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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Herman Helms' Cabinet of Curiosities
Jackson County's first museums.

Cabinet of Curiosities, Table Rock Saloon, Jacksonville, Oregon
The cabinet in the Table Rock Saloon, Jacksonville, Oregon.

    Messrs. Helms & Wintjen have on exhibition at their saloon a potato which weighs three pounds. It was raised by Frank Smith, of Applegate.
Willamette Farmer, December 17, 1875, page 6


TABLE ROCK SALOON,
OREGON STREET,
WINTJEN & HELMS, Proprietors.
The proprietors of this well-known and popular resort would inform their friends and the public generally that a complete and first-class stock of the best brands of liquors, wines, cigars, ale and porter, etc., is constantly kept on hand. They will be pleased to have their friends "call and smile."
CABINET.
    A Cabinet of Curiosities may also be found here. We would be pleased to have persons possessing curiosities and specimens bring them in, and we will place them in the Cabinet for inspection.
WINTJEN & HELMS,
    Jacksonville, Aug. 5, 1874.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 19, 1877, page 1


    Our old friend Helms has a fine saloon, the Table Rock, which he keeps in tip-top style. His liquors are good and his cigars No. 1; he has a fine cabinet of curiosities which will well repay an inspection.
"A Clever Notice," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 19, 1877, page 1


    To Mrs. Judge Prim and daughter, Hon. A. C. Jones and wife and Mrs. G. T. Vining we are especially indebted for courteous hospitalities. Also to Mr. Hermann Helms for valuable relics from his cabinet of geological specimens. Indeed, Mr. Helms has one of the most interesting cabinets in the world, but as he had a rattlesnake skin in most conspicuous view we didn't stop to investigate things very closely.
"The Switzerland of America," State Rights Democrat, August 10, 1877, page 2

Table Rock Saloon Cabinet of Curiosities, April 23, 1879 Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, April 23, 1879, page 1.
This ad ran in the Sentinel as late as December 16, 1886.

STUDY FOR THE GEOLOGIST.
    We have seen many collections of curiosities in Oregon--many cabinets--but the last we looked upon is Wintjen & Helms' in the town of Jacksonville. In the cabinet there are many specimens which require study on the part of the naturalist--many to puzzle the historian--a great deal for the geologist to ponder over. We cannot catalogue the collection. We must content ourself with a passing notice of some of the main articles, and leave the remainder for the seek-after [of] the strange and unaccountable to gaze upon. And every visitor to Jacksonville will declare the collection to be the best in the state. In it we found beautiful stalactites from the Williams Creek cave [i.e., Oregon Caves], the point of interest in the county to the pleasure-seeker; a piece of the skull of the counterfeiter Moore who was strangely killed, a half inch in thickness; four-legged chickens, and double-headed turkeys; monte cards in buckskin with coins found in an Indian grave; spearheads of flint, measuring from eight to nine inches in length and differing from all but those in use by the South Sea islanders; pieces of petrified salmon and trout, the latter showing images photographed of the trees bordering the stream in which the fish once defied the skill of the angler; relics of Capt. Jack's camp; a collection of old and valuable coins; the tusk of the mastodon and mammoth; the head and horns, in fine state of preservation, of a greater ox than the world is now acquainted with--measuring eighteen inches in width across the smaller part of the skull--and showing a thickness of three inches through the bone; a hundred geological specimens, and among the rest a gold nugget found in the claim of Helms & Koster, on Foots Creek, valued at six or seven hundred. Only Prof. Condon can do the collection justice, and were he to the matter contained [illegible] subject, and deliver a public lecture, our people would enjoy a rare and instructive intellectual treat. As the proprietors are obliging gentlemen, and always willing to explain everything with which they are acquainted, an examination of the cabinet will always repay anyone for the trouble--Roseburg Independent.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, June 27, 1879, page 4


    H. V. Helms has sent his six-pound nugget to San Francisco to be exhibited at the Mechanics' Fair.

"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, September 17, 1879, page 3


    One day last week L. B. Stark saw his dog have what appeared to be a human hand, and taking it away has placed it in Wintjen & Helms' cabinet where it can be seen.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 30, 1881, page 3


    A specimen of the fine peaches raised on Herman Helms' place in town can be seen at the Table Rock Saloon. They are large and luscious and the earliest in the market.

