Jenny Shrum’s mother Luta Lee

My grandmother, Jeanette “Jenny” Shrum Willett, left us a wonderful handwritten manuscript of her life which she wrote in the mid 1980’s. She was born August 4, 1897 in Bloomington, Indiana and died March 3, 1988 in Salem, Massachusetts.  I have been transcribing her manuscript here. You can start from the beginning with Part 1.

In this entry, she talks about her mother, Luta Lee Helton. Luta was born April 15, 1868 in Tuscola, Illinois. She spent most of her growing up in Bloomington, Indiana. She died on October 12, 1954 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She also talks about Luta’s parents, AP Helton and Elizabeth Clarke. Absalom “AP” Helton (1836 – 1906) was born and died in Bloomington, Indiana. Elizabeth Clark (1838 – 1876) was born in Vigo, Indiana. She died at the age of 38 and is buried in Paris, Illinois. We have no photos of her Elizabeth, unfortunately, and don’t know what her cause of death was. AP Helton married his second wife, Nannie Sanders, in 1888.

Luta Lee Helton in 1878, Bloomington, Indiana

Part 2

The grammar, punctuation and any spelling errors are left as Jenny Shrum Willett wrote them. 

“My mother Luta Lee Helton was born in Peoria, Ill. Her grandfather was Andrew Helton, an Englishman who founded Heltonville, Ind. Her father was Absolom and her mother Elizabeth Clark. She had a brother who died young. Her Mother also died young and her father married again. He lived until after we moved to Lynn but I never remember seeing him. When he died his wife send mother her mothers tea set (minus the tea pot). I have the sugar bowl, Fred has the spoon holder and Merah had a piece.

Her father sent her to the fashionable St. Mary’s of the Woods because it was the only boarding school and I guess his wife didn’t want her around*. She spent her vacations with a aunt in Bloomington, Mrs. Seward, and an an aunt in Booneville, Mrs. Hatfield. Mother was happy at the con

Absalom Peter “AP” Helton born 1836 in Bloomington, Indiana

vent & her father visited her often taking her chocolate candy which she was not allowed to have- She slit the lining of her skirt & put the candy there so the nuns wouldn’t discover it. The girls were all curious to know if the nuns had their heads shaved & my mother volunteered to find out. The nuns washed up in a cellar room & one day my mother hid in an ash barrell and found that the nuns did have shaved heads. She was especially fond of one nun who left the order and married. There were several Protestant girls and no attempt was made to convert them. They had leisure time while the others were learning the Catholic religions. They had no sports, not considered ladylike in those days but ever afternoon they could walk in the garden and a nun would bring a big tray with bread & mollasses – (considered good for them). We have a picture of Mother with her cousin Frank Hatfield that was reproduced 50 years later in the Bloomington paper and they happened to print it when she was there on a visit.”

*I contacted St. Mary’s in the Woods in 2017 to see what records they may have on Luta. Back then it was a boarding school. It is now a private college. The family story goes that AP Helton was a gambler and didn’t have the money to send Luta to this school, so someone else paid her tuition. In ledger copies that were sent to me, C.W. Clark is listed as her Guardian who paid for Luta’s incidentals. C.W. was Charles Clark, who was the brother of Luta’s mother, Elizabeth Clark. Elizabeth died when Luta was 8 years old.



Did you enjoy this? Click below to read Part 3!

Jenny Shrum Willett’s Manuscript – Part 3


I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “Diary.”  I am hopelessly behind on participating, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 

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