The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Helms' Cabinet of Curiosities
Jackson County's first museum.

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

    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," States 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.

    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

    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

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 A. Helms and added to by his sons Edward and Harry.
"Some Entertaining and Instructive Drives," Jacksonville Sentinel, September 11, 1903, page 5

    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

    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

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

    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

    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

    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

Last revised May 19, 2017