming for three years, and in 1869 located on a farm in the vicinity of Flora, Illinois. After one year of agricultural work, he moved into the town, where he followed carpentry for three years, and in 1873 first came to Kansas, settling in the vicinity of Emporia, where he farmed with some degree of success for two years. At the end of that time he went to Wabaunsee County, Kansas, and during the next ten years was engaged in the real estate and loan business, an enterprise in which he met with success. Mr. Rickel’s love of adventure, however, remained unsatisfied, and at that time he went to sea, fishing for turtles, under a contract with the Fulton Turtle Cannery, of Rockport, Texas, which called for all the turtles weighing over 200 pounds that he could catch. In this capacity be fished all along the coast of Mexico and Central and South America and his catches were phenomenal during the three years of his contract. While thus engaged he brought many strange fish and curios to the surface of the waters, and eventually decided to make a collection of curios, which he brought back to the United States. These included a dolphin whale, a hammer-head shark, a man-eating shark, a black shark, and a mammoth sawfish twenty-one feet long and weighing 2,500 pounds. All of these he had mounted by a taxidermist, and a large collection of radiates, zuphites and molusca, which were subsequently placed on exhibition in Texas, Arkansas and Kansas, and finally were established at Chanute. Many of these curios have since been sold to exhibitions, museums and dealers, but Mr. Rickel still possesses 800 of the smaller specimens, including rare and valuable species of the finny tribe, which form a most interesting collection and have been viewed by thousands of people, many of whom came from long distances solely to see them. Mr. Rickel had added other features to the collection, including a piece of rosewood veneering which was taken from the first piano (or spinnet) ever shipped to America.

Mr. Rickel came to Chanute in 1896, and here had since been the proprietor of a carriage and repair shop. He is also superintending the operations on his farm, which lies one mile west of the limits of Chanute, a handsome property which had been brought to a high state of cultivation and yields a good income. He likewise owned other real estate, including a brick flat building at No. 318 East Main Street. Mr. Rickel is a stand-pat republican, and cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln, since which time he had given his ballot to every presidential candidate of his party. He is a member of the Odd Fellows and the Triple Tie, and stands high in the councils of the Grand Army of the Republic, being a past department commander of the Grand Army of the State of Kansas. He is now a member of Chanute Post No. 129, of which he is past commander, as he is also of two other posts in the state.

Mr. Rickel was married in December, 1890, at Guthrie, Oklahoma, to Miss Mary A. Hardy, daughter of William and Ann (Garrity) Hardy, farming people, both of whom are now deceased. By a former marriage Mr. Rickel had three children: Henry E., who is the editor of a newspaper at Eskridge, Kansas; B. G., who is a contracting painter at Portland, Oregon; and Willard H., who is engaged in the real estate and loan business at Eskridge, Kansas.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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