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Stephen Benton Elkins is Born

Today in Masonic History Stephen Benton Elkins is born in 1841.

Stephen Benton Elkins was an American politician.

Elkins was born on September 26th, 1841 near New Lexington, Ohio. When he was young, his family moved to Westport, Missouri. He attended the Masonic College, a school created by the Grand Lodge of Missouri, in Lexington, Missouri in the 1850's. He later went on to the University of Missouri in Columbia graduating in 1860. After he graduated he briefly taught school. One of his students was Cole Younger, who was a confederate guerrilla with Quantrill's Raiders and a leader of the James-Younger gang along with Jesse James.

When the American Civil War started, Elkins decided to join the Union Army, his father and brother joined the Confederacy. When traveling Elkins had the misfortune of being captured by Quantrill's Raiders, Younger was already a member of the raiders and was able to vouch for Elkins. Elkins had concerns they planned to shoot him in the back he left their camp. Later, in the only battle he participated in during the war, he heard the raiders were participating in the battle and they intended to seek him out. Neither event happened despite Elkins fears. Elkins later argued for the pardon of Younger after he robbed a bank in Minnesota.

After the war, Elkins moved to New Mexico where he began to practice law. In 1864 and 1865 he was elected to the territorial legislature. In 1866 and 1867 he served as the territorial district attorney and from 1867 to 1870 he served as the United States District Attorney.

In 1873 to 1877, Elkins served in the United States House of Representatives. Later he founded and became president of the Santa Fe National Bank. He also pursued other business interests.

Elkins became involved with the infamous Santa Fe Ring. Elkins and other attorneys and land speculators were implicated in the ring. Through fraudulent dealings and government corruption and the manipulation of territorial law, Elkins and others swindled people out of their land. The Santa Fe Ring was directly involved with the Lincoln County Wars which included the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid.

Around 1890, Elkins moved to West Virgina to the town of Elkins, which he established many years before. He wanted to pursue rail and coal interests in the area. Along with his father-in-law Senator Henry Davis, they established the the Davis Coal and Coke Company, which by 1892 was the largest coal company in the world.

Elkins became Secretary of War under Benjamin Harrison. As Secretary he tried to revive the rank of lieutenant general, tried to increase the pay of non-commissioned officers and increased the functions of the division of Military Information.

In 1895, Elkins was elected to the United States Senate from West Virginia. He served in the Senate until he passed away on January 4th, 1911.

Elkins was a a member of Montezuma Lodge No. 109 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.