ATKINS, PALMER - The power of the press has always been recognized and the men who have assisted in establishing and maintaining that mighty influence have borne more than their part in molding public opinion. It is almost impossible to carry through any project without the support of the newspapers of a community, and many a man of measure has been defeated because of a lack of harmony between the promoters and the press. One of the veteran newspaper men of Springfield is Palmer Atkins, whose services are gratefully remembered by the many to whom he was, for a number of years, the mouthpiece of popular demand. He is now living retired at No. 1416 South Seventh Street. For nearly fourteen years he was connected with the "Illinois State Register." As is true of so many Americans, Mr. Atkins traces his ancestry back to one of three brothers on his fathers side who came to this country from England in 1750. They came of sea-faring stock of a family of whalers or merchantmen. These brothers located at Middletown, Conn., and two of them who engaged in the whaling trade, were lost at sea. The third, Seth, the great-great-grandfather of Palmer Atkins, died at Middletown. His grandson, Seth, went to Lewis County, N.Y., being an early settler of the place, and engaged in farming. His son, also Seth, and father of Palmer Atkins, was born in Middletown, Conn., in 1819, but was reared in Lewis County, N.Y. He became well-known as a manufacturer of stoves, making a specialty of manufacturing stove fronts. In 1856 he came west with his family from New York City, which had been his home for some years, and located in Chicago. Later he moved to Monmouth, Warren County, Ill., where he had charge of the Pattee Plow Works. His death occurred there in 1892. In political affiliations he was a Democrat. Palmer Atkins was his only child, born of his marriage in New York State to Jane Palmer, daughter of John Palmer, Superintendent of the Erie Canal. Mrs. Atkins died in Chicago, in 1857.
The Palmer family were originally from Nottinghamshire, England, and Walter Palmer, who was born in England in 1598, came to Stonington, Conn., in 1653. He married Rebekah Short. Mr. Atkins' great-grandfather, John Palmer, was a member of the Continental Army from Connecticut. His son, also named John Palmer, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was in the war of 1812, while his uncle, George Palmer, also a son of John Palmer Jr., served in the Mexican War, being fatally wounded at the battle of Chepultepec, near the city of Mexico. This, with the military career of the subject of this sketch, makes four successive generations who established a war record from the Revolution to the Civil War period.
Palmer Atkins was born on the site of old Fort Stanwix, (N.Y.), of Revolutionary fame, August 28, 1842, and lived in New York State until he was fourteen years of age, when he was brought by his parents to Chicago. After studying in the public schools of both New York and Illinois, he attended the seminary at Mt. Morris, Ill. When only seventeen he began learning the printer's trade in the office of the "Dixon Telegraph," remaining there until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he enlisted as a private, joining the first company organized in Dixon, May 24, 1861. This was Company A, Thirteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Although a mere lad, he endured hardships bravely. The company was mustered into the United States service May 24, 1861, by Capt. John Pope, afterwards Commander of the Army of the Potomac, for three years' service or during the war. Their first engagement was at Wilson Creek, Mo., when Gen. Lyon was killed. Later Mr. Atkins participated in the battle of Pea Ridge, in which the regiment lost 187 out of 460 men, and in the unsuccessful campaign against Vicksburg, was with Gen. Curtis in Arkansas, and later took part in the battles of Jackson, Champion Hills, the siege of Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap and Madison Station. From the latter the regiment was ordered home to be mustered out. During the greater part of this time Mr. Atkins acted as staff printer and special messenger at Gen. Grant's headquarters, taking many of the cipher dispatches. On April 19, 1864, while at Huntsville, Mr. Atkins was detailed to take charge of all the mail of the Fifteenth Army Corps, commanded by Gen. John A. Logan, which heavy responsibility was faithfully discharged by him. He was finally discharged June 18, 1864, and returning home, resumed his printing business. He has always been foremost in advocating all public measures he has believed would result in the betterment of his community, and is rightly considered one of the representative men of Springfield. He is a member of Stephenson Post No. 30, G.A.R., also of Springfield Lodge No. 465, I.O.O.F., of which he is Past Grand Master, and he and his wife are members of the Second Presbyterian Church.