From Orphan to Wealthy Landowner:
the tale of Thomas Helm

Jacob 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.

Thomas 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.