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Helmer family papers

Identifier: 00150

Scope and Contents

Though the collection spans the period 1865-1910, the bulk of the documents covers the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. The collection includes the papers of Andrew Helmer, the personal papers of William Helmer and the financial papers of William Helmer. The papers of Andrew Helmer comprise the smallest portion of the collection. The journals record various aspects and costs of raising sheep. One account ledger records household expenditures. The two volumes dealing with raising horses include pedigrees, foaling and stud records.

William Helmer's personal papers contain a diary, information on farm machinery, and bookkeeping exercises. The diary gives an account of a three-day wagon trip from Battle Creek to Greenville, Michigan. The bookkeeping exercises demonstrate work with cashbooks, balance sheets, ledgers and journals.

The largest segment of the collection is the financial records of William Helmer. These papers present a detailed account of Helmer's farm operation and financial condition. The cashbooks record daily expenses including labor used on the farm, particularly chopping wood during the winter. The journals also record the wood cut and sold. The milk records provide a complete account of Helmer's diary operation, from breeding, through production to distribution. The vegetable sales ledgers present a daily accounting while the fruit sales ledgers are not as extensive.


  • Creation: 1865 - 1911

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Andrew Helmer (born 1827) moved with his family from Otsego County, New York, to Battle Creek Township, Calhoun County, Michigan, in 1844. His parents, Philip Helmer Jr., and Sarah (nee Woodburn) died later that same year. Andrew, the oldest child, raised his brother John and sister on the 80-acre homestead filed by their father. John Helmer (1836-1911) became a druggist and successful businessman in Battle Creek. In 1854, Andrew married Marcia L. Andrus (born 1834). After several moves they settled, in 1856, on an 160-acre farm in the southeast quarter of section 9, Battle Creek Township. Andrew and Marcia had five children: Harriet, Frank (who died in childhood) William A., Nellie A., and Mattie.

Andrew Helmer was a general farmer, growing produce and fruit as well as raising sheep. He sold his surplus in the city of Battle Creek. Helmer was a successful farmer and accomplished businessman and served as a six term township supervisor. He and his wife retired from farming in 1890 and moved to live with his son. Though he lived on his son's farm, Helmer continued to breed horses.

William A. Helmer (1859-circa 1920) grew up on his father's farm. Trained in bookkeeping practices, he kept detailed records of his own farming operations. These began in 1878 when his father permitted him to farm several acres of the family farm. By 1890, William owned his own 140-acre farm in section 4 of Battle Creek Township, just north of his father's farm. He built his farming operation to include the wholesale distribution of his milk, fruits and vegetables (especially celery during the period 1900-1910). By 1910 he was selling his produce in Battle Creek as well as shipping it to Ohio, Illinois and Iowa. William never married.


2 Cubic Feet (, 30 volumes in box)

Language of Materials



Arranged into five series: 1. Papers of Andrew Helmer. 2. Personal Papers of William A. Helmer. 3. Financial Records of William A. Helmer. 4. Postcards. 5. Stereocards.

Custodial History

Gift of Donald R. Stilson, 1957-10-08.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Helmer Family Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
R. Harms
September 1981
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US