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Helen 'Helyan' (Minor) Wilkins


Helen "Helyan" (Minor) Wilkins was born on April 4, 1896 in Knoxville, Knox County, TN, the daughter of Capt. Henry Clay and Mattie Hunt (Phillips) Minor Sr.

After the death of her father, Helen and her widowed mother relocated to Boston, where Helen's brother John had secured employment. The move took place sometime between 1908 and 1910. 

The 1910 census shows the family on Calder Street in Boston, with the household including 14-year-old Helen, her 59-year-old mother, brother John (age 24) and sister Laura Louise (21). Then in 1915, when her brother Wilkie Joseph Minor died while in Boston, an obituary in their old hometown newspaper, the Knoxville Journal, reported that Helen was "in school in that city."

Helen married Carl D. Wilkins (1895- ? ), a native of New York, in about 1919. They did not reproduce.

They made their home in 1929-1920 at 331 Catherine Street in Syracuse, Onondaga County, NY, where Carl was a foreman with an oil refinery, and Helen was a saleslady in a dry goods store. The Syracuse City Directory for 1929 shows that Helen's widowed mother lived under their roof.

When the federal census was taken in 1930, the Wilkinses had been married for 11 years. That year, Helen's mother passed away.


West Water Street in Elmira, NY, Helen's last known whereabout


Sadly, Carl died sometime during the decade of the 1930s. Details are not yet known. By 1940, when the census again was taken, the 44-year-old widowed Helen made her home in Manhattan, New York City, with her divorced brother John (age 54) and his young son Robert. Their residence was on West End Avenue, and she had no occupation at the time.

Circa 1944, when she was age 48, Helen resided in Elmira, Chemung County, NY. She left Elmira and moved to Miami Springs, FL before moving on to Phoenix, AZ. At some point she began using the first-name spelling "Helyan."

In June 1953, Helyan migrated from Phoenix to Alaska. Reported the June 19, 1953 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "Recently arrived from Phoenix, Arizona, are Mrs. Hazel Coming, Mrs. Toni Sims, and son Guy, and Mrs. Helyan Wilkins. They are planning to make their home in Fairbanks. Mrs. Wilkins will open an alterations department at Zella's Dress shop."

She made a home in Fairbanks for the remainder of her years and lived at 629 Third Avenue.

Suffering from a kidney problem, Helen was admitted in mid-March 1955 to St. Joseph's Hospital in Fairbanks. She succumbed there on April 11, 1955. Funeral services were held in Fairbanks Memorial Chapel and burial was in Birch Hill Cemetery, with an obituary published in the Daily News-Miner. In the obituary, her first name was spelled "Helyan" and her maiden name "Miner." Her obituary named her sister Louise Von Kenzie, nieces Jeanne and Virginia Collier, nephew John Minor and noted erroneously that her "father, a Civil war captain, is buried in Arlington National cemetery, Virginia."


Copyright 2000, 2002, 2004-2008, 2010, 2015 Mark A. Miner