Like many small towns, the beginning of Atkins story is a quiet beginning.

On January 1, 1855, the forty acres of land where the town of Atkins is now located was deeded to Levi Pangborn by the United States Government. The land was sold to several parties and the town was first settled in 1881, under the name of ‘Hague’, as the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad pushed westward with the help of significant land grants from the federal government. Atkins had value as the midway point between Omaha and Chicago. Local freight and passenger service to Marion and Cedar Rapids was established the following year.

Early German settlers were not happy with the city’s name. Some came to call the town ‘Poker Flat’ because a local storekeeper warmed beer he sold in the winter with a red-hot poker, which gave the drink an odd “flat” taste. (Yum?) That nickname is enshrined today in one of Atkins developments /neighborhoods.

On January 21, 1882, the forty acres was sold to the Milwaukee Land Company. They proceeded to survey and lay out the streets, avenues, and alleys. Three weeks later, February 13, 1882, the town was officially named Atkins, after one of the officials of the railroad

Lots were sold durng the 1880’s and 1890’s on both sides of Main Street and many businesses were established including eating and sleeping quarters for the railroad construction workers, a saloon, dance hall, and livery stable. In the 1890’s a carpenter business, a barber shop, and a pool hall were built among other businesses. The first bank – Atkins Savings Bank – was organized in 1894. Needed merchandise was shipped from Cedar Rapids by train or horse and wagon. Lots were also sold for homes and the first house built still stands today.

In 1882 the railroad provided local freight and passenger service to Marion and Cedar Rapids. The local train stopped only twice a day in Atkins.

In 1915, the Milwaukee Road proceeded to build a new terminal plan that was to take the place of the division point at Marion. The railroad spent $880,000 to change Atkins from a few scattered stores and houses to a business and farming center. The entire terminal covered an area of seventy-five acres on the northeast side of town. The significance of the railroad is marked today by the northern-most street being named ‘Railroad Street’.

Most buildings and all except two main tracks and four yard tracks on each side were removed in 1953. With the changes in US culture post-WWII, bringing the growth in the use of automobiles, by 1969, passenger service had dwindled significantly, and was halted by the railroad.The last through freight train was on December 8, 1978. Local freight service was provided once a week until the railroad embargoed the line in March of 1980.

Kerosene lamps were in use in Atkins until 1920 when Atkins made arrangements to buy electricity from the Iowa Electric Light and Power Co. On August 22, 1938 the City Council voted unanimously to install a municipal water system. In 1966 a second well was drilled for an additional water supply to Atkins.

The first Atkins Town Council meeting was held May 17, 1917. A petition for Incorporation of the town of Atkins was filed with the District Court of Iowa on May 31, 1917.