Adam Helmer

Adam F. Helmer (c.1754 – April 9, 1830), also known as John Adam Helmer and Hans Adam Helmer, was an American Revolutionary War hero among those of the Mohawk Valley and surrounding regions of New York State. He was made nationally famous by Walter D. Edmonds' popular 1936 novel Drums Along the Mohawk with its depiction of "Adam Helmer's Run" of September 16, 1778, to warn the people of German Flatts of the approach of Joseph Brant and his company of Indians and Tories.

Adam F. Helmer
Adam Helmer Grave NY-DOT Sign
Marker at the burial site of Helmer and his wife on the north side of Cottle Road in the Town of Brutus, New York. Their grave stones were moved to the Weedsport Rural Cemetery.
DiedApril 9, 1830
Resting placeGrave stone in Weedsport Rural Cemetery
NationalityUnited States of America
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Known forRevolutionary War Hero
Weight150 lb (68 kg).
TitleLieutenant in the Provincial Militia and Scout in Captain John Breadbake's company
Anna Bellinger (m. 1757–1841)
ChildrenFrederick (1777)
Margaret (1778)
Anna (1781)
Adam (1783)
Peter (1786)
Elizabeth (1788)
Catharine (1790)
David (179?)
Maria Barbara (1795)
Eve (1800)
Parent(s)George Friederich Helmer
Maria Barbara Kast


Adam Helmer was born in German Flatts, New York, to Maria Barbara Kast, and George Friederich Helmer, who was born on June 9, 1706, in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse a city in the Rhineland-Palatinate region in southwestern Germany. G.F. Helmer emigrated to America sometime before 1710 and eventually settled in one of the numerous Palatine farming communities on the south side of the Mohawk River in central New York.

As late as 1774, this Palatine district and others in the area widely supported British control, but with the death of the powerful loyalist Mohawk Valley landowner Sir William Johnson and news of the Declaration of Rights by the Continental Congress, anti-British sentiments began to surface and a Tryon County Committee of Safety was organized. This and the news of Continental Army resistance at the Battle of Lexington and Concord encouraged the remaining Johnson family and other loyalists to fortify their properties and to recruit Iroquois to side with the British. This in turn prompted the colonists in 1775 to organize a militia under the command of Colonel Nicholas Herkimer. Early the next year, Herkimer aided General Philip Schuyler who was sent by Congress to disarm the Loyalists. Many of the loyalists and sympathizing Iroquois led by William Johnson's son Sir John Johnson escaped to Canada where they began to organize to take back their Mohawk Valley holdings.

During the summer of 1776 Colonel Herkimer allowed his regular militia to return to their farms; however, about one out of every fifteen soldiers, including Lieutenant Adam Helmer, was assigned to ranger duty. Helmer was assigned as a scout in Captain John Breadbake's company.

Battle of Oriskany

In the summer of 1777, Herkimer, by then a Brigadier General in the provincial militia, was warned by friendly Oneidas of the impending siege of Fort Stanwix (known to the Americans as Fort Schuyler) by British Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger. General Herkimer ordered Tryon County militia to assemble at Fort Dayton to go to the aid of Colonel Peter Gansevoort at Fort Stanwix. G.F. Helmer and Adam Helmer's brother Johan Fredrich Helmer, as part of the Tryon County militia were called up. Herkimer sent three scouts, Captain Hans Mark Demuth, Hans Yost Folts, and Lieutenant Adam Helmer to Fort Stanwix to relay the news to Colonel Gansevoort. Pressured by his subordinate commanders on August 6, General Herkimer reluctantly and prematurely set out to attack St. Leger's army. While passing through a ravine, they were ambushed by British regulars, Tories, and Indians under the command of Joseph Brant and John Butler, thus starting what would become known as the Battle of Oriskany, Adam Helmer lost both his father G.F. Helmer, and his brother Johan Fredrich Helmer in the Battle.

Helmer, the fittest of the three scouts, reached Fort Stanwix with the message ahead of the other two, having traversed swampy terrain and floated down river when a severe storm flooded his route. News of the Oriskany battle arrived shortly after Helmer's did, and Ganesvoort ordered an attack on the British encampments. Some combination of the weather and Gansevoort's attack contributed to the retreat of the British from the Oriskany battlefield back to their camps surrounding the fort. In any case, Herkimer's troops were able to escape to await reinforcements. Herkimer himself was wounded in the fight, returned to his home and died soon after. Gansevoort refused to submit to the siege, and the British withdrew from the area with the news that Benedict Arnold had arrived at Fort Dayton with reinforcements.

