Lynn Helmick (left) and Leslie Owen (right) stand with the portrait of their family member, following the UCHS presentation / All photos by Beckie Boyd

Original Charley Harper drawing donated to Upshur County Historical Society summer exhibit

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Historical Society gratefully accepted the donation of an original Charley Harper drawing to their collection this past Sunday.

An original pencil drawing by Frenchton native Charley Harper depicts a portrait of a young Troy Helmick, a fellow Upshur County native.

Upshur County Historical Society members, history buffs, family members and a classmate of Helmick gathered at the Upshur County History Center & Museum Sunday, Aug. 27, for a special afternoon presentation of this piece.

It is believed this drawing was created in the basement of the Frenchton School around 1942. Troy — who is said to be around 9 years old in this image — was injured during an accident with a water pump handle. Thus, Troy is seen here wearing an eye patch.

Troy Helmick portrait on display at the Upshur County History Center & Museum / Photo by Beckie Boyd

This donation was made possible by Troy’s brother, Lynn Helmick, and Troy’s daughter, Leslie Owen.

“Charley Harper’s work is so recognizable and known worldwide,” said Noel Tenney, Director of Special Projects and secretary/treasurer of UCHS. “The Upshur County Historical Society has always admired Charley Harper’s work and sought it out. We, especially like the early work. When Lynn [Helmick] and Leslie [Owen] decided to place Troy’s portrait with us, I was so excited to have that [in our collection].”

Tenney explained this piece will join over 25,000 units of Upshur County memorabilia, artifacts, and other materials in the UCHS collection. This will be the fourth Charley Harper piece on display in the summer exhibit.

Pictured left to right: Troy’s sister, Ann Crawford; Troy’s brother, Lynn Helmick; Troy’s daughter, Leslie Owen and Troy’s classmate/best friend Brett Scott / Photo by Beckie Boyd

During Sunday’s presentation, Tenney reflected on his first time meeting “The Great Charley Harper” during the Strawberry Festival sometime in the 1970s. As an art teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School during that time, Tenney took each of his seven art classes to Charley’s display one day during the festival.

“I wanted my students to know that Upshur County produces great people,” Tenney said.

This image will be on display throughout the remainder of the summer exhibit until it closes for the season on Sunday, Sept. 24.

“We are pleased to accept this piece – in recollection [to Troy Helmick] – and to add to the fact that Upshur County is a small dot on a big map,” Tenney said. “It’s a big place, but when you come down to the local, and you start going down every road and every hill or holler in Upshur County, it’s quite a large territory. We have multilayers of time and we have had many people make contributions to what Upshur County is. Charley Harper’s name stands way up at the top [of that list].”

This donation was made to UCHS in honor of the late Troy Helmick’s 90th birthday.

Troy Helmick’s childhood best friend and classmate Brent Scott admires the Charley Harper piece / Photo by Beckie Boyd

The UCHS summer exhibit is titled “From the Ice Age to the Modern Age…Revisited” which showcases a chronological timeline of Upshur County history, according to a previous story. This exhibit is open to the public every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. until September 24 at the History Center Museum, located at 81 West Main Street in Buckhannon. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to park in the CVS parking lot.

Donations to the Historical Society and its summer exhibit are not expected but are greatly appreciated as they wish to continue using this space for local, historic preservation for many years to come. Reading materials, such as the Upshur County Historical Society Newsletter and Journal and a Charley Harper biography, are available for purchase within the museum.

Guests can learn more about Upshur County history by scheduling an appointment to visit the Document Repository — 29 West Main Street, across from the Upshur County Courthouse — by email at Visit the historical society website to learn more about recent publications, research opportunities and more.

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