"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 4, 1885, page 3


TABLE ROCK SALOON AND CABINET, Wintjen & Helms proprietors, a fine cabinet of minerals, fossils, odd and ancient coins, petrifactions and curiosities
McKenney's Pacific Coast Directory for 1886-7, page 1014


    The tourist will find Jacksonville a pleasant, hospitable, orderly town. A visit to Herbert Helms' cabinet of ores, minerals and fossils will form a pleasant interlude of his stay. . . .
The West Shore, June 1, 1888, page 24


    Robert Westrop found a relic of ancient days on Rogue River, a short time since, in the shape of a petrified Indian war club. It can be seen at the saloon of Wintjen & Helms.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, January 23, 1891, page 3

Herman Helms presiding in the Table Rock Saloon, Jacksonville, Oregon
Herman Helms presiding in the Table Rock Saloon, Jacksonville, Oregon

    He had a peculiar fascination for curios and collected one of the finest little museums in the state, embracing fossils of a wide variety unearthed by miners, a large collection of Indian relics from all over the coast, rich mineral specimens of every character, curious coins, and in fact everything of a curious and interesting character that came within his reach. The collection is estimated to be worth $10,000.
"Death of Hermann Helms," Ashland Tidings, June 22, 1899, page 3


    Last Friday noon Professor A. B. Cordley and Professor E. R. Lake, of the State Agricultural College at Corvallis, arrived at Jacksonville to take part in the fruitgrowers convention that was held Saturday in this place. During the first part of the afternoon the professors were shown by K. K. Kubli the historic points of interest about town and the fine collection of Indian relics and curios in the Table Rock Saloon that is one of the best collections on the Pacific Coast and which was collected by the late H. Helms and added to by his sons Edward and Harry.
"Some Entertaining and Instructive Drives," Jacksonville Sentinel, September 11, 1903, page 5


Pioneers Want Museum.
    MEDFORD, Or., Sept. 14.--The annual meeting of the Southern Oregon Pioneer Society will be held at Jacksonville on September 22.
    A proposition will be considered to establish at Jacksonville a museum of pioneer relics. The Native Daughters are back of the effort and their plan is to build a log cabin similar to the first one erected in Jacksonville in March, 1852, and to furnish it with a fireplace and the primitive furniture and relics of pioneer days. There is ample material in the pioneer homes of Rogue River Valley to make the museum a most interesting feature.
Oregonian, Portland, September 15, 1910, page 9


    Go to Helms' saloon and you will see some of the memories of the early days in his cabinet, old guns and revolvers that have killed their man, cartoons and caricatures of Lincoln, wartime souvenirs, Indian curios and other flotsam and jetsam of the early days.

Fred Lockley, "The Passing of Beekman's Bank," Oregon Journal, Portland, October 6, 1912, page 53


    PIONEER MUSEUM AT JACKSONVILLE CLOSES IN MONTH
    Ed Helms' place in Jacksonville, which has been open for business every day the law allows since 1852 [Hermann Helms arrived in Jackson County in 1858], will close October 19th, the date upon which its license expires, after 52 years of operation. The place is one of the pioneer landmarks of Jackson County, and its four walls shelter a relic history of the days when the Rogue River Valley was young to man, and Jacksonville was at the height of its glory. The place was first opened by Wintjen & Helms, and handed down to the son, Ed Helms, who is now in charge.
    In the early days the building was the meeting place and center of life in this section. After t
he gold excitement passed it was the gathering place of Saturdays for the entire Rogue River Valley. Here also came the prospectors to spend the gold they wrested from the earth.
    A collection of pioneer relics, valued at $50,000, is on display in the building. It is little known. The first piece of gold found at Jacksonville is on display. A photo of three men hanged by vigilantes at Yreka, and a piece of rope with which the job was done, is also in the collection. The first pool tables ever set up on the Pacific Coast, transported around the Horn by water to Eureka and packed into Jacksonville on the backs of burros [mules] is another of the attractions. [It seems very unlikely that no pool tables were imported to California before 1852.] Every possible manner of relic is on exhibition, mutely telling pages in the early history of Jackson County.
    The disposition of this valuable contribution to pioneer life has not been decided upon. It would be an excellent addition in the exhibit building of the Medford Commercial Club.
Medford Mail Tribune,
September 21, 1914, page 2


