Absalom K. Helton

Absalom Ketcham Helton was a first cousin of my great-grandfather. He was one of several men in Bloomington who were named Absalom Helton. I found his obituary in my grandmother's scrapbook. She had written "Sept. 12 1932" on it. The clipping may not be complete, since it lacks the usual headline and doesn't mention the deceased's full name at the beginning, as would be customary:

Mr. Helton was a member of one of Monroe county's oldest families. He was born and reared in this community.

For a number of years he was passenger agent in this city for the Monon railway and after severing this connection formed a partnership with John R. East in the coal business. He later sold his interest in this business and has been associated with Walker Dobson in a trucking business.

He was a member of the First Presbyterian church, acting as an official member and for 12 years was clerk of the session. During his many years as an active worker in his church he endeared himself to his associates by his never failing courtesy and sense of fair play and his judgment in church matters was relied upon by those with whom he worked.

His integrity as a business man won him hosts of friends in the community and the news of his death was received in the business district today with a sense of personal loss by the people who had known him during his long years of business activities.

He was a member of the Scottish Rite and of the Elks.

Mr. Helton was married to Nora Robison, also a member of one of the oldest families of the city.1 The widow and one daughter, Ellen Helton Young, wife of Don Young, of Dallas, Texas, survive.

Mr. Helton was born in this county August 31, 1870, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Helton, both deceased. His grandfather, Andrew Helton, was one of the county's pioneer residents. Andrew and Michael Helton founded a business in the present location of the Breeden and Company store.

The family was one which adhered strongly to the Presbyterian faith and three generations have been represented on the official board of the First Presbyterian church, Andrew Helton, his son, Michael, and grandson, Absalom.

Mr. Helton's parents and two brothers, Ollie Carter and Lewis Helton, preceded him in death.

Funeral services will be held at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning from the residence at 615 north College avenue. Dr. Charles Swartz, pastor of the First Presbyterian church, will conduct the services.

Interment will be in Rosehill. The Elks lodge will conduct the ritualistic service at the cemetery.

Active pallbearers will be Otto Rott, Dr. A. L. Kohlmeier, Walker Dodson, Dr. Otto Rogers, Robert Digel and Charles Barnhill. Honorary pallbearers will be the members of the board of elders of the church, Vern W. Ruble, Charles A. Pike, Samuel Bartholomew, Prof. S. S. Visher, Prof. W. B. Merrill, John Morton, Dr. Homer E. Strain, Mrs. B. J. Vos, and E. C. Rumple.

The body will remain at the Allen funeral home until Tuesday morning when it will be taken to the home.

Among those from out of the city who will be here for the services will be Mr. and Mrs. Carter B. Helton2 of Dayton, O., Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Benson of Indianapolis and Mrs. Lucretia Spurgeon of Cincinnati.

The following tribute to Absalom K. Helton was paid by Dr. A. L. Kohlmayer, head of the history department of Indiana university:

"I knew Mr. Helton intimately for many years. I never knew a better man. In approaching the solution of public problems I never heard him give expression to words of fear or self interest. He tried to see the right and then pursued it with firmness, calmness and kindness."

The following articles describing an important turning point of Absalom's railroad career appeared in the Bloomington Telephone, 6 and 10 Aug 1910:

A.K. Helton
Fine Promotion
Takes a High Position With New York Central

A.K. Helton, general agent for the Monon at Bloomington, has been promoted in the railroad world and has been appointed Commercial Agent of the New York Central with head quarters at both Louisville and Indianapolis. He takes up his new work next Monday.

The duties of Commercial Agent are, as the name emplies [sic], to look after the commercial affairs of the road in the way of securing freights and keeping in close touch with the business. The New York Central is a leading trunk line of the country and Mr. Helton not only gets a fine salary, but liberal expenses and well equipped quarters, with the privilege of making Bloomington his home.

The promotion is regarded as one of the best in the railroad services and it a result that comes to a man who has been faithful to his trust and always watchful to the company's interests, regardless of hour day and night. Under his management the Bloomington station has becomes the most important on the road with one exception and there is not a more popular employee on the Monon line.

Mr. Helton started as messenger at the Monon station here when a mere boy, and has been the agent for 17 years, taking entire charge of all the Monon business here. The community regrets that Mr. Helton is to take up duties that call him elsewhere, but he will have the hearty congratulations of everyone who has had business relations with him.

In referring to his new work Mr. Helton said to The Telephone today that "I assure you that this is a position that any one should be proud to hold as the pay is good and the work desirable. The man who I relieve has been associated with the line for 42 years. My relations with the Monon officials and also the people of Bloomington have been most pleasant in every way and I hope my new duties will prove as pleasant in every respect."

Mr. Helton was at Louisville yesterday in consultation with the New York Central officials and went over the work he is to take up next Monday.

It is not known who will take Mr. Helton's place in this city as General Sup't Sucese has not yet made his appointment known. It is hoped locally that Aubrey Burch, the present ticket seller, may be given the position as he is next in line for promotion at this station.

Won His Success By Hard Work
A.K. Helton Made Own Way in Railroad Business

The promotion of A. K. Helton to be commercial agent of the New York Central is only another evidence of the success of a man who is not afraid of work. The Telephone recalls when Mr. Helton was made agent at Bloomington he was a very young man. He was sent for by Mr. McDoel, then president of the road, and when Mr. Helton entered the room Mr. McDoel remarked, "why, you're only a boy!" Mr. Helton's answer was "try me and see." Before the two separated Mr. Helton had been appointed agent for Bloomington.

We doubt if a man anywhere has worked with as much determination to succeed. He knew no hours, but made good every day, and the result is that when a big trunk line like the New York Central wanted a good man for an important position, they pass through a score of cities and come to Bloomington for Mr. Helton.

Absalom Helton must have been referred to regularly as A. K. He is also listed by these initials in the 1910 census.

1An item in the 8 Oct 1895 Bloomington Courier mentions that "Mrs. A. K. Helton is visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Robinson, at Springfield, Ohio."
2 Carter Benson Helton (1900-1960) was Absalom's nephew, the son of Lewis Helton.
This page was last updated 6 Oct 2005.