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Helen M. Hanshaw


Helen's grave marker,1997, Union Cemetery

Helen M. Hanshaw was born on March 3, 1846 in Preston County, WV, the daughter of Hiram B. and Catherine (Miner) Hanshaw.  She helped run her parents' hotel, the Hanshaw House, in Independence, Preston County.

In 1879, after her mother's death, Helen asked to be reimbursed in the amount of $598.88 for accrued wages for work done for her mother at the family hotel. In a sworn affidavit dated Oct. 1, 1881, her sister Julia testified that Helen:

…worked for my mother … from March 1870 to the time of my mother's death Oct. 3rd, 1879.  My mother during said time was engaged in keeping a hotel in the town of Independence….During the space of five hundred and eleven weeks … my said sister work[ed] for my said mother, doing the general house work of the said  hotel, all the house work for the keeping of said hotel….  The work done was by no means easy work and I would consider two dollars per week only a fair compensation for the same.  During the time this work was being done for my mother, she would often speak of the fact and say that those who remained with her and took care of her should be rewarded for it out of the estate left at her decease…

In a deposition statement made by J.M. Hartley, a merchant in Independence who lived near the Hanshaws, swore that "Helen ... was the manager of the business part of the hotel business with her mother...."  He also testified that after Catherine's death, he stopped at the hotel up to 4 days a month, saw that Helen and Julia "did the work at the hotel," and that he himself paid up to $2 per week for private housework services.

Family friend Henry Fawcett also gave testimony that:

…I know from personal observation that Helen M. Hanshaw was at the head of the house … and did the business managing, as well as doing a part of the general housework there.

Helen's aunt, Keziah (Miner) Martin, age 73 and living in Independence, also gave lengthy testimony:

…Especially from the time of the death of H.B. Hanshaw the two daughters [Helen and Julia] have managed and done most of the work to be done in the keeping of said hotel.  In fact, from all that I could see and from what [my sister] would often say to me, I would say that it was really by the management and works of the two daughters … that all the real estate … was paid for, although I believe the purchase was made before her … husband's death.  I know that these two daughters done all the house work about the said hotel except some of the cooking which was done by [my sister]….  [She] would often be up to my house and remain to near supper time when I would ask her to remain and I would get supper for and for her to stay for supper but she would always refuse and say that she must go home as there was no on e there but the girls … so that they could be free for awhile during the evening, as she wanted to give them a little pleasure so that they would still remain with her as she couldn't get along with out them.  She would also say that she wanted everything to so work that she and the girls would get along well together as she couldn't get along without them and her interests should be theirs.  She also would also often say to me, before she was taken with her last sickness, that these two girls … should be rewarded for the work and care they had done and given her.

Helen and sister Julia were the high bidders when the Hanshaw House was sold at auction in 1883.  Sadly, she died the following year, unmarried, in 1884, and was buried at the Newburg Cemetery.

In her will, Helen bequeathed the residuals of her entire estate -- "absolutely" -- to Julia, after the following steps were taken care of:  that "tombstones of a neat and becoming pattern" for her own and for her mother's graves.


Helen's grave marker at left leans at Newburg's Union Cemetery,  while her mother's stands upright at far right


Despite Helen's best intention, the grave marker for her mother was not in place in 1910, more than a quarter century later. That year, when sister Julia died, she bequeathed funds for this purpose. It may well be that Julia's widowed husband Charles completed the task. Both grave markers were standing as of 1997, though both were nearly illegible.

Helen also directed her executor, Robert W. Monroe, to sell or rent the Hanshaw Hotel property "to the best advantage." She also left the surplus of her real estate proceeds to be given to nieces, Helen, Mattie and Jesse Purinton, "the children of my deceased sister Tillie …." The hotel was sold to Thomas Herrington in 1885.


Copyright © 2000, 2004, 2021 Mark A. Miner