George Adam Helle was born on the Helle Homestead N.W. of Smithfield. Hisson Joe told about the lives of his parents: "When Dad was a youngster, Grandfather Helle got involved with a thick and thin sawmill. When the regular sawyer failed to show up for work, Dad tried his hand at sawing and was never able to let go again. Somewhere Dad also found a fiddle and this too he could not let go of. Not a violinist, he could not read music, but in his youth his musical talent was a main source of income earned at barn dances. Somewhere about that period in his life he became enamored with a girl from the Buckeye country and life was never the same again. His carefree days were behind him. Sawmills, threshing machines and this Buckeye girl were his life from then on. Their first home was a small house in Smithfield. With three boys in a few short years, they moved to a larger home across the street. Then five boys an a move to a farm in the country to hold the growing family. Next a girl, then what? Five more boys. With a reputation far and wide then, yes, two more girls for a total of 13. Sawmilling, farming, threshing. A disastrous detour into a coal mining project. There were many set-backs common to us all. The older sister and many of the older sons were establishing homes of their own when Dad and the younger boys gave upfarming and headed back to the tall timber where they were more at home. At this time, if you listen, you can hear the whine of a chain saw or the deeper voice of a circular saw and know those Helle boys have not found their way out of the woods."

Helle Sawmill History - Fred Helle and Katherine Krauser were German emigrants who met and married near the Spoon River Country. In 1869 Fred purchased 80 acres of unimproved heavy timbered land in Cass County for $300. The family found shelter in a cattle shed on a bluff overlooking Spoon River. He erected a cabin on a hill. Frederick and Katharine worked clearing the land for the plow. About 1873, Fred bought a small sawmill to saw the timber on his farm. Their home caught on fire and the family once again was forced to take shelter in the cattle shed. He reconstructed another cabin, which also later burned. The first sawmills used 10 to 30 horsepower steam engines. All sawmills were portable, pulled by horses from one job to another. Horses were used to skidlogs until the mid 30's, when caterpillar tractors took their place. Around 1882, Fred's son, George, took over the operation of the sawmill. George relocated the sawmill to Kewannee and to Wyoming, IL before selling it in 1940. George died in 1943. George's sons have continued in the Sawmill Industry.

Ethel: "Dad was such a gentle man. He really enjoyed all of us, was so proud of his big family. He was very sensitive about being German and the Germans starting World War I, and World War II. Dad's first and last occupation was sawmills. He was such a capable lumber man, he could walk through a woods and estimate the number of board feet in it. He could add long numbers in his head quickly without pencil and paper. One form of entertainment when Dad was a young man was debates. It is said he neverlost a debate, and one senator said to him, after losing a debate, "What do you do for a living?" Dad told him he ran a sawmill. The senator then said, "My god, man, quit it and go to school." Pop always told us kids, "Once you lose your temper, you lose your argument." Dad was a greatbeliever in self-education, only having four years of school for himself. His older sisters taught him English in secret. They were not allowed to use it at home. Pop always had to have his Chicago Tribune which he would read and drop on the floor. Mom scolded him for being messy until one day, in their early days of marriage, Pop was working away from home doing threshing and became very ill. Mom went to care for him and in his delirious fever he was saying "Ida, I'll pick the papers up", over andover. (Sharon Bearce)