Kent County Biographies
Names A to E
Names F to O
Names P to Z
Railway Officials in America 1906
Henry Helsel. - This old pioneer of Algoma was born in Washington county, Pa., July 27, 1818. His father, John
Helsel, was also a native of Pennsylvania, and removed to Trumbull Co., O. when Henry was but a small boy. He was
brought up on a farm, and worked very hard. His educational advantages were very limited, as his parents were poor.
He attended a subscription school for a short time, which was taught in a small log cabin containing a few slab
benches. In 1845, when Algoma was a wilderness, Mr. Helsel ventured among the Indians and wild animals, and settled
in this town on sec. 21, T. 9 N., of R. 11 west, The indians were his only neighbors, and the wild animals, such
as the bear and deer, furnished meat. There were also panthers and wolves in great quantity here at that early
day. During the first year of his pioneer life Mr. Helsel carried his provisions from Plainfield, a distance of
seven miles. He began life here with "five half-dollars" as his cash capital. He located on his land
in the fall, where no clearing was done. He cleared five acres, sowed it in wheat the next year, without plowing,
and raised 26 bushels to the acre. He afterward raised 48 bushels of wheat to the acre in the same manner.
Mr. Helsel tells us of an interesting bear chase of early times. They ran the bear for 18 miles in the woods, and
finally caught it. Night overtook them and they lost their way, but succeeded in reaching home late in the night.
The next day four men went to bring the meat home, and returned about nine o'clock that night. On one occasion
when returning from Plainfield in the evening, some animals (supposed to be wolves) ran him up a tree, where he
remained for three hours, until the moon rose, when the wolves slunk away. He then descended and made his way home
with quickened pace. Panthers were very bold in those days. One followed Mrs. Helsel to the door of their cabin.
Mr. Helsel was married May 15, 1845, to Miss Julia A. Flelsel, by whom he has had 13 children; of these 10 are
living, viz.: Noah F., Jeremiah, Darius, Ambirth, James L., Otis, Zoa, Cleon, Frankie and Zachariah. Jeremiah and
Darius are married. Mr. Iletsel is one of the few pioneers now left to tell the tale of their hardships and privations
in preparing the way for the prosperity of future generations.
History of Kent County, Michigan
Chas C. Chapman & Company