Orphan to Wealthy Landowner:
the tale of Thomas Helm
William Helm, the father of Thomas
Helm, fell from a horse when he was a young man and sustained an injury
which left him with a crippled leg. He married and had two sons. His son Jacob
Jr. from this first marriage served during the Revolutionary War at the young
age of 15 in place of his father. Jacob Jr. returned home after serving in the
war but found no one at home. Soon his stepmother Mary Ann returned to their home
in Botetourt County, Virginia and informed Jacob Jr. that his father had died
after a tree fell on him as he was helping to clear some land for relatives who
were building a house. Mary Ann had left their 4 sons from this second marriage
with relatives in Pennsylvania. The third of these sons was Thomas Helm.
was sent to live with Jacob and Waltpurgelly Prillaman. They raised Thomas from
the age of 7. In 1794 when Thomas turned 21, Jacob gave him a horse, a saddle,
a bridle, saddle bags and sent him out on his own to make his way in the world.
As he was energetic and industrious he was soon able to purchase a tract of land
and build a modest home. By the age of 45, Thomas had bought 1000 acres of land
originally owned by Jacob Prillaman Sr. Before long, Thomas Helm became the wealthiest
man in Franklin County, Virginia owning around 10,000 acres of land and five plantations
all of which he had paid for with cash. He had 13 children from his 4 marriages.
(His second marriage was to Elizabeth Prillaman, a grandchild of his foster father
Jacob Prillaman, Sr.) When Thomas died in 1854 at the age of 82, he was said to
have $9,000 in his pocket. He is buried in the Old Helm cemetary on a hill across
from State route 462 (about 2 miles west of Calloway, Va.) along with all four
of his wives and his mother.