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As It Was: Baby Survives Fall from Father’s Ashland Flour Mill


Pioneer Abel Helman built Ashland, Oregon’s Flouring Mill in 1854, the same year his wife, Martha, gave birth to their son, John.  One day after lunch, Helman took the 15-month-old boy to work with him.  The mother planned to meet them later at the flour mill.

Arriving at the mill, a three-story building near the entrance of today’s Lithia Park, Helman lay his son down on some flour sacks on the second floor and then hurried downstairs to greet arriving customers.  The baby crawled to a large opening on the second floor and fell 15 feet to the ground below. 

Helman picked up the unconscious child and started walking briskly home.  At the edge of today’s plaza, he met his wife and her friend on their way to the mill.  The friend quickly took the baby and waded into Ashland Creek, where she splashed water on the boy’s face to revive him. 

Baby John survived the fall, but suffered from partial paralysis for the rest of his life.  He lived to be 76, and raised his own family on part of his parents’ original land claim in north Ashland.

Source: Schut, Alan. "Oral History Interview With Mrs. Almeda H. Coder." Southern Oregon Historical Society, 10 Aug. 1977.Southern Oregon Digital Archives. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.