John B. Atkins was born near Detroit, Michigan in 1835. He passed through Council Bluffs on his way west and in 1859 married Lydia B. Allen in Arapahoe County, Colorado. Their daughter Mollie was born in 1861. Their son Henry Charles was born a year after that in New Mexico.
In 1861 John was commissioned as an officer in Company B, New Mexico 1st Infantry Regiment. He mustered out on May 1, 1862. According to his obituary he went to the Pacific Coast to continue mining, an earlier story says he settled in Idaho. Both agree that when he returned east he did so by way of Nicaragua.
John B. Atkins settled in Council Bluffs in 1866. He did business at 351 West Broadway (pictured below) until 1879 when he moved to a brick building at 319 West Broadway. In 1903 His health started to fail, so in August of that year he sold his business to Robert E. Anderson.
Hoping to aid his health, John, his wife Lydia, and the rest of the family traveled to Los Angeles in October of 1903. Unfortunately John only lasted a few months in California and passed away December 5, 1903. His body was held in Los Angeles until February 1904 when he was returned to Council Bluffs for burial. John Atkins was a life long Mason and he was prominent in Masonic organizations in Iowa. Below is an excerpt from the Daily Nonpareil’s account of his funeral:
“In honor to the memory of J. B. Atkins, over 200 Masons, besides many other friends, attended the funeral services yesterday afternoon by which his mortal remains were laid to their final resting place in Fairview cemetery. It was the most imposing Masonic funeral ever held in Council Bluffs, nearly fifty Knights Templar in full uniform acting as escort to the 150 Masons from the other lodges of the city. Aside from a brief Episcopal ritual at the home, the services were entirely in charge of the Masons, among whom Mr. Atkins had been one of the most prominent in the state as grand treasurer of the grand commandery as well as a pioneer and charter member of the various local Masonic organizations”
Daily Nonpareil February 29, 1904
Support Services Manager
Council Bluffs Public Library