Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


Edmond C. Helvie

EDMOND C. HELVIE. A striking illustration of the fact that perseverance and indomitable courage in the face of discouragement will finally win success for their possessor regardless of how often misfortune has overtaken him is found in the career of Edmond C. Helvie, who has been a resident of Lane County since 1885. During the years that followed his arrival in Kansas Mr. Helvie experienced one misfortune after another. He would hardly have recovered from one bad stroke of luck when fate was ready to turn him another shabby trick, and it seemed that he was doomed to continually place his means and his work into failing enterprises. Through it all, however, he maintained an undaunted spirit and an undimmed faith in himself, and with these he finally fought himself to a place upon the highway of success. Just as he had allowed nothing to totally discourage him in the days of his adversity, so today, in his prosperity, he is making use of every opportunity, and is now accounted one of the substantial farmers and successful business men of the community of Dighton, the county seat.

Mr. Helvie was born in Shelby County, Ohio, October 18, 1847, being a son of William K. and Sarah J. (Armstrong) Helvie. He belongs to an English family which was founded in America by a drummer boy in the English army, who came to this country with the British troops sent here to fight the Patriot army during the War of the Revolution. He remained in the United States when the war came to a close and changed his name from Helwick to Helvie. The paternal grandfather of Edmond C. Helvie was Samuel Helvie, who was born in Virginia and passed his life as a farmer, dying on his homestead in Shelby County, Ohio. William K. Helvie was born in Shelby County, and in 1862 enlisted in the Nineteenth Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, as a recruit, having moved with his family to the Hoosier State in 1849. Mr. Helvie was a member of a party of twelve recruits who joined the Nineteenth at the same time, and of whom but three returned to their families after the close of the war, the others having all met death on the field of battle. It is a curious fact that each of the three who returned bore the name of William. Mr. Helvie fought as a soldier of the Army of the Potomac and took part in seventeen battles in all and came safely through without a scratch. That he was in the midst of some heavy fighting is shown by the fact that he was in the battles of Second Bull Run, Wilderness and Gettysburg, at which last-named place the flag had 165 bullet holes put through it and five flag-bearers went down in support of the colors. When his army experience was completed Mr. Helvie returned to his farm in Delaware County, Indiana, and there passed the remaining years of his life, dying in his seventy-fifth year. He was a republican in his political views, was one of the leading members of the Methodist Church of his locality and for a number of years a church steward, and belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic. As a citizen and honorable business man he was held in high esteem. Mr. Helvie married Sarah J. Armstrong, a daughter of Alex Armstrong and his wife, Mary. Mrs. Helvie died in 1890, at the age of sixty-five years, in Indiana. Their children were as follows: Edmond C., of this notice; Elizabeth, who married Charles Mathia and resides in Indiana; Melissa, who became Mrs. Rev. Jones, of Indiana; Laura, who is the wife of Jonathan Fenwick, and lives in Indiana; Tressa, who married John Heath, of Iowa; and W. W. Helvie, who now has the major part of the old homestead in Indiana.

The boyhood of Edmond C. Helvie was passed in assisting his father to convert some of the heaviest timber country in Indiana into a productive farm, and this work occupied his attention to the exclusion of other matters. Naturally, his education was neglected, and the time that he spent in the Indiana district schools would not amount to one term of schooling under the present system in Kansas. After he was fifteen years of age he only attended three months. His father had entered the army when Edmond C. was but fifteen years old, and as the lad was the mainstay of the family, he had to work hard and continuously. Later, when peace was declared and his father returned from the army, he refused to attend school, feeling that he was then too old to enter the schoolroom as a pupil. Mr. Helvie continued to reside in Delaware County, Indiana, until 1885, in which year he came to Kansas and to Lane County, being at Wakeeney waiting to file on his homestead on November election day of that year. Mr. Helvie first filed on the northeast quarter of section 14, township 20, range 28, and after being on this land for almost a year proved up by commuting, and his first land in Kansas was on that property. This home comprised a dugout back in the bank, with a sod front, and was a single 12 by 14 foot room, with dirt floor and plank roof sodded over. While working in Indiana he had accumulated $2,400, which he brought with him to Kansas, but from the first ill luck pursued him and he never made a dollar until after his original capital was gone, and this in spite of the fact that he worked industriously at whatever honorable employment was to be found, digging wells, building sod houses, doing carpenter work and accepting jobs of plastering. When he moved from his original homestead Mr. Helvie pre-empted a quarter section, and traded his relinquishment thereon for a team of horses. Prior to this he owned a team of oxen, and these, like his horses, had been secured on a relinquishment or as a trade therefor, he having filed on a tree claim in Wallace County, which he did not prove up. Before he had ever seen his team of horses he had them sold for $200. Mr. HeIvie was a farmer, or rather tried to farm, and dug a well to pay for his first breaking on the farm. The second year he planted this ten acres to corn and on July 4 had as handsome a piece of corn land as has ever been seen. His neighbor offered to gather it for him and to take in payment all that it made over forty bushels to the acre, but he declined the offer, an action which he almost immediately sorely regretted, as the next day the hot wind struck the corn and there was never enough of it to make a mess of roasting ears. Mr. Helvie, hoping to save a part, cut it up and bundled it and stacked it for feed, but it rotted in the stack before it cured, and was thus a total loss.

