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As It Was: Ohio Cabinet Maker, Abel Helman, Settles in Ashland, Ore.

Tales of gold and adventure lured 26-year-old cabinet maker Abel Helman to California, leaving his wife and family behind in Ashland County, Ohio. 

Helman sailed by way of the Isthmus of Panama to California, where he soon gave up on mining and drove a mule team north from Yreka to Salem, Ore.  After acquiring a donation land claim on a major portion of Ashland, including what is now the Plaza, Helman returned to Ohio in 1852 to get his wife and children. 

He and a partner built a saw mill on the banks of Ashland Creek and a flour mill near the town’s plaza.  During the Rogue River Indian wars of 1855 and 1856, Helman was a first lieutenant in the Mountain Rangers of the Oregon Militia.  He was promoted to captain in 1866.

Helman died in 1910 and is buried in Ashland Cemetery at Morton and East Main streets.  The stately family home still graces the corner of Helman and Orange Streets. 

Helman Street and the Helman Elementary School are named after him.  Nearby Almeda Drive is named after a daughter.

Sources: "Abel Helman." Revolvy, https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Abel%20Helman. Accessed 25 Nov. 2017; “Welcome to the Helman Family Homepage! “Abel Dougherty Helman.” Rootsweb, https://www.homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/Helman. Accessed 25 Nov. 2017.

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Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.