A few weeks ago while I was at the Historical Society I found the Coroner’s Record. Not as exciting as it sounds but there were a few interesting things in it. It started about 1911 or so and went on up into the 60s, however there were not many entries in the book. From the records I read it appears that the leading cause of death in Morris County in the early 20th century was being hit by a train. Ever since the first tracks were laid people have walked the rails between towns as it was the shortest distance. And it seems a lot of deaf people walked the tracks.
Well, the very next week while I was at the MCHS a Mrs. Adam came in who is researching Helmick. She is taking classes at K-State and is studying the population decrease and demise of towns. Helmick of course is a prime example as nothing remains to hint that there was a town there. Anyway, this lady started to tell me of one of her ancestors that was a deaf mute and I think he lived in Wilsey. He had walked into Council Grove to get his little girl a new pair of shoes. I don’t know if it was on his way there or on the way home he was hit by the train. I remembered reading of a deaf mute being hit on the road between Helmick and Wilsey and I went to get the coroner’s report and produced the page for this lady.
The coroner’s report reads,” Now, to-wit, on this 31st day of July, A.D. 1917, I was notified of the dead body of one O.J. Ashwell lying on the tracks of the Missouri, Pacific Railroad Company between Helmick and Wilsey in said county and whereupon I did immediately go to said place and upon investigation I found that the said person was both deaf and dumb and was walking upon the railroad track when hit; I found that the train crew had done everything possible to avoid the accident by blowing the whistle and attempting to stop the train; the evidence was such that I deemed an inquest unnecessary and made my orders for the disposal of the body.” Signed by coroner B.E. Miller.
Mrs. Adam told me the rest of the story. O.J. Ashwell’s wife was also a deaf mute. The little girl, who never got her new shoes, was eventually taken from her mother and put in a home. A few years after, the son or nephew of Ashwell was hit by a car and died of the same injuries, namely a broken leg and internal damage.
Since I brought up Helmick let’s talk a bit about that. What we know now as Helmick started out as Milton. I do not know when Milton was established but it was in existence in 1886 and is shown on the 1887 Kansas Map. We do not have a whole lot of information on Helmick, but we do have a few pictures in the archives. The pictures are not of a busy little town with crowded streets, although from the plat it appears there were buildings and activity. The three pictures that I am aware of show J. O. Rochat’s flour mill situated beside the tracks. J.O. Rochat was one of Morris County’s early day fiddlers. His fiddle is on display in the Post Office Oak museum.
As Milton was laid out the streets that ran north and south were, from east to west Main, Grant, Logan, Lincoln, and Blaine. The streets running east and west were first and second street. The streets remained the same after the name was changed to Helmick. When this name change happened I am not certain but it is noted on the 1901 plat as Helmick ‘formerly Milton’. The Stener Post Office was and had been located there at least as long as Milton had been established. There was a Methodist Episcopal Church, stock yards, flour mill, hay barn and numerous other businesses and houses in the town. By 1923 the plat shows a line branching off to the south of town to the ‘rock crusher’.
I’ve not been around here long enough to know, but I have been told by those who have been here for a while that there was nothing to be seen of Helmick in the 1950s that would make you think it was once a town. Perhaps Mrs. Adam will be able to add to our history of Helmick and give us a better understanding of what gave birth to the town and why now the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
Addenda October 26th 2012: Stener post office was shown on the town plat, but I have found no evidence of an office by that name in State records. It does show that the Helmick post office was established May 14th of 1887. It closed on November 30th 1907.
I suppose the list of post offices could be incomplete as we have evidence of ‘Beond Bend’ post office in Morris County. From the CG Rep 1954: “A collector’s item, which is almost a philatelist’s dream, appears among heirlooms on display in Main street windows this week. It is a postal cancelation by the now abolished “Beond Bend” post office in Morris county. The envelope bears a 2-cent brown stamp and the cancellation date of Jan. 4, 1888. It is the property of O. L. Burnett.” Other than this little snip in the paper, we know nothing of Beond Bend post office.