With the $2,400 which he had brought with him Mr. Helvie, purchased cattle. The prices on stock were even then going down, but Mr. Helvie secured them for less than they had been bringing and thought he had made a bargain. When he got them home his well had dried up and he put his windmill on his neighbor's well, but that also failed. In desperation, he bought off a settler who had an apparently good spring which promised plenty of good water for his stock, but the thirsty animals drank that dry within a week. Mr. Helvie's next move was to buy a farm at a sheriff's sale which had a creek through it and plenty of water holes that would swim a cow, but before he was able to get his cattle moved to this property this creek also dried up. With this kind of luck rewarding for years, Mr. Helvie went backward farther and farther, and when cattle went down to $7 per head his losses were most complete. He finally found a place in the bed of a depression that furnished him water, and purchased that quarter of land, which he has developed into a good farm, permanently improved. Mr. Helvie got rid of the cattle with which he had had so much misfortune, but if everything he possessed on earth at that time had been sold he would have lacked $400 of being able to pay his debts. Finally he started growing alfalfa, and after getting a few cows together managed to worry himself out of debt by making butter. Next he borrowed the money to buy forty head of two-year-old heifers at ten dollars per head and thought that he could not lose money on this proposition, but after summering them he was glad to be able to sell them for what he had paid and to throw in the calves as well. In getting out of debt, Mr. HeIvie had worked himself down to a physical shape where his condition was serious, and when he was offered the position of postmaster at Dighton came to this place and started upon the duties of the office. This he held for nearly seven years before resigning, and the salary supported the family. At last Mr. Helvie's luck broke and he began to see things working out in a more encouraging manner. He began adding to his land, making improvements and farming, and with continued success enlarged the scope of his operations more and more until he is now one of the well-to-do and leading agriculturists of his part of the county, owning five quartersections of land, with 430 acres under cultivation. He has an excellent set of improvements, and is having his land cultivated in wheat, alfalfa and pasture by tenants. Instead of being compelled to borrow money and be in debt, Mr. Helvie is now a money-lender himself. One of the incidents of his unsuccessful years, which will serve to show how everything with which he was connected seemed to go wrong, was connected with the purchase of a mowing machine. A number of the farmers of the neighborhood, among them Mr. Helvie and John H. Cavanaugh, decided they were in need of such a machine, and, accordingly all banded together in its purchase. When the machine arrived and was assembled it was found that the little clique of purchasers did not have enough money with which to pay for oil for the new piece of property. The owners were in despair until the wife of one of their number hit upon the happy idea of mixing butter with some other substance and using it as a substitute for oil. This was done and the machine worked after a fashion. The above John Cavanaugh is now cashier of the First National Bank of Dighton.

On March 26, 1892, Mr. Helvie was married in Lane County, Kansas, to Miss Rebecca Hubbell, who came to Kansas from Franklin County, Indiana, where she was born. She died April 15, 1909, and is buried at Muncie, Indiana. Mr. Helvie is a Baptist, belonging to the Dighton congregation.


Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 4 - Table of Contents

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