HISTORIC BAR TO CLOSE OCT. 19
    The Ed Helms bar in the quaint old city of Jacksonville will close its doors for the first time since 1852 next October 19, at which time its license expires. The place is owned and operated by Ed Helms, who fell heir to it upon the death of his father. The reason for closing the historic place is because Mr. Helms no longer wishes to operate it.
    When mining operations were in full swing in southern Oregon, the resort was widely popular.
    Although little known, during these years relics were placed away in the rear to afterwards mutely tell the tales of the pioneer days. The collection is now valued at $50,000.
    Upon entering the first thing to draw one's attention is an old English billiard and pool table that now stands where in the early days card tables and shell games stood. It was the first to be shipped to the coast. There are only two of its kind in the state, the other being in McCredie's billiard parlor in Portland. Relics of all description are to be seen there, and it behooves one to take a last look before the doors are closed.
    Occasionally old pioneers of the county seat gather at the saloon and sit around the roaring blaze and relate tales of the past and contribute valuable stories to the history of pioneer life. It is probable that on October 18 many will once more gather there and celebrate in memory of the historic building, whose walls, if they could speak, would tell many a tale.
Medford Sun, September 22, 1914


JACKSON LANDMARK TO GO
Historic Saloon in Jacksonville Holding Great Relics to Close.
    MEDFORD, Or., Sept. 22--(Special.)--One of the most interesting landmarks in Jackson County will be removed October 9, when Ed Helms will close the Helms saloon in Jacksonville. This establishment dates back to 1852, when it was opened by Helms & Wintjen in the mining boom. For years the place was the social and political headquarters in Southern Oregon; court decisions were made there; it was the scene of trials, and business deals were transacted there.
    A collection of pioneer relics valued at $25,000 is on display in the building. These include the first piece of gold found in Jackson County; a photograph of three murderers hanged by the vigilantes near Yreka, Cal., in the '60s, and a piece of the rope used by the lynchers; the first pool tables ever set up on the Pacific Coast, sent around the Horn to Eureka and packed to Jacksonville; Indian relics, pioneer firearms and many freaks of nature found by prospectors in the hills.
    No decision has been reached as to what will be done with these relics, but it is probable they will be lent for exhibition purposes to the Medford Commercial Club. The reason for closing the saloon is not given other than that the license expires October 9.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, September 23, 1914, page 5


HELMS' INDIAN RELICS AT FAIR
    The best of the relics in the Ed Helms collection, now in the pioneer bar at Jacksonville, will be sent to the 1915 fair, as a feature of the southern Oregon exhibit, according to plans under way. Among the collection is a bow and arrow said to have been used by Captain Jack of the Modocs in his early-day raids, and a piece of the rope with which the first lynching in this section was negotiated. Many other interesting curios comprise the collection, including a dozen or so freak growths of wood. A mastodon tusk found on the Applegate years ago is another relic. Steps will be taken to interest the proper authorities in the proposed display.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 30, 1914, page 2


HELMS' HISTORIC SALOON CLOSES
    The key will be turned for the last time tonight at 12 o'clock in the Ed Helms' [sic] at Jacksonville, after over half a century of business life, and one of the pioneer landmarks of southern Oregon will have passed. There will be no flourish at the finale. The start was made with all the ceremony and cheer, prosperity and plenty [that] gold could give.
    The collection of relics which form a part of the history of Jackson County will be left intact, and it is possible arrangements will be made whereby they will be moved to this city to exhibit. The curios include the bow and arrow used by Captain Jack of the Modoc, an Indian terror of early days, and a piece of the rope that was used by the first vigilante committee in southern Oregon.
    Ed Helms, who has operated the bar in recent years, will retire from business.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 19, 1914, page 6



