book published on Helm,
Mary Todd Lincolns half sister
Todd Helm resided in Madison for many years
(February 2008) In 1866, a Confederate Army
Generals widow, Emilie Todd Helm, moved to Madison, Ind., with
her mother and three children in an effort to escape the harsh post-American
Civil War conditions in her beloved state of Kentucky.
The family had survived the chaos and near poverty of war in the South
and the deaths of many of their male relatives who had fought for the
Confederacy. Madison, with its flourishing community, offered a quiet
opportunity for the family to have a new beginning.
by Konnie McCollum
Dorothy Darnall Jones
spent a year researching
information about Abraham Lincolns
sister-in-law, Emilie Todd Helm.
The Helm family, at one time a prominent family in the
communities of Lexington and Elizabethtown, Ky., was like thousands
of displaced families whose lives were torn apart during the conflict
that separated the nation. There was one fact, however, that made Emilie
Todd Helm different than others in her situation. The war widow, rumored
to have at one point committed treasonable acts against the government,
was the half-sister to Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham
Madison resident Dorothy Darnall Jones uncovered these facts and more
about the little-known war widow and has written Emilie Pariet
Todd Helm: Abraham Lincolns Little Sister. The
book was published by Deer Trail Publishing of Lexington Inc. It sells
for $14.95 and is available online at Barnes & Noble Bookstores
and other major bookstores. Locally, the book is available at the Jefferson
County Historical Society and the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
The book, which discusses Helms life, her family and her relationship
to the Lincolns, is another opportunity for history buffs to learn more
about the famous family as the nations Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration
gets under way in February. Indiana and the rest of America will honor
Abraham Lincolns 200th birthday (Feb. 12, 2009), with a celebration
that will last through 2010.
Helm first met Abraham Lincoln in 1847, when he was a member of Congress,
when he took Mary home to see her family before she was established
in Washington for the winter. When Lincoln met the young girl, he remarked,
So this is Little Sister. Thereafter, according to research,
he always called Helm Little Sister.
When the Civil War began, Lincoln offered Benjamin Hardin Helm the job
of army paymaster in the Union Army, but he declined. Instead, he became
a Confederate general and was killed in the battle at Chickamauga, Ga.,
Jones, 80, was working as a docent giving tours at an historic home
at 610 W. Main St., in Madison. The home had been listed in numerous
brochures as the home of Emilie Todd Helm, widow of Brig. Gen. Benjamin
Hardin Helm, Confederate States of American, and half sister of Mary
Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. She was answering questions
from visitors about the widow when she realized she really didnt
have any information about Emilie Todd Helm, herself. I became
intrigued with who Emilie was and what her history was, said Jones,
a retired home economics teacher.
Jones spent more than a year diligently researching Helms
history and was encouraged by several people to write a book about her.
I can hardly believe that at age 80, I sent for a copyright to
a book I wrote, she said.
Others that know Jones dont find that so unusual for her, though.
Dorothy Jones is a ball of fire, said Ken Knouf, site manager
for the Jefferson Proving Ground. Knouf read over the manuscript several
times for Jones and helped put her in contact with Ron Harsin, owner
of Deer Trails Publishing.
Everyone could learn from her, he said. She made a
goal and then went for it; she is a great role model.
Besides writing a book, Jones is an active member of the Jefferson County
Civil War Roundtable and a docent at several historic sites, including
the Sullivan House and the Jefferson County Historical Society. She
is also an active member at Christ Episcopal Church and works out at
Fit for the King gym several days a week. You have to stay active,
she said. Staying involved helped me to deal with the death of
my husband. Jones was married for 54 years to Marsh H. Jones,
who died in 2004.
During the past year, Jones traveled throughout the area giving speeches
to schoolchildren and history groups on Helm. She said she has also
been asked to portray Helm during the 2009 Madison Bicentennial Celebration.
Jones said two book signings are in the works for the local area. One
will be at the Jefferson County Historical Society, and the other will
be at the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those dates have
yet to be announced.
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