Adam Helmer's run

In September 1778, Lt. Helmer and eight scouts under his command were sent to the Unadilla River Valley to spy on Joseph Brant's company of Indians and Tories who were encamped at Unadilla near the confluence of the Unadilla and Susquehanna Rivers. It was feared that Brant would send a raiding party north to the Mohawk Valley during the harvest season to forcefully obtain stores for the winter ahead. When Helmer's scouts reached Edmeston Manor, the farm of Percifer Carr, just north of what is now South Edmeston, they were attacked by a large group of Brant's men, apparently part of the feared raiding party on its way north. Several of the scouts were killed, but Helmer managed to escape.

Helmer took off running to the north-east, through the hills, toward Schuyler Lake and then north to Andrustown (near present-day Jordanville, New York) where he warned his sister's family of the impending raid and obtained fresh footwear. He also warned settlers at Columbia and Petrie's Corners, most of whom then fled to safety at Fort Dayton. When Helmer arrived at the fort, severely torn up from his run, he told Colonel Peter Bellinger, the commander of the fort, that he had counted at least 200 of the attackers en route to the valley. (see Attack on German Flatts (1778)). The straight-line distance from Carr's farm to Fort Dayton is about thirty miles, and Helmer's winding and hilly route was far from straight. It was said that Helmer then slept for 36 hours straight. During his sleep, on September 17, 1778, the farms of the area were destroyed by Brant's raid. The total loss of property in the raid was reported as: 63 houses, 59 barns, full of grain, 3 grist mills, 235 horses, 229 horned cattle, 279 sheep, and 93 oxen. Only two men were reported killed in the attack, one by refusing to leave his home when warned.

Three days later Helmer led another group of militia back to the Carr farm on the Unadilla, discovered the bodies of three of his scouts, and buried them at that site. The fate of the other five scouts is not known.

Helmer also served in the New York State Levies under Colonel Lewis DuBois.


Helmer married Anna Bellinger (1757–1841) and sired ten children: Frederick (1777), Margaret (1778), Anna (1781), Adam (1783), Peter (1786), Elizabeth (1788), Catharine (1790), David (179?), Maria Barbara (1795), and Eve (1800).

Adam Helmer died on April 9, 1830, in the town of Brutus in Cayuga County, New York.

Helmer in novel and film

Adam Helmer was an important but fictionalized character in Edmonds' novel, Drums Along the Mohawk. Although Helmer's military actions were generally portrayed with accuracy, including his famous run, Edmonds' description of his person varies from historic description. The book pictures Helmer as a large, unschooled, bachelor womanizer with long blonde hair, while historic descriptions indicate he was a lean 150 pounds (68 kg), married farmer, seeming to have more in common with the book's main character, Gil Martin.

In John Ford's 1939 film adaptation of the novel, Helmer is portrayed by Ward Bond as "Adam Hartman". Helmer's run was omitted from the film and replaced with a run by Gil to get reinforcements from the nearest fort. The run is the heroic highpoint of the film.


Adam (given name)

Adam is a common masculine given name.

The personal name Adam derives from the Hebrew noun ha adamah meaning "the ground" or "earth". Its Quranic and Biblical usage has ensured that it is also a common name in all countries which draw on these traditions. It is particularly common in Christian and Muslim majority countries. In most languages its spelling is the same, although the pronunciation varies somewhat. Adán is the Spanish form of this name.

Adam is also a surname in many countries, although it is not as common in English as its derivative Adams (sometimes spelled Addams). In other languages there are similar surnames derived from Adam, such as Adamo, Adamov, Adamowicz, Adamski etc.

In Arabic, Adam (آدم) means "made from the earth/mud/clay".

Attack on German Flatts (1778)

The Attack on German Flatts (September 17, 1778) was a raid on the frontier settlement of German Flatts, New York (which then also encompassed what is now Herkimer) during the American Revolutionary War. The attack was made by a mixed force of Loyalists and Iroquois under the overall command of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, and resulted in the destruction of houses, barns, and crops, and the taking of livestock for the raiders' use. The settlers, warned by the heroic run of Adam Helmer, took refuge in local forts but were too militarily weak to stop the raiders.