GRIZZLIES TO VISIT CURIOSITY SHOP
    The Grizzlies and their friends will take the 1:00 train Sunday afternoon for Jacksonville, and visit the remarkable collection of E. E. Helms, which has been accumulated during the last fifty years. It consists principally of pioneer curiosities and mineral specimens. But other antique relics are also to be found in the museum.
    For example, there are coins from various foreign countries, Indian tools, worn-out wooden shoes from Hanover, a large variety of animal horns, Chinese scales, old revolvers, a fine sample of a mastodon tooth, ropes used in hanging horse thieves and photographs of the smiles of the first flirts during the mining period.
    The collection is undoubtedly of great human interest, because in the early pioneer days Helms' place was the social and political center of southern Oregon. Even from a religious standpoint, it played a conspicuous part, as it is a well-known fact that the saloon element was largely instrumental in building the Methodist Church in Jacksonville. For nearly seventy years the same family ran the saloon, and it was only closed a couple of years ago by the present owner.
    By special arrangement Mr. Helms will entertain the visitors next Sunday and show them the collection in detail. The mayor of Jacksonville, Emil Britt, is expected to give them the freedom of the city for about one hour, and then escort the party out of the ancient burg toward the mountain.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 16, 1915, page 3


    A few years back, when Helms' saloon was running, we had a fine collection of relics, open to the public, but now the doors are closed and if a stranger comes our way, looking for the famous relics he has heard so much about, it requires a special act of the legislature to open the doors.
"Did It Ever Occur to You?" Jacksonville Post, October 18, 1919, page 1


    At the official opening of the Jacksonville museum of pioneer relics last night in the historic U.S. Hotel, attended by 300 people from all parts of Jackson County, Governor Walter M. Pierce was the principal speaker and guest of honor at the banquet. . . .
    The pioneer collection now consists principally of the Pelton and Helms collections, and contains relics of practically every phase of early-day life in this section. A number who attended the meeting last night promised to furnish additional relics. The collection is now rated as the most complete in the state.
"Gov. Pierce Laughs at His Recall," Medford Mail Tribune, April 28, 1925, page 1

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Interesting Collection of Relics and Curios.
    One of the show windows of Paulson's Elkhorn Cigar Store was surrounded by an interested crowd of spectators all day on the 4th, and is still being examined by people whose attention is arrested by its unique appearance. It is filled with a collection of historic relics and mementos of wars and aboriginal life, and a variety of curios that are worth seeing. A respectable number of the articles, owned by Paulson, C. C. Walker and others, were placed in the window, and people who saw the idea of the display began to contribute other things for the purpose, until a large collection of much interest was made. Following is supposed to be a nearly complete list:
    A rifle belonging to D. P. Walrad, carried in the Revolutionary War by his grandfather; a Colt's rifle plowed up by B. L. Kingsbury in his field seven miles south of Ashland; Wm. Otto's cabinet of minerals and curios; deer's head, killed and mounted by Barriss and Shaw; an old flintlock pistol; Allen pepperbox pistol, Chas. Blake's; a Modoc pistol with the cartridges rusted fast in the cylinder, found in the Lava Beds and presented to Sheriff Pelton by G. H. Hayes; Sioux gun case, handsomely beaded; Indian slung-shot [sic], owned by J. W. O. Gregory; Rogue River Indian war club; shackles, scalping knives, arrow points; Mexican War saber and Capt. Jack's handcuffs, owned by Marshal Smith; Modoc bow and quiver, Will Grubb's; Pit River Indian bow and quiver, Geo. Andrews; knife found on the field of the Custer massacre; Nez Perce medicine charm bag; a Sioux medicine bag, owned by Capt. Isaac Carpenter who was captured twice by the Sioux and Snakes, first time below Ft. Kearny; Indian pipes, Columbia pipe stone; Modoc pestle and mortar; Sioux pipe and an Alaska swan's breastbone, Mrs. Tolman; baskets and children's toy papoose in case made by Klamaths, Mrs. Ralph; African elephant tusk, Mrs. Ralph; obsidian fish knives; block of Minnesota pipe clay, J. T. Bowditch; petrified wood from Kaolin Mountain, C. C. Walker; an Indian's autobiography; specimens from Klamath River cave; old-fashioned trick hobbles; snake rattles, Geo. Andrews; four-footed quail, Lester High; Confederate $5 bill; miniature Alaska bidarky, Mrs. Tolman.
Ashland Tidings, July 8, 1892, page 3


