Milton a.k.a Helmick

Town plat for Milton as it appears in the 1886 Kansas Atlas. (Courtesy Morris County Historical Society.)

Quite some time back we learned a little bit about Helmick.  One thing we did not learn at that time was the beginning of Helmick and why it was first named Milton.  I have learned a lot more since working on the book Morris County, which by the way is scheduled for publication the last week of January 2014.  As I had mentioned in the previous article on Helmick, Janet Adam was working on a paper about it for Kansas State University.  Janet has since completed her paper and it is available in hard copy at the Morris County Historical Society or can be read online by searching Wilsey vs. Helmick A Twin Town Rivalry.

In 1878 circuit riding preacher John W. Helmick of Illinois purchased 320 acres from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad about six miles west and a little south of Council Grove. He continued to live in the Land of Lincoln until 1886 when it appears he moved to Morris County and built a house on his 320 acres.  That year, 1886, he platted a town site and named it after his son Milton P. Helmick; hence the origin of the town Milton that preceded Helmick.  Although I do not know for certain, I presume that the Topeka, Salina and Western railroad was Helmick’s incentive for platting a town site at that time.

The reverse of this photo reads, “House built by Mr. Helmick. Mr. and Mrs. Quince Dains lived in the house from 1913 until 1964.” (Courtesy of Morris County Historical Society.)

From the Council Grove Republican Friday October 30th 1903 we read, “Dedication at Helmick-The new Methodist church at Helmick will be dedicated next Sunday forenoon, November 1st, with services beginning at 10:30, President Murlin, of the Baker University, will preach the sermon.  Evening service at 7:30. Everybody invited.”  Information from Janet Adam’s paper leads me to believe there was another church prior to the one mentioned in the above article.   Although there is no documentation at present, oral traditions seem to support that Reverend Helmick had built a Methodist church and preached there until he moved to Baldwin City around 1895.  After that, neighboring pastors tended to services at Helmick.  The Methodist church at Helmick was closed in 1925 and the building moved to Wilsey where it was added to the parsonage of the Wilsey Methodist Episcopal Church.

Milton P. continued at Helmick for awhile after the turn of the century and was active in business and real estate in the town.  Another figure that shaped the fortunes of Helmick was James H. Smart.  He was born in Wisconsin but we find him living in Council Grove on the 1910 census.  The 1901 plat shows Smart owning 90 acres south of Helmick and by 1923 his property had grown to 220 acres.  Smart started out trading mules and horses and then opened a quarry on his land later installing a rock crusher.  Old-timers from the area tell of Black and Hispanic gangs that worked at the rock quarry or on the railroad.

Some may recall Helmick lake.  James Smart is responsible for the construction of a dam which created this lake.  According to Adam it was built for the refreshment and recreation of Smart’s employees at the quarry.  However, others seem to think that it had a practical purpose as well.  If one walks the prairie around Helmick they might just stumble upon some of the old cables which I was told cut the stone at the quarry.  These cables purportedly ran out to the lake where they were cooled in the water.  Since I don’t know much of the stone cutting business at the turn of the century I cannot verify nor discredit this claim.

One last puzzling bit about Helmick is the post office.  The plat map shows that Stener post office was established there.  I have found no other record of this post and the State certainly doesn’t recognize it existed.  It is very possible the State does not have complete records, for there is one other post office mentioned in Morris County and it is also absent from State records.  I came across Beond Bend post office in a 1954 Council Grove Republican.  It reads, “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.”  We know nothing else of Beond Bend, and since it was only typed once in the article we are not sure if it was actually spelled ‘Beond’ or if the y was simply left out.  If any of my readers have any clue as to where the Beond Bend post office may have been I would love to know!  What we do know is the post office named Helmick was opened May 14th of 1887 and closed November 30th 1907.

And there you have a few more pieces of the great puzzle known as Helmick.