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Stephen B. Elkins Papers

Collection Number: A&M 0053

Scope and Contents

The Stephen B. Elkins papers consists of correspondence; scrapbooks and newspaper clippings; financial, legal, and land records; speeches; photographs, maps; personal papers; and research files related to Elkins’ political and business careers. Some materials also relate to the development of the New Mexico Territory and its admission as a state.

The Correspondence series contains letters with political and business associates. Correspondents include several presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, James A. Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. Governors and other prominent correspondents include Andrew Carnegie, J.G. Blaine, J.N. Camden, H.G. Davis, M. Hanna, W.S. Herndon, C.C. Catron, R.C. Kerens, J.P. Morgan, and Chauncey Depew. Some selected correspondence is available on microfilm.

The Scrapbooks and Newspaper Clippings series consists of 26 volumes of scrapbooks and loose newspaper stories related to Elkins’ political and business careers, personal life, and West Virginia politics and campaigns.

The Financial, Legal, and Land Records series contains papers mainly concerning railroads, mining (coal and silver) and lumbering in West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, and California.

The Speeches series includes printed speeches made by Elkins throughout his life, and several speeches date to his time in the U.S. Senate.

The Photographs series consists of several images of Elkins, West Virginia, and Halliehurst Mansion. Photographs are available online at

The Maps series includes plans for railroads in the eastern United States and property and mine plans in New Mexico.

The Personal Papers series contains some genealogical materials about the Elkins family.

The Senate Papers series contains bills, Congressional Records, and reports.


  • Creation: 1841-1955


Language of Materials

Materials are mostly in English. Some materials are in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical Note

Stephen Benton Elkins represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 1895 to 1911. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, practiced law in the Territory of New Mexico in 1864, and was a member of the Territorial House of Representatives from 1864 to 1865. From 1866 to 1870, Elkins was first the district attorney, then attorney general, and then U.S. district attorney for the Territory. Around 1890, he moved to the town that he founded, Elkins, WV. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Secretary of War from 1891 to 1893. Elkins died in Washington, D.C., during his third term in the U.S. Senate.

Born in Perry County, Ohio, in 1841, Elkins attended public schools in Westport, Missouri, and graduated in 1860 from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he studied law. He then became a school teacher in Harrisonville, Missouri. Among his pupils there was Cole Younger—future Confederate guerrilla and outlaw in the James-Younger Gang. According to accounts provided by both men, Younger later rescued Elkins from execution by Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. More than 30 years later, Elkins was instrumental in securing parole for Younger, who received a life sentence when convicted of bank robbery.

After enlisting in the Union Army, Elkins served as a captain in the Kansas Militia until 1863. In 1864, he began to practice law in Mesilla, New Mexico, after being admitted to the bar in the Territory of New Mexico. He then served in the Territorial House of Representatives from 1864 to 1865. Elkins also was the district attorney (1866–1867), attorney general (1867), and then U.S. district attorney (1867–1870) for the Territory. In 1872, Elkins was elected to Congress as a Republican representative for the Territory of New Mexico, and served in the Forty-third and Forty-fourth Congresses (March 4, 1873–March 3, 1877); he was not a candidate for re-nomination in 1876.

In 1866, Elkins married Sarah Simms Jacobs. She died prior to Elkins’ election to Congress, and was survived by two daughters, Elizabeth and Sallie. In 1875, Elkins married Hallie Davis, daughter of Senator Henry Gassaway Davis of West Virginia. Elkins partnered with Davis in developing natural resources industries in West Virginia, and in 1878, Elkins became a West Virginia citizen. Around 1890, Elkins and his family moved to the town that he founded, Elkins, WV. Together with Davis, Elkins formed the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway, which had main lines emanating from Elkins, WV, and he was associated with the Davis Coal and Coke Company, one of the largest coal companies in existence.

After being elected executive chairman of the National Republican Committee in 1884, Elkins gave his first political speech in West Virginia on February 29, 1888, in Wheeling. President Benjamin Harrison appointed Elkins Secretary of War, and he served from December 17, 1891 to March 5, 1893. Elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate, Elkins served from March 4, 1895, until his death on January 4, 1911. He was chairman of the Committee on the Geological Survey (Fifty-sixth and Fifty-ninth Congresses) and member of the Committee on Interstate Commerce (Fifty-seventh through Sixty-first Congresses). Elkins was interred in Maplewood Cemetery, Elkins, WV.


Clarke, Alan R. The West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway: a Western Maryland Predecessor. Lynchburg: TLC Publishing, 2003.

“Elkins, Stephen Benton, (1841 - 1911).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-present.

Lambert, Oscar Doane. Stephen Benton Elkins: American Foursquare. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1955.

Spears, Jae. “Stephen B. Elkins.” The West Virginia Encyclopedia.


9.05 Linear Feet (9 ft. (15 document cases, 5 in.); (8 large flat box cases, 3.5 in.); (2 small flat storage boxes, 3.5 in); (1 large flat storage box, 1.5 in); (1 oversize folder, 1/4 in,); (1 reel of microfilm and 1 partial reel of microfilm shared with A&M 591))


Stephen Benton Elkins (b. 1841) represented West Virginia in the United States Senate as a Republican from 1895-1911. Prior to his Senate service, Elkins served in the Union Army during the Civil War as a captain in the Kansas Militia. He practiced law in the Territory of New Mexico in 1864 and served as a member of the Territorial House of Representatives, 1864-1865. He was the district attorney for the Territory from 1866-1867, and the United States district attorney for the Territory from 1867-1870. Around 1890, he founded and moved to the city of Elkins, WV. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Secretary of War, 1891-1893. He died during his third Senate term in 1911 in Washington, DC. The Stephen B. Elkins collection includes speeches, maps, reports, photographs and other materials related to his political, business, and family affairs.

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

A&M 53 - Gift of Davis Elkins, 1937. Eleven boxes (approximately 1,220 items) including correspondence, maps, speeches, newspaper clippings, congressional records, and scrapbooks dating from 1874-1912.

A&M 53 - Purchase of Maury Bromsen Associates, 1977. Letter by Stephen B. Elkins to Col. William Lilley, 1868 April 3 (1 item, Box 1, Folder 1).

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Danielle Emerling and Leo Gmeindl, 2016, and Erica Uszak, 2023

Stephen B. Elkins Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US