By Judy Deeter

Henry T. Helmick is remembered as the last Civil War soldier in Miami County’s Union Township. Aside from all his patriotic service to his country, however, he is remembered as being a special friend to another old soldier.

Helmick was born in Miami County 11 August 1845 as the son of Alexander and Mary Ann (Toland) Helmick. According to his death certificate, he was born in Troy. In the late 1840s, Alexander Helmick is believed to have built the family a brick home in Frederick. There, Henry lived—mostly alone—for about 92 of his 93 years of life.

During the Civil War, Helmick served with Company C of the Second Ohio Heavy Artillery Regiment. His obituary says, “He attained the rank of quartermaster, the highest paying rank he could reach at that time.” (THE HERALD, Tipp City, OH, 27 Apr. 1939, pg.1)

Long after the war was over, Helmick was involved in veteran causes. He was the last commander of the Dayton’s Old Guard Post Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization for Union veterans of the Civil War. In September 1929, Helmick traveled to Portland, Maine for the GAR’s 63rd encampment.

Another soldier to attend the Maine encampment was Civil War veteran James M. Cherry, who is believed to have been a widower from Butler, IN. During the encampment, the two men found they had many things in common and enjoyed each other’s company. Both were in their 80s at the time.

Not much is known about Cherry’s Civil War service. His obituary states that he was a member of the fife and drum corps on the battleship Texas. Some researchers think, however, that this service may have been some time after the Civil War.

One story says that Cherry came to Frederick with Helmick. Possibly stopping there on his way to his Indiana home. It is known that at the end of the encampment they promised to write each other and eventually—probably in 1930—Cherry came to live with Helmick.

It is said that the two men looked so much alike that people thought they were related. Cherry’s obituary says, “He (Cherry) has been residing with Mr. Helmick for the past eight years and the likeness of the two was so similar that they were frequently taken for twins. They kept their home in their quaint fashion and rarely was one seen without the other.” (THE HERALD, Tipp City, OH, 5 May 1938, pg. 1) Cherry reportedly told people that he had no other living relatives.

Both men died of heart problems (Cherry in 1938 and Helmick in 1939) and were buried at the Polk Grove Cemetery, which is located east of Vandalia at the intersection of US Route 40 and Frederick Pike.

There is an interesting note related to the Helmick house. According to Helmick’s obituary: “As prearranged, the house is to be left at Frederick as a shrine. The house includes much furniture that has been in the Helmick family for many years, including an old organ, 63 years old, a four-poster bed, age unknown; badges, buttons, flags remindful of state and national G.A.R. conclaves and many other antiques.”

Helmick’s survivors were listed as nieces and nephews: Charles Snell of Frederick, Mrs. Charles Netzley, Merle Snell, James Snell of Frederick, Mrs. Roy Macy of Dayton and Mrs. Charles Elicker of Kessler.


Photographs of the tombstones of the two Civil War soldiers  (Cherry and  Helmick) at Polk Grove Cemetery.  The cemetery is on the southeast corner of US 40 - National Road and Frederick Pike.  If you enter the cemetery f rom  Frederick Pike,  the tombstones are on the left hand side shortly after you enter.  They are near the end of  a row of  tombstones not far from the cemetery drive.   

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