Francis T Helm

Francis Taliaferro Helm


Information comes from the family files at the Campbell County Historical Society

Francis Taliaferro Helm, the first mayor of Newport, was born Oct 1790 at Green Level, Caroline County, Virginia and was the son of Capt. William Helm, of Caroline County, Va., an officer in the Revolutionary army, and the owner of large estates in Virginia, among which were "Greenlevel", "Epsom" and "Blenham".  Francis was first a midshipman in the navy, then exchanged into the army, and  commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Thirteenth Infantry, in the War of 1812. commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Thirteenth Infantry, in the War of 1812.  While in the army he carried a challenge to fight a duel to Major Carney, who  declined to fight his principal, and Mr. Helm took his place, and was  so seriously wounded in the hip as to cripple him and incapacitate him  from military service; he then resigned. 

In 1815 in Steuben County, New York, he married Sarah Bankhead McKinney Carney, daughter of Major John T. Carney, an officer who served under Gen. Lafayette, and enjoyed his personal friendship.  Francis and Sarah settled in Newport in 1818. 

Citizens of Newport gained the right to choose trustees through annual elections in 1818.  But it wasn't until an 1834 amendment to the town charter created the office of mayor, which was also elective on a yearly basis and established the ward system.  He served as mayor 1834-38 and again 1839-45.

Children of Francis Taliaferro Helm and Sarah Bankhead McKinney Carney

1. Charles John Helm-born at Hornellsville, Steuben Co., NY June 20, 1817; m-Louisa Whistler 1854, died 26 Feb 1868 in Havana Cuba; buried in Newport Cemetery in Southgate
2. Algernon Helm-born Newport
3. Hubbard Dozier Helm-born 21 Feb 1821 Newport, m-Elisabeth S 1845; died 12 Sep 1885
4. William Helm-born Newport
7. Matilda T Helm-born 1830 in Newport; d-St Louis Missouri; m-Thomas D Ford; daughter Sallie Ford b-1854 in Missouri
6. James Taliaferro Helm b-1833 in Newport

Children of Charles John Helm and Louisa Whistler

1. Charles John Helm b-11 Oct 1855 in St Thomas West Indies; d-19 Sep 1903 in Highlands; br-18 Nov in Evergreen; m-Anna Mannville Webster July 1876
2. Louisa Helm b-31 Oct 1864 in Havana Cuba
2. William Whistler Helm b-2 Sep 1867 in Niagara Town Canada; d-29 Sep 1906 in North Carolina; br-2 Oct in Evergreen

On January 1, 1823, Helm and James B Taliaferro rented the Grant & Company in Salt Works in Grants Lick. They mortgaged to the company "two yoke of oxen; one red one, a black one, a red one with white face with horn off, and the other a red one.  Also one red cow, one blind brown horse called Sampson and also another small brown horse called Dugout."  He was also an amateur scientist who reputedly spent a small fortune trying to perfect a perpetual motion machine.

Newport's lyceum, a hall for presenting public lectures or other adult education, also accumulated a library.  The town's lyceum dated from March 1832.  A dozen leading citizens including Helm donated books, manuscripts and funds for its operation.

One of the responsibilities of Mayor Helm was dealing with the city's sense of manly demeanor that considered dueling as an appropriate response for serious affronts to oneself. Families sent their young sons to Mayor Helm to be instructed in the etiquette of issuing and accepting challenges.  Helm was a daily reminder that dueling thrived in his community, for he hobbled along the wooden sidewalks with an ominous, crippled gait that he had earned in an affair of honor.  Having once been second to a man who did not promptly appear at the designated moment, Helm took his principal's places, as the code demanded, and was shot by a bullet that lamed him for life.

 He was the city of Newport postmaster for many years.  His wife Sarah died Dec 26, 1871 in Louisville.  Francis died in St. Louis in 1873 while on a visit to his daughter, Matilda Helm Ford. 

Return to Newport Officials