CRAZY MAN SHOOTS HIS WIFE AND KILLS HIMSELF
    Portland, Ore., Jan. 8.--Frederick B. Martin, until recently city salesman of the Portland branch of the Pacific Biscuit Company, today shot and slightly wounded his wife, shot to death Miss Emma Helms, his sister-in-law, and then sent a bullet into his own head. Family troubles are alleged to have been the cause of the deed. The tragedy took place at "The Ella," a fashionable boarding house at the corner of Ella and Washington streets, of which Mrs. Martin is the proprietress. According to boarders at the house, the married life of the couple had been at times stormy, but the couple did not separate until Martin's discharge from the biscuit company a few months ago, and his sudden departure for California after his discharge. Recently he returned to Portland and his wife refused to live with him. This refusal Martin attributed to the interference of Miss Helms. This afternoon at about 4:30 Martin went to the Ella and effected admission to the place, unknown to Mrs. Martin. He entered his wife's apartments and a few minutes later the shooting of Mrs. Martin and Miss Helms occurred. Martin then went to the basement, where he turned the revolver upon himself. What transpired before the shooting is not yet known. Mrs. Martin, who is the only one who knows, is suffering from hysteria. The families of both Martin and his wife are well known Southern Oregon people, Mrs. Martin's father having been a wealthy pioneer of Jacksonville. Martin's family came from Ashland, Oregon; his brother-in-law is the son of Max Pracht, a politician well known on this coast and in Washington, D.C.
Sanders County Ledger, Thompson, Montana, January 11, 1907, page 1



GARDNER EXPLAINS J'VILLE MUSEUM IDEA TO PORTLAND
    Score one for Jacksonville, Ore., one of the early gold camps of Oregon, a camp which was lively and producing before the excitement of '49 was over in California. "Jacksonville," explained O. A. Gardner, judge of Jackson County, at the Imperial, "has a chamber of commerce which is planning a work in which all Oregon will be interested. It intends establishing a museum wherein will be preserved the early history records of Southern Oregon in particular and Oregon in general. I intend seeing George H. Himes of the Oregon Historical Society about it before I return home. Jacksonville has many interesting relics of the early days. Everyone who has visited Jacksonville has been struck by some of these. Jacksonville had the first billiard table in the Oregon country--a table twice as large as those manufactured today. The table was transported in sections on pack horses from Crescent City, Cal. There are scores of articles which recall pioneer times, and these are to be assembled. We have enough to start a good museum, and others will be added. Pioneer families will contribute articles. The chamber is thinking of using the old U.S. Hotel, a brick structure, and altering it for museum purposes, and an architect has volunteered to make the plans." Judge Gardner says that the road from Medford to Crater Lake will be all completed but half a dozen miles this year, and this gap will be graded but not surfaced. The section which was so dusty in the past that the county had to keep sprinkling wagons on it is now rock surfaced.--Portland Oregonian.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 16, 1923, page 6


SARGENT MUSEUM TO BE OPENED FOR PIONEER REUNION
    Mrs. H. H. Sargent of Jacksonville has bought an old brick building in Jacksonville which she intends to convert into a museum where she will place on exhibit the fine collection of curios which she and Colonel Sargent collected on their extensive travels. One or two other collectors intend to add their treasures, thus making a valuable display which will be quite complete in some departments, particularly in Indian curios. Some interest attaches to the old building that Mrs. Sargent has bought. It is a brick structure [the Brunner Building] that dates back to 1853. The early settlers were at one time fortified in this building as a safeguard against the Indians. It is definitely known that the building is one of the earliest ones in Jacksonville, and it is said to be one of the earliest brick structures in the state. Mrs. Sargent deserves much credit in this matter, as she has given liberally of her time and money to preserve this landmark and expects to become custodian of the collection, keeping it open two days out of the week for the inspection of the public. Too much cannot be said in praise of such work as this in our pioneer communities, as the pioneer ranks are growing thin and our youths should be taught respect for the beginnings which have grown into our magnificent state. It is particularly fitting that this collection should be thrown open to the public during the pioneer reunion which occurs on October 16th at Jacksonville.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 6, 1924, page 2


