Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p.258-60.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Frank H. Helsell

It is a comparatively rare occurrence that a professional man proves equally competent in lines of commerce or finance.  But such has been the history of Judge F. H. Helsell, lawyer, jurist and banker, whose activities have gained him distinction at the bar, in political circles and in those lines of business which touch the moneyed interests of northwestern Iowa.  His life has been varied in its scope, honorable in its purpose, far-reaching and beneficial in its affairs.  He has exerted a wide-felt influence in his section of the state by his business enterprise and activity and by reason of his political prominence, for he is known as one of the foremast republicans of the state, having comprehensive understanding of the questions affecting local and national welfare.  He was born in Ohio in 1858, his parents being Jesse and Eliza A. (Smith) Helsell, who were natives of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, respectively.  Coming to Iowa in 1863 they settled first in Cedar county and afterward removed to Sac county, where the father died October 10, 1892, at the very venerable age of eighty-seven years.  He was a Lutheran minister, devoting many years to that holy calling and his influence was of no restricted order.  One son of the family, W. A. Helsell, is an attorney at law at Odebolt, Iowa.


Supplementing his literary education by preparation for a professional career, Frank H. Helsell was a student in the Illinois College and for a long period was connected with active practice in Buena Vista county.  In later years, however, other business affairs have largely claimed his time and attention.  He opened an office in Sioux Rapids in 1882 and in addition to a large private practice he became local attorney for five different railroads, including the Chicago & Northwestern; the Chicago, Rock Island & Pennsylvania; the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul; the Missouri & St. Louis; and the Illinois Central.  In his work before the courts he displayed all of the elements of an able advocate and safe counselor.  Preparing his cases with great thoroughness and care he has ever presented his cause in clear, logical and forceful manner, his success as a practitioner being due entirely to his own efforts and merits.  He has argued many cases and lost but few.  No one better knows the necessity for thorough preparation and no one more industriously prepares his cases than Judge Helsell.  His course in the courtroom has always been characterized by a calmness and dignity that indicate reserve strength.  His handling of a case has always been full, comprehensive and accurate.  His analysis of the facts, clear and exhaustive.  His ability as a lawyer led to his selection for judicial honors and in 1898 he was elected judge of the district court, serving on the bench for two and a half years.  He then resigned in order to give his attention to private business interests which were constantly growing in volume and importance. At the ensuing election although there were six other candidates in the field and Judge Helsell had said that he would not accept the nomination, he was renominated by a unanimous standing vote of the convention and declined.  His opinions while on the bench showed great research, industry and care and challenged the approval of and commended themselves to the bench and bar.


As the years have passed, however, the private business interests of Judge Helsell have been continually growing and he is now interested in seven different banks.  He stands today as one of the most prominent representatives of banking interests in northwestern Iowa and has been the organizer of five different national banks, including the First National Bank of Marathon, the First National Bank of Laurens, the First National Bank of Peterson, and the First National Bank of Havelock, Iowa, together with the First National Savings Bank of Spencer, Iowa, of which he is a director.  He is also interested in the Greenville Bank and the Peterson Bank and has been general attorney for all of these corporations.  He is a man of well balanced capacities and powers, possessing in large measure that quality which, for want of a better term, has been called commercial sense.  He easily avoids the mistakes and disasters that come to those who, though possessing remarkable faculties in some respects, are liable to erratic movements that result in unwarranted risks and failure.  He recognizes possibilities that others pass by heedlessly, possesses sufficient courage to venture where favoring opportunity is presented and his judgment and even paced energy generally carry him forward to the goal of success.


On the 12th of August, 1880, Mr. Hellsell was married to Miss Nora Love Glenn, a daughter of James R. and Sarah (Love) Glenn, who were natives of Virginia and became residents of Illinois during the pioneer epoch in its history.  The father died in 1905 but the mother is still living in Omaha,

Nebraska.  Five children were born unto Judge and Mrs. Helsell:  Glenora, who resides at home; Charles A., an attorney of Oklahoma; Corrinne, who is in the bank; Virginia, a student in college; and Laura, at home.


Judge Helsell is identified with the Masonic lodge at Sioux Rapids, the Knights of Pythias and the Elks.  A stalwart republican, he was a delegate to the national conventions of 1888 and 1896.  He has exercised a wide influence in public affairs and few men are more prominent or more widely known in northwestern Iowa.  His prosperity is well deserved for in him are embraced the characteristics of an unbending integrity, unabating energy and industry that never flags.  Public-spirited and progressive, his cooperation is given to every movement tending to promote the intellectual, political and material welfare of the community.