Atkeson Cabin

Saving the Atkeson Cabin


It's just 17 feet square, made of old logs with a curling split shingle roof. Heat and cooking come from a stone fireplace, light from the window or a candle.  Yet, this small cabin was home to history - from the man who used it for his U.S. Congressional office to the books he wrote detailing the history of Bates and Cass Counties. Simply called the "Atkeson Cabin", it was the focus of a major restoration program by the Marais des Cygnes Society. A formal dedication was held at the Summer Living History Festival on June 13, 2015.

Ken Meyer, whose generous donation made the restoration possible, cut the ribbon and opened the cabin to the public. The Atkeson Cabin can now be visited at its new home at the edge of a pine grove at Poplar Heights Living History Farm in central Bates county, Missouri.

When the relocation and restoration began Brian Phillips, Executive Director of the Marias des Cygnes Society said "This is an important part of western Missouri's heritage and we are pleased we are able to rescue and preserve this historic cabin".







Phillips said "We are fortunate to have engaged the Patton House Moving Company, well known for their work on historic properties, to move the cabin. The cabin made the move with no problems and has been set on its new foundation at the edge of the pine grove at Poplar Heights. A new floor has been installed, and trim work painted. As weather permits the chinking and floor finishing are being completed. Landscaping will be the last project before a dedication planned during our Summer Living History Festival, June 13 & 14, 2015."












Phillips also said that the Atkeson cabin will be used as a focal point for teaching visitors about the history of Bates county and the man who did so much to preserve her history. Plans are also underway to begin literacy programs for elementary level students in the area which would focus on reading education utilizing historic figures from the area's past.

Anyone with information on the family of W.O. Atkeson, the cabin or his literary works is urged to contact Phillips at

William Oscar Atkeson
Newspaper Publisher

Atk_BookEach Born on a farm in West Virginia, W.O. Atkeson went on to serve as a U.S. Congressman from Missouri. Along the way he graduated college, taught school, became a lawyer, owned several newspapers, wrote history books and novels, and served on several state commissions. He is most known, however, for his "History of Bates and Cass Counties". Written in a log cabin just south of Butler, Missouri, it has become the premier source for western Missouri history and genealogy.


Atk_YoungWilliam Oscar Atkeson was born near Buffalo, West Virginia on August 24, 1854. He was the son of Thomas Atkeson (1804-1888) and Virginia Harris Brown (1818-1870). He worked on his father's farm and attended Buffalo Academy until 1873 and then went on to the University of Kentucky. He taught school at Letart, West Virginia and graduated from the State Normal School at Fairmont, West Virginia in 1875. He was the principal of New Haven graded School, New Haven, West Virginia 1875-6. He taught at the Graham Station School also in West Virginia until 1877.

Atkeson read law during the winter. He was editor and one of the owners of the West Virginia Monitor published at Point Pleasant West Virginia in 1876. He then was principal of the Flats Graded School 1877-8. Also in June 1877, he was admitted to the bar in Winfield, the county seat of Putnam County, West Virginia.

Atkeson left West Virginia and went to Missouri where he was admitted to the bar in July, 1878, in St. Louis. He then moved to Council Grove, Kansas and taught school 1878-9. He was also admitted to the bar in Kansas in October, 1878, and began to practice law. He was elected Justice in 1880 and served two years.

In 1882, he moved to Rich Hill, Missouri where he edited the daily and weekly National Gazette at Rich Hill. He married Elizabeth Wheat Warnick on May 21, 1884 in Barton County, Missouri. "Lizzie" was born March 24, 1861 in Lee, Illinois, the daughter of George G. and Mary Ann (Galloway) Warnick. They had six children: Oscar Clark, Virginia Wheat, Gladys Clarice, Floyd Warnick, Ralph Wendell and Clarence Edgar.

The family moved to Butler on October 13, 1889. He was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Bates County in 1890 and served until January 1, 1893. He then became owner/editor of the Butler Free Press in 1894. Lizzie died September 22, 1899 and he was left to raise their children, the youngest just over one year of age.

He ran, unsuccessfully, for congress in 1906 and 1908. In 1910, he was chosen deputy State hotel inspector serving 2 years and then as deputy State labor commissioner for 2 more years.

In 1915 he purchased the Bates County Record, based in Butler, Missouri, and also worked as its editor. Writing from a log cabin at the edge of Butler, he began work on the History of Bates and Cass County which would be published in 1918. His next literary work was From the Marais Des Cygnes: A Novel, published in 1920.

Atk_OldOn his third try, Atkeson was elected as a Republican to the 67th Congress to represent Missouri's 6th District in the United State House of Representatives, serving from 1921 to 1923. From 1923-1925 he served as State warehouse commissioner in Kansas City, Missouri. He resigned in 1925 and returned to Butler to resume the practice of law and to engage in literary pursuits.

Atkeson died of a cerebral hemorrhage on October 16, 1931. He rests in Oak Hill Cemetery in Butler with his wife, Lizzie and other family members.

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