EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series leading up to the Highland County Historical Society inducting five more into its Hall of Fame on May 27. This week, the late Helen Hoover is profiled.
Helen Drusilla Blackburn Hoover was born and raised in Greenfield, graduated from McClain High School, then blazed a trail through the wilderness.
She authored seven books and numerous articles on nature and the wilderness during her 74 years on this earth, and on May 27, she will be enshrined in the Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame.
A trained metallurgist, she was born in Highland County on Jan. 20, 1910, the daughter of Thomas and Hanna Blackburn, and graduated from McClain High School in 1927. She attended Ohio University and earned a degree in chemistry. In 1936, she married Adrian Hoover.
During World War II when her husband was in the military, Helen studied at the University of Chicago, where she earned her degree in metallurgy. After the war, the Hoovers continued to live in Chicago, where Helen worked in metals research and Adrian was a graphic designer.
Then in 1954, after a vacation in the north woods of Minnesota, the couple decided to rent a cabin and spend a year living in the wilderness.
After surviving the year, the Hoovers decided to make their permanent home there. Helen wrote articles for scientific journals and magazines such as Audubon, Gourmet and American Mercury – as well as several books – as a means to make enough money for their needed supplies.
Her seven books, illustrated with pen and ink drawings by her husband, included three children’s books. Four of her books, “The Gift of the Deer,” “The Long-Shadowed Forest,” “A Place in the Woods” and “The Years in the Forest,” were based on their life of coping with the difficulties of living in the wilderness. Several were printed in Reader’s Digest.
In 1963, her first book was published in New York. “The Long-Shadowed Forest” described the plants and animals that surrounded the Hoover’s cabin. Adrian lovingly illustrated the margins of the pages with detailed depictions of the text, creating what has been described as “one of the ‘must have’ books for any Minnesotan.”
As the environmental movement of the 1970s grew, Helen’s books inspired many young activists. She went on to author six more books – some including very personal accounts of the couple’s struggle to survive near the Canadian border. When the Gunflint Trail became more populated and the Hooverses’ privacy more compromised, they left Minnesota and decided to retire to Laramie, Wyo.
Helen Hoover passed away on June 30, 1984.
In addition to Helen Hoover, on May 27, the Highland County Historical Society will induct Judge Richard Davis, along with the late Edwin Billingham Ayres, Moses Carothers and Wesley T. Roush into its hall of fame.
In addition, the Lincoln Mothers will be recognized as a group during the ceremony, which will be held at the First Presbyterian Church on May 27 at 2 p.m., with a reception and social hour immediately following at the Highland House Museum.
The Highland County Historical Society invites the public to attend and honor this outstanding group.
For more information on the Highland County Historical Society or the upcoming hall of fame ceremony, call 937-393-3392 or email the society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees.