Hon. John H. Atkinson


HON. JOHN H. ATKINSON, a prominent attorney and leading citizen of New Cumberland, is of a family distinguised in the early history of the county. His great-great-grandfather was a native of England, who during the revolution in that land, followed the fortunes of Cromwell. After the protector's death he removed to Ireland and there engaged in manufacturing, but owing to the restrictions placed upon such business in that land by the English government, his son, Thomas Atkinson, removed to America early in 1700. He first settled in Maryland, and from there came to what is now Washington county, Penn., where he died. His son, John Atkinson, who was born in Maryland about 1760, accompanied his father to Pennsylvania, where he engaged in farming until about 1800, when he with three brothers, William, George and Thomas, removed to West Virginia and settled on the Ohio river, opposite Steubenville, being among the first white settlers there. John Atkinson had a son, Thomas, who was born in Washington county, Penn., January 11, 1796, and who accompanied his father to West Virginia. He was married there to Melinda Adams, and immediately afterward removed to Licking county, which was his home for seven years. Returning then to West Virginia he engaged in farming until 1844, when he removed to New Cumberland, and embarked in the manufacture of fire-brick until his death, July 11, 1850. John H. Atkinson, son of the above, was born in Licking county, Ohio, January 7, 1820. In early life he worked upon his father's farm, attending in the winters the rudimentary schools which were held in the little log school-houses, windowless and furnished with slab seats, characteristic of that perios. Subsequently he attended the academy at Steubenville, and took a special course in surveying most of the lands of Hancock county. At the age of twenty-one years he was married to Melissa G. Haigh, of English parentage, and thereafter taught school about five years at Holliday's Cove. He then came to New Cumberland and joined his father in the manufacture of fire-brick, which he carried on after the death of his father until 1870. Mr. Atkinson has always taken an active and honorable part in politics. On the formation of Hancock county, in 1848, he was elected clerk of the circuit and county courts, which offices he filled for four years. He has served ever since as commissioner of chancery in the circuit court. He assisted in the organization of the republican party in 1854, when all the friends of free soil were called to meet in convention at Pittsburgh, to take action regarding the repeal of the Missouri compromise. In 1856 he was chairman of the Virginia state convention which met at Wheeling and nominated an electoral ticket for Freemont. At the breaking out of the rebellion he was a member of the mass convention which met at Wheeling, in May, 1861, and was unanimously chosen by Hancock county as a delegate to the convention which met at Wheeling in June to reorganize the state of Virginia. On the formation of the state of West Virginia he represented his district in the state senate, and subsequently was re-elected, serving until 1868. While in that body he was chairman of the committee on education and drafted the first free school law of the state. In 1871 he was elected a delegate to the convention which framed the present constitution of the state, and when in that body an attack was made on the free schools, he was, though in the minority, instrumental in preserving the fundamental principles of the original law. Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson are faithful members of the Presbyterian church. He was elected superintendent of the first Sabbath school in New Cumberland, and continued for thirty-three years to fill that office over the same school, while his wife taught the infant class, through which more than 500 scholars have passed on their way to the higher classes. He has always been an ardent worker for temperance, and has the satisfaction of living in a country that has not had a licensed saloon for fifty years.

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