Claude Atkinson

Probably in no other field than journalism could the original abilities of Claude M. Atkinson discover their proper sphere and be afforded the proper medium for expression. Mr. Atkinson as a newspaper man and printer has shared in the instability of members of his profession, but the fact that for over twenty years he has been identified with the village of Hibbing and all that time as publisher and editor of the Hibbing Daily News and The Mesaba Ore is sufficient evidence that he also exemplifies permanent qualifications of citizenship.

Claude M. Atkinson was born at Appleton, Wisconsin, November 4, 1862, son of James Fremont and Anna Frances (Waterbury) Atkinson.

His grandfather, Rev. Edwin Atkinson, was an old-time Methodist circuit rider. He was born in England, was ordained a minister of the Methodist church in that country and after his marriage came to Canada in 1836, and when Wisconsin was still a territory and the domain of the wild Indian he moved there and for a time lived in Dodge County and later in Outagamie County. James Fremont Atkinson also exemplified many of the rugged qualities of the family. He was a man of very diversified talents. As a youth he learned and took up the trade of cabinet maker. He was in California during the early days of gold discovery.

Afterward he studied law, operated a store, traded with the Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin, dealt in real estate and became owner of considerable possessions. It may be that he caught the contagion from his youthful son, then an apprentice printer, but at any rate in 1877 he bought the Escanaba Tribune, changing its name to the Escanaba Iron Port, and conducted it for several years. Through the columns of that paper he exemplified his pronounced literary attainments. He also served as municipal judge at Escanaba, and at the time of his death in 1885 was probate judge of Florence County.

One of three children and the only survivor, Claude M. Atkinson gained his education largely in a printing office, said to be one of the greatest universities in existence. Every boy has at some time felt the fascination of printing, but Claude M. Atkinson acknowledged the fascination as the dominant fact in his life and career and his individual destiny has been molded largely in a composing or editorial room. Before he was twelve years of age and before his father had bought the Escanaba Tribune he was rendering what service he could to its owners and picking up a knowledge of printing. Though he was doubtless worth something to the owners, he was paid nothing the first six months and the second six months his salary was only fifty cents a week. That did not discourage him, and while at Escanaba he mastered the art of printing and filled every position in the mechanical offices of the Tribune. In 1879 he went to Quinnesec, while that was the center of a wild and adventurous community, and was employed as a typesetter. Subsequently he clerked in a store at Norway, and also at Quinnesec and at Florence he assisted his father in several enterprises, including the founding of the Florence Mining News.

The people of northern Minnesota have long admired the vigorous, terse and original way in which Mr. Atkinson expresses himself in the editorial and news columns of his paper. It may be said that he first achieved this art of expression while on the Florence Mining News, though writing was only an incident of his service in the mechanical offices. After his father’s death he became editor of the News, and subsequently sold it to the distinguished former governor and author, Chase S. Osborn, who is one of many distinguished men it has been the privilege of Mr. Atkinson to know in the course of his life.

Like all printers, Mr. Atkinson had the wanderlust and his travels and work as a journeyman printer led him far and near. Eventually he returned to Iron Mountain, Michigan, where he worked as printer and local editor of a paper. Then for about three years he assisted Mr. Osborn on the Florence Mining News. At Crystal Falls, Michigan, he founded the Diamond Drill, a newspaper still in existence, though he sold it after a brief ownership, and was next engaged on some newspapers in Salt Lake City; then bought and conducted the Independent at Rock Springs, Wyoming, for two years, and in August, 1897, came to the iron ranges of northern Minnesota and for one year was a general utility man on the Virginia; then founded the Republican at Eveleth, selling out after about a year, and in May, 1899, bought the Hibbing News, which had been established at Hibbing in the spring of 1894, almost at the beginning of the existence of Hibbing. In 1901, on account of some litigation over the title, Mr. Atkinson changed the name to The Mesaba Ore and Hibbing News, and now conducts both a daily and weekly edition, known as the Hibbing Daily News and the Mesaba Ore. The Daily News was established in February, 1920, and is the only morning daily on the Range.

Mr. Atkinson was originally a Republican, but changed his party soon after coming to St. Louis County because he could not conscientiously endorse the actions of local party leaders. Since then he has acted and voted independently, and has conducted his paper accordingly. When the conflict on the tax levy and expenditures in Hibbing came about he espoused the cause of the people. It is his nature never to be a half-way man, and he is ill fitted for compromise. As a result of his stand and the stand of the paper in this matter he was indicted presumably because of the fight he had been making, but was wholly exonerated. Mr. Atkinson was appointed postmaster of Hibbing in 1906 and was also one of the first members of the local Library Board.

While for many years he has carried the responsibilities of a newspaper editor and publisher and has always been ready either for a fight or a frolic among his fellowmen and in community affairs, his real heart may be said to be in .the open fields and there is no more enthusiastic hunter or fisherman in northern Minnesota than C. M. Atkinson. As a sportsman he has killed silver tip bear, deer, moose, antelope, elk, blacktail deer, black bear, mountain sheep, mountain lion, and is never happier than with a gun over his shoulder or in company with his children on hunting trips. He is a real nature lover and hears and responds to the summons of running streams and rustling woods, and thus is deeply religious though a member of no Christian sect.

November 24, 1883, Mr. Atkinson married Ida M. Lott, of Iron River, Michigan. Of the five children born to their marriage the oldest, Claudius, is now deceased. The oldest living son is Marc, now general business manager of the Hibbing Daily News and the Mesaba Ore, with Miss Beatrice Atkinson as society editress and general news reporter.

The two younger children are Dorothy and William.

Sources:

  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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