Obituary of Thomas Helm

Obituary of Thomas Helm -- 1854

Departed this life, on the 5th inst. in the county of Franklin, Thomas Helms, at the advanced age of 82 years. He was only 7 years old when his father died. His mother having several other children, and feeling herself unable by her own exertions to raise all of them, bound him out; not to learn a trade, but simply to cultivate the earth. He served his master faithfully until the close of his apprenticeship and then at 21, commenced the world for himself without a cent. As he had nothing he lived very economically; but as his mean expanded he became more liberal. No man knew how to temper his mind to circumstances more completely than he did. So soon as he found it in his power, he purchased a tract of land, built a comfortable house, furnished it decently, and lived as he should do. To all who thought proper to call on him, he was proverbably generous and free. He was certainly "no common man." Nature in her prodigality, rarely, if ever, produced one more energetic or industrious. By on, in describing our "General Boon, backwoodsman of Kentucky" says "he lived hunting up to 90." Not so with our venerable friend, for he never hunted at all--he never wasted time in that way. But it may with truth be said that he lived working up to 80. Often has he labored all day in the harvest field, and then at night, plowed, and did other work "by the light of the moon." He had but a very limited education--nor did he seem to need any--for throughout a long life, the volume of human nature was broadly displayed before him, and he seemed to understand men and things by intuitive perception. It cannot be said that his was an eventful life, yet he had his accidents and narrow escapes. An instance or two may be mentioned. In crossing a furnace dam near Franklin Courthouse his horse took fright and jumped nearly off, precipitating his rider over his head. He fell on the rocks below, a height of at least 20 feet. On looking up he saw that his horse was merely holding on to the edge of the dam by his fore feet. Although unable to rise, he had presence of mind to roll himself out of the way. In an (illegible word) more the horse tumbled down precisely where he had been lying and was crushed to death. Again, not many years since, in walking about some of the stores in Lynchburg, he fell through a trap-door by which he was seriously injured. His friends think that he never entirely recovered from this fall. By it his physical powers were certainly diminished though he lost none of his indomitable energy. Such industry is always surely rewarded. He lived to accumulate a very considerable estate and entirely by his own exertions. He was four times married, but received very little pecuniary aid by any of his wives They brought him nothing but children. He was indifferent about acquiring property in any other way save by his own exertions. This fact is mentioned in no unkindness to those who are gone to their rest, or the one now living and only because it is characteristic of the man. For the last few months it was visible that the hand of disease was upon him, and his iron frame was giving way. He had very little confidence in physic or physicians and very rarely resorted to either. Within a few days of the close of his life he expressed a willingness to do anything which his family might desire. At last his disease assumed a dysenteric form which soon closed the scene and in perfect peace.


(From: Lynchburg Newspaper, dated 24 Nov. 1854, copied at the Roanoke City Public Library.)