    Mrs. Alice Sargent announces that her museum in the historic Brunner building will be closed during the balance of the winter.--Jacksonville Post.
Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, December 13, 1924, page 2


The Museum
    To the Editor: First, let us  recall some of the firsts. Since Jacksonville is the oldest town in Southern Oregon and second in all the state, let us look no further for a location.
    Since the historic county court house in Jacksonville has been vacant many years and was so well known to pioneers and those of later times, let us concentrate on it for a museum building and forget all other suggested building sites.
    The person or group who originated the idea of a museum is unknown to the writer. However, the efforts and collections of the late Mrs. Alice Applegate Sargent, who represented the first family (Applegates) in Southern Oregon, should always be kept in mind, and the first place in a museum should be given to that family. After them should come the valley pioneers who are today, as always, represented by the organization known as the Southern Oregon Pioneers; for it is upon these families and their descendants that most relics of pioneer and historical nature are dependent.
    For many years many people throughout this county and the state have made public efforts towards the establishment of a museum. Many types of articles have been offered.
    Mrs. Sargent’s collection and the Helms collection were exhibited in Jacksonville for many years, and the town has maintained a small public museum in the old U.S. Hotel building.
    When the county court was moved to Medford a large number of public-spirited citizens of the county felt that the old building deserted in Jacksonville would make a good museum building.
    During the Gold Rush Jubilee of August, 1933, many fine collections were displayed in Jacksonville, including the large collection then owned by the late Frank Zell.
    During the Diamond Jubilee held in Medford in 1934 about 20 people, mostly grandchildren of valley pioneers, filled the lower store space in the Sparta building with hundreds of relics from their homes. Many other pioneer collections were displayed in store windows in Medford and Jacksonville, and the late Hector Catey, with the help of the Miners Club, gathered and exhibited the then largest mineral collection in the state, all consisting of Southern Oregon minerals. Those large collections of 1934 convinced everyone that there was materials enough here for a large, permanent museum.
    In 1935, the Southern Oregon Artists Association exhibits proved there was local material enough for an art museum, and members of that association worked towards one. The late Dr. Robinson, whose daughter, Dorland, was an early Jacksonville artist of national recognition, offered that association his daughter's paintings whenever proper housing facilities could be obtained. A. H. Banwell, the then secretary of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, became active in the effort of obtaining a museum with that group.
    In 1937-38 members of the Southern [Oregon] Gem and Mineral Society, with Banwell, worked hard for a museum to house the pioneer relics, art and mineral specimens of this county. Several valuable Indian rock relics and mineral collections were offered them for museum use. That organization met the members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and its speakers talked before the Medford city council in an effort to gain a public museum. Several sites were considered including the old court house in Jacksonville.
    The greatest effort was made when the late Governor Earl Snell, Sons of the American Revolution, Pioneers and other honored guests met at a dinner in the Jacksonville court house for the purpose of establishing interest in the project.
    The last effort has been the forming of a Southern Oregon Historical Society, headed by the late Mayor C. A. Meeker of Medford, whose interests concentrated on the museum plans.
    In the past few years antique collecting hit the valley and hundreds of relics have been sold and disposed of by individuals who no longer had a place to keep them.
    Year after year the Southern Oregon Pioneers meet alternately in Ashland and in the old court house in Jacksonville, planning a museum, watching the building slowly crumble into neglected ruins and anxiously hoping there is still time for repairs, protection and care for all articles left for museum purposes.
VENITA DALEY,
    Member State Historical Society and
    Southern Oregon Pioneers.
"Communications," Medford Mail Tribune, March 8, 1948, page 4



Last revised May 1, 2021