Louis Helmer, who is one of the prosperous agriculturists and dairymen of Plymouth township, was born at Neustadt-on-the-Hardt, Bavaria, Germany, May 14, 1840. His parents were Jacob and Margaret (Rehm) Helmer, also natives of Bavaria, the father's natal year being 1800 and that of the mother 1802.
The families in both lines owned vineyards in Bavaria and had for many generations been engaged in the grape culture. Mrs. Helmer was the only child of her parents, while the father was the youngest in a family of three. Jacob Helmer was a very capable man and was meeting with excellent success in his native land where he owned nine vineyards and some land that he cultivated, in addition to which he acted as overseer for other vintners, when he became implicated in political and revolutionary difficulties and was forced to leave. Together with his wife and family he sought refuge in the United States, arriving here on the 10th of May, 1853. They crossed in a sailing vessel and were forty-seven days en route, their destination being Sheboygan, which they reached by way of the lakes. Soon after his arrival Mr. Helmer bought forty acres of land on section 15, Plymouth township, that forming the nucleus of his homestead. The land was entirely covered with a dense growth of timber, but he cleared it and erected thereon a log house and he and his family began their life in America amid the pioneer conditions that then prevailed in this section of the country.
Mr. Helmer prospered in his undertakings and later he was able to extend the boundaries of his farm until it comprised one hundred and twenty acres, all of which he cleared and placed under cultivation. He was diligent and enterprising and erected the first frame barn built on the road running north from Plymouth. There he passed the remainder of his life, his death occurring in 1864. He was long survived by the mother, who lived to attain the venerable age of eighty-three years. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Helmer numbered six, all of whom were born in Bavaria: Katrina married Stephen Oberreich, of Fond du Lac and died in March, 1912; Jacob, formerly a resident of Minneapolis, is now deceased; Peter, also deceased, resided in Plymouth township; Louis, our subject; Mrs. Margaret Luther of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mary, who married Franz Koch, a banker and real estate man of Chicago.
The first twelve years in the life of Louis Helmer were passed in the land of his birth, where he obtained his education. Although he was only a lad of thirteen years when the family arrived in Sheboygan county, he immediately sought employment and for three years thereafter he worked out by the month at three dollars per month. When he was sixteen his wages were advanced to ten dollars, and for several years following he worked for different farmers in the community and also on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, which was then in course of construction.
In 1863, he enlisted in the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, but owing to an injury he had sustained his services were not accepted. Later, however, he became a member of Company B, Twenty seventh Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and went to the front. He participated in the battle of Vicksburg, Little Rock and the Red river expedition, and was at Mobile and Spanish Fort. Subsequently he was stationed in Texas when trouble with France was feared. He was mustered out in 1866 and returned to Plymouth township, where he had previously purchased forty acres of land.
Subsequently, he extended his holdings by the addition of another forty acres and began farming on his own account. His unceasing diligence and the exercise of intelligence in the development of his activities brought him success and he continued to extend the boundaries of his farm until he had acquired two hundred and sixty acres. He has since disposed of half of this and now only cultivates one hundred and thirty acres, but in addition to this he also owns four hundred acres in Fergus county, Montana.
Mr. Helmer has made all of the improvements on his place, including the erection of a fine residence, barns and other outbuildings. He has always made a specialty of dairying and his fields are almost entirely devoted to the raising of such cereals as can be used in feeding his stock. He has one of the finest herds of thoroughbred Holstein cattle in this section of the county, raising just enough stock to keep up his herd. In 1881, Mr. Helmer extended the scope of his activities by the erection of a cheese factory on section 10 of this township, that he operated for twelve years. It was one of the largest and best equipped in this section and proved to be a lucrative undertaking.
On Christmas, 1866, Mr. Helmer was united in marriage to Miss Magdalena Roll, a daughter of John Roll, a native of Darmstadt, Germany, who emigrated to the United States about 1848 and settled in Polk township, Washington county, this state, where he resided the remainder of his life. Mrs. Helmer, who passed away on the 17th of June, 1908, was the youngest of the seven children born to her parents, her birth having occurred on the 15th 'of March, 1844. Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Helmer. Adolph, who is the eldest, married Minnie Hideman and they have two children, Fred and Norma and are residing in Ambrose, North Dakota. Lucy is the widow of Henry Lamb of Casa polis, Michigan. Mary became the wife of E. E. Vanderhoof, of Shawano, this state, and they have five children. Julia married John Helmer by whom she has had one son, Raymond, and is living on the old homestead. Rudolph married Emma Freiberg of Sheboygan and is living at Lewistown, Fergus county, Montana. Caroline, who is the next in order of birth, is engaged in teaching school. Louis, Jr., who is a railroad man, married Belle Isserstedt. Lawrence, who is the youngest son, died at the age of twenty-one years. Emma married T. J. Casey of, Milwaukee, this state, and they have two children, John and Margaret. Elizabeth became the wife of George Johnson of Amarillo, Texas.
The family affiliate with the Congregational church and Mr. Helmer is a member of H. P. Davidson Post, No. 212, G. A. R., of Plymouth and he votes the republican ticket. He was township treasurer for two terms and supervisor for several years, while he has discharged the duties of pathmaster for a long period. Mr. Helmer is widely known in Plymouth township where he has resided for many years and has hosts of friends, whose loyalty he has won and retained by reason of his many sterling qualities.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL