The community of Atkinson lies in an area of low-lying land through which the Green River once meandered, and often rampaged, until it was straightened and widened, paving the way for acres and acres of rich farmland. Nearby, in what was described in publications of the past as "beautiful Shabbona Grove …a peaceful haven, lived Shabbona - Friend of the White Man - and members of his tribe."

It was land in one of the last counties in the state to be settled and organized – Henry County - and part of an expanse once known as the Northwest Territory as ceded by Virginia in 1787. Named in honor of the famous patriot, Patrick Henry, the county was formally organized in 1837 and, a few years later, in 1843 an eastern capitalist named Charles Atkinson arrived in the county.

He acquired some plots of land from the area's earliest settlers and visualized a town of one square mile, a vision that later materialized as Atkinson, so named in 1856. But only after Mr. Atkinson had used his influence and ownership interest in the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad to make sure it would run through his new town. In 1867, Atkinson was incorporated.

A Proud Heritage While its earliest settlers were from a variety of countries, Atkinson saw large numbers of immigrants from Belgium and Holland begin to arrive in the 1860s, bringing with them solid clad values like hard work and thriftiness, a game called rolle bolle, and other ethnic/ cultural icons that are woven into the fabric pf modern-day Atkinson.

The Atkinson Museum, for example, showcases pictures, family histories, personal belongings and letters, and numerous artifacts representing contributions to the community that these later immigrants made. Local phonebooks are liberally sprinkled with names brought to Atkinson and the surrounding area from Belgium and Holland.

The on-going quest for a better life and the thirst for knowledge that came with these men and women still shows its influence in community amenities such as today's centrally-located Atkinson Public Library, home to an array of books, periodicals and other materials, plus children's programs to feed the minds of the town's littlest residents.