Local author publishes book on Helper
SueAnn Martell is a second-generation native of Helper. The daughter and granddaughter of long time employees of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, SueAnn has a love of railroads especially the old Denver & Rio Grande.
Putting that experience and love to work, Martell recently published a book called Rails Around Helper which gives vision to those steel threads that have run through the town for more than a century.
Martell says she is excited to share a portion of the Western Mining and Railroad Museum's outstanding historic photograph collection as well as part of her own collection with the world in her new book. Her hope is that this work will give a better understanding of life in a railroad town and keep the memories of these times alive for future generations of interested people and historians.
Martell has been involved in museum work for nearly 20 years and serves as the director of the Western Mining and Railroad Museum. She is currently continuing her education in museum science.
When she isn't working at the museum, Martell conducts costumed and themed tours of the area as well as participates in cowboy action shooting with a local single action shooting society club, the Balanced Rock Regulators, and enjoys participating in historic re-enactments.
Historical work aside, Martell reverts back to her first love, geology and spends her time combing hillsides looking for the perfect rock or monitoring volcanoes and earthquakes on the internet.
Within the book readers will also see photographs of coal mining operations, historic downtown Helper and other "non-railroad" related photographs in the book.
"You can't talk about the railroading industry in eastern Utah without talking about the coal mines or the immigrants who moved here to make both industries successful," she says.
Martell's advice to aspiring authors and historians is to not rewrite history.
"History happened the way that it happened, the good and the bad," she says. "To accurately tell the story you need both. In the case of eastern Utah, the area suffered terrible mine disasters that killed hundreds of men and boys, it had violent strikes that pitted mine officials against families. Outlaws called the area home, bars and brothels were more common than churches and shootings were not unknown. On the other hand, babies were born to good people, weddings and holidays were times to celebrate and every kid found entertainment and joy in something as simple as swimming in the canal. To leave out the bad, or the good for that matter, is trying to change history into something that it wasn't. As an historian you are obligated to tell the whole story."
She hopes her book will promote a better understanding of the area.
"I hope that my book will be a source of pride for the residents of Helper. I hope that it stirs up memories for those who lived here and in the surrounding area and I hope that they learn little bit too, something that they may not have known before. I hope that my book inspires people to visit Helper and to learn more about the difficult life that the early railroad families had and also about what fun it was to live your life in the shadow of the railroad. I would also like people to gain a better appreciation of their parents and their grandparents and, if it is still possible, talk about the book and get them to share their stories of their lives. It is an important part of history that everyone needs to collect."