Elias Cornelius Atkins was born to Rollin and Harriet Atkins in Bristol, Connecticut on June 28, 1833. Elias was the son of a clock maker who possessed mechanical skills and turned to the manufacturing of saws but did not live to see the growth of the business he started. He would have no way of knowing that he laid the ground work which would eventually become the largest and most successful manufacturer of saws in the world. As Elias entered the business himself, he would find his company at Cleveland, Ohio and in 1855 established the first saw factory in that city. The following year, He would make his way to Indianapolis with five hundred dollars in his pocket and began the trade of saw manufacturing. His beginnings were humble and he would eventually grow his company to employ more than a thousand men making him one of the most influential and chief sources of prosperity to the growing city of Indianapolis. His saws would eventually be carried at more than a half dozen branch houses in major cities throughout the United States and numberless retail stores all over the world.
While primarily a manufacturer, Elias C. Atkins was a many sided business man, and it was only natural that his interests assumed widespread proportions. His name is permanently identified with the development of the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company which he helped charter in 1877. That same year, when Armstrong would go east to Indianapolis, Atkins would take on a more active role in the Hecla Mining Company's affairs, first by acquiring an equal majority stake in the new company along with his partner Noah. In 1879, Atkins would make Glendale his home and serve as acting Superintendent of the Hecla properties until 1881. At a point when the Hecla Company found itself in debt of nearly 78,000, Henry Knippenberg would take Atkin's place as Supt. at Glendale and transform the Hecla Mining Company into the silver producing giant it became, pulling the company out of debt and paying it's shareholders handsome dividends for twenty straight years. Elias felt that his time in Montana was "an exceedingly profitable vacation", as while Elias served the capacity of General Agent, the original investment of the Mining Company was increased from 60,000 to 1,500,000. In keeping with historical integrity, Elias, through his correspondences and the state in which the Hecla Company found itself by 1881, either pointed to mismanagement or Elias' lack of faith and interest in the company's future successes. (It is not the opinion of the writer that Atkins wanted the company to fail as he himself was an investor) Atkins failed to see the potential that lay ahead for the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company as was evident in his urgency to sell.
By 1880, Atkins main objective was to broker the property for no less than 1,000,000 and return to his life at Indianapolis. The Company failed to sell and would go on to show incredible success under the management of Knippenberg. At the time of his death in 1901, Atkins was President of the Manufacturers Natural Gas Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. Atkins was also a philanthropist having donated money and land to academic and religious organizations. Elias was married to Sarah J. Wells and had a daughter, Harriet, who married John L. McMahon. Elias married a second time to Mary Dolbeare and their child passed. On August 17, 1865, Elias married his third wife, Miss Sarah F. Parker. She was born at Methuen, Massachusetts, July 26, 1837, Daughter of Rev. Addison and Eunice (Brigham) Parker. Elias and Sarah had five children, Mary D., who married Nelson A. Glading; Henry C.; Sarah Frances, widow of Thomas Reed Kackley; Emma L., who married Edward B. Davis; and Carra, who married Major Sandford H.Wadhams.
Upon the death of Elias Atkins, his son Henry took control of the family saw works business. Henry was born in the Northwest while his father was engaged in the mining business. Henry was born in Atlanta, Johnson County, Idaho on November 27, 1868. He grew up in Indianapolis, attended local schools and worked in his father's factory during vacations. Henry attended Yale where he earned his Bachelors of Arts degree with the class of 1889 at the age of twenty. His first job in an official capacity was that of Superintendent of the Saw Works and in 1892 was chosen as the Vice President of the company. Henry married Miss Sue Winter on January 7, 1896. She was born at Columbus, Indiana February 10, 1872, daughter of Ferdinand and Mary (Keyes) Winter. Her father was for many years a prominent member of the Indianapolis bar. Henry and Sue had three children, Elias C. (named in honor of Grandpa), Keyes W., and Henry C. Junior.
During the Summer of 2010, Elias Atkin’s great grand son, Stuart, arrived in Montana to place his daughter in college at Bozeman. While visiting, the family was interested in exploring the properties of the Hecla Mines, their ancestor Elias, helped establish nearly 140 years before. The Morning started out with an introduction at Melrose and a quick review of some photos and materials. We then embarked on a day long trip to the Hecla Mines at Lion Mountain, stopping at several points along the way, Glendale, Greenwood, Lion City, and Hecla. We discussed the area’s history and shared information relating to Elias Atkin’s involvement in the formation of the Hecla Company. We took many photographs and even took time to explore a mine tunnel long since abandoned, this mining tunnel being one of the properties that his Grandfather helped finance and develop. It was an incredible experience, sharing what I love to do with the family of the man responsible for making these mines and communities come to life.
The early years involving Armstrong's partner Elias Atkins are sketchy as census records show him living in Atlanta, Idaho in 1870, a silver mining community discovered in 1863. Elias worked as Superintendent at the quarts mill in Atlanta and it was here that some of his children would be born and would possibly remain while their father traveled from one mining community to the next, investing his money into any venture that promised a payout. It is not clear why he chose to struggle along in the primitive conditions of these mining communities of the west when he, being a man of remarkable wealth, did not need to choose this profession as many did, except that an early account makes mention of going west to higher elevations to build up his fragile health due to a lung condition. Many newspaper accounts would later make mention of Atkins and his fragile state of health.
At some point in 1872 to 1873, prior to the discoveries in the Trapper District (Bryant Mining District), Armstrong, Atkins & Co. were at Mammoth Mine, Tintic District, (named in honor of Chief Tintic of the Goshute Tribe) in Utah Territory conducting assay work and possibly prospecting for mining claims. The discoverer dubbed it the Mammoth Mine in about 1869, citing that, “this was going to be a mammoth discovery”. Atkins was the financier in the partnership of "Armstrong, Atkins & Co" and though Armstrong was neither hungry nor struggled financially, he lent his contribution to the firm by way of chemistry and mining expertise. Noah offered a more hands on approach in the day to day operations of the business. Elias Atkins, at the time, was a self made millionaire, owning one of the largest saw manufacturing companies in the world, headquartered in Indianapolis. It was probably here that Elias Atkins and Armstrong met, and quite possibly through his friendship with Armstrong, gained an interest in mining. Atkins family descendents tell of their Grandfather leaving the business at Indianapolis for his wife to manage the day to day affairs while Atkins roamed the mining fields of the west. Truth be told, one of Atkin's partners in the saw works at Indianapolis would manage the day to day affairs of the company, His name was Henry Knippenberg. Henry became affiliated with Atkins as early as 1870. At the time Henry was entering the saw manufacturing business, Atkins would be showing up on the Federal Census in Atlanta, Idaho along with his wife and children. It is likely that Atkins was in Idaho during the latter part of the 1860s as this is where his children were born. It is possible that Atkin's wife may have played an active role in the management of his company, however, it was not customary for a lady to take this role in her husband's affairs with young children at home. The 1870 census would show that his wife and children were with him in Atlanta, Idaho.