Brant's attack was one of a series executed under his command or that of Loyalist and Seneca leaders against communities on what was then the frontier of western New York and northern Pennsylvania. New York authorities responded by ordering an expedition that destroyed Brant's forward operating bases in Iroquois territory.

Cayuga County, New York

Cayuga County is a county in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 80,026. Its county seat is Auburn. The county was named for one of the tribes of Indians in the Iroquois Confederation.

Cayuga County comprises the Auburn, NY Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Syracuse-Auburn, NY Combined Statistical Area.

Drums Along the Mohawk

Drums Along the Mohawk is a 1939 American historical drama film based upon a 1936 novel of the same name by American author, Walter D. Edmonds. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by John Ford. Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert portray settlers on the New York frontier during the American Revolution. The couple suffer British, Tory, and Indian attacks on their farm before the Revolution ends and peace is restored.

Edmonds based the novel on a number of historic figures who lived in the valley. The film—Ford's first Technicolor feature—was well received. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and became a major box office success, grossing over US$1 million in its first year.

Drums Along the Mohawk (novel)

Drums Along the Mohawk (1936) is a novel by American author Walter D. Edmonds. The story follows the lives of fictional Gil and Lana Martin, settlers in the central Mohawk Valley of the New York frontier during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Frank Bergmann wrote in 2005 that the novel, "as a best-seller and a novel perennially assigned in the state's high schools, has substantially shaped the popular view of the region's pioneer period."The book is peopled with historical persons such as General Nicholas Herkimer, Adam Helmer, descendants of the German immigrants who were the majority residents in the central Mohawk Valley at the time, and William Caldwell. It also features such historical events as the Battle of Oriskany and the Attack on German Flatts (1778).

The novel was a commercial and popular success, remaining on the bestseller list for two years.In 1939, the book was adapted for a Technicolor feature film of the same name directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert, Edna May Oliver, Ward Bond, and John Carradine. Historian Edward Countryman has argued that, while the film incorporates characters, plot, and dialogue from the novel, it differs profoundly in its portrayal of society in the period of the American Revolution. He (Ford) made it a mythic triumph of the American cause, rather than suggesting the complexity of the times as had Edmonds. Similarly, Frank Bergmann has written, "Unfortunately the 1939 film directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert, abandons the historical complexity of the original for the mythic simplification of an all-American Western."The novel is still in print after eight decades.

German Flatts, New York

German Flatts is a town in Herkimer County, New York, United States. The population was 13,258 at the 2010 census.The town is in the southern part of Herkimer County, on the south side of the Mohawk River, across from the village of Herkimer. The town includes the villages of Ilion and Mohawk.

Joseph Brant

Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant (March 1743 – November 24, 1807) was a Mohawk military and political leader, based in present-day New York, who was closely associated with Great Britain during and after the American Revolution. Perhaps the Native American of his generation best known to the Americans and British, he met many of the most significant Anglo-American people of the age, including both George Washington and King George III.

While not born into a hereditary leadership role within the Iroquois League, Brant rose to prominence due to his education, abilities and his connections to British officials. His sister, Molly Brant, was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the influential British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the province of New York. During the American Revolutionary War, Brant led Mohawk and colonial Loyalists known as "Brant's Volunteers" against the rebels in a bitter partisan war on the New York frontier. He was accused by the Americans of committing atrocities and given the name "Monster Brant", but the accusations were argued by later historians to have been false.

In 1784, Frederick Haldimand granted Joseph Brant and his followers a land treaty to replace what they had lost in New York State at the Sandusky Council after the Revolution. This tract, the Haldimand Grant, was about 810,000 hectares (2,000,000 acres) in size, covering the Grand River area in what is now southwestern Ontario "from the source to the mouth of the river and 9.6 kilometres (6 miles) deep on each side". The grant was later rescinded. Chief Brant relocated with most of his people to Upper Canada to the area which is now Six Nations Reserve, where he remained a prominent leader.

Roberta Helmer

Roberta Helmer (July 19, 1950 - May 21, 2018), under her pseudonym Christina Skye, was the best-selling American author of more than thirty-two novels in a variety of genres: romantic suspense, paranormal romance, as well as contemporary and historical romances. Many of her books have appeared on the USAToday and New York Times bestseller lists and the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. Her books have been translated into ten languages. Under her own name Helmer has written five non-fiction books about the classical Chinese puppet theater and traditional Chinese folk arts.

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