More than 100 years after Tyner’s own Adellbert Knott published The Queen of the Huckleberry Marsh in 1879, a rare copy of the book was donated to the Marshall County Historical Society Museum. Since then, the story has piqued the curiosity of many modern-day readers. Knott narrates the “Queen’s” tell-all tale in first person and through her life, illustrates the rough nature of frontier Indiana just following the Civil War.
Mary Helms, the woman who was to become the infamous “Huckleberry Queen,” came to Marshall County on May 1, 1875 as a circus performer, and soon reigned over the extensive marsh near Tyner, where “whortleberries” provided both a “cash crop” and a “ready crowd.” Her brash behavior, multiple marriages, and run-ins with local authorities made her a topic of scorn and ridicule among some, and a “champion of cheek” and eccentricity to others. Morality committees formed and fumed trying to “clean up” the marsh and eject the “Queen” and her consorts for good!
Newspapers of the day from Ft. Wayne to Indianapolis to Chicago wrote of her escapades. Some stories, however, do not correspond with the information recorded in Knott’s 1879 rendering of her life story.
In her quest to develop the “Queen’s” story as a basis for an historical novel, local writer, retired teacher, Anna Liechty, has used her individual artist grant from the Indiana Arts Commission to search for verifiable details to document the life of Mary Helms, also known in “these parts” as “The Huckleberry Queen.”
The June 6th presentation of the Brown Bag Lunch Series will focus on the Ohio years of the “Queen’s” early life. One June 13th, a follow-up Brown Bag Lunch Series will feature Anna sharing discoveries about the “Queen’s” claims of being in the circus, as well as details about her experiences on the south side of Chicago. Come learn the “truth” about the “Swamp Angel” who once made Marshall County notorious!