Riley Atkinson – Charter Member

History Minute

Imagine that in 1885, as a lad of five years, you stood on a plush Persian carpet that covered the dark, oak floors of your family’s Michigan sitting room. The tip of your carefully combed head barely reached the top of the ornately carved sideboard standing beneath two seemingly massive portraits. The subjects of these portraits were the imposing figures of your father and grandfather. Both decorated officers, from opposing sides, of the Civil War: Lieutenant Colonel John Atkinson of the Union Army and Major Lyons, a surgeon for the Confederate Army.

Despite their differences in political opinion, Major Lyons agreed to the proposal of Colonel Atkinson to wed his daughter Lida Lyons. Among Lida’s ancestors were those who aided in our country’s struggle for independence.

Riley Atkinson was the handsome five-year-old lad gazing at those portraits, the son of John and Lida Atkinson and one of our club’s charter members. Riley was raised in Michigan, one of seven Irish Catholic siblings and the only to migrate to Idaho. In pursuit of education, he attended Detroit College, Fordham College of New York and the University of Michigan, where he received his law degree.

Riley never practiced law, but moved to Boise where, after six years of hard work, purchased a merchandise brokerage business which he incorporated as Riley Atkinson and Company. It was the oldest merchandise brokerage business in Boise, and the trade was one of extensive and gratifying proportions.

On the 10th of September, 1907, Riley Atkinson was married to Miss Emma Cleveland Hawley, the daughter of Governor James H. Hawley. The couple would have three children, Elizabeth Lida, Riley, Jr., and Hawley.

To follow in the family’s prestigious military history, Riley served as a first lieutenant of Company L of the 33rd Michigan Regiment during the Spanish-American War. He took part in the Battle of Santiago under General Shafter and in other military movements which led up to the final victory that crowned the American arms.

Aside from Mr. Atkinson’s service as one of Boise’s first Rotarians, he belonged to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. Socially, Riley was involved with the Boise Commercial Club and the Country Club. As written in the Idaho Statesman, Riley Atkinson’s dominant characteristics are such as make for personal popularity in the community in which he makes his home.

Copied from notes prepared by Cindy Conway & presented in 2008 or 2009