Helen Hoffman Collar, Beaver Island, Michigan, historian, researcher, and author, first summered on Beaver Island with her parents and sister in June of 1915. For 79 years thereafter, she spent her summers on the island.
The daughter of a school superintendent, Helen was born in 1902. She grew up in Springfield, Illinois. Helen studied geology at the University of Chicago, from which she graduated in 1924. In 1925 she began working in the Wisconsin oil fields.
Her husband was the victim of hit-and-run accident when Helen was in her 30s. Afterwards, Helen supported her children and herself from the income of an Indiana farm that she and her husband had purchased during the Depression, and with the sales of fine linens that Helen designed and wove on her loom in the living-room.
Each summer she returned with her children to Beaver Island. While there, in the late 1940s, Helen began researching the history of the Irish fishing families who lived on the Island after the Strangite Mormons era. Her work took her to the National Archives, the Charlevoix County courthouse, and Arranmore Island (Ireland), from which many of the Irish settlers emigrated, to verify facts gleaned from informal interviews conducted during tea time with the descendants of the early Irish settlers. Eventually her research topics came to include the Mormons, Irish, and Native Americans of the Island, their culture, genealogy, history, statistics, and personal stories, as well as crinoids (fossils) and Sugar Creek of Montgomery County, Indiana. Helen also studied art and history, traveling from Auvergne to Afghanistan.
Helen’s historical research was published in Michigan and Beaver Island historical journals. She also donated her drawings of Island pioneers, made from faded family photographs, and family genealogies that she researched to the Beaver Island Museum.
In honor of her life and research efforts, the Beaver Island Museum’s new addition was named the Helen Hoffman Collar Archival Center in 1990.
Helen died on January 9, 1996. She was survived by her son, daughter and son-in-law, and four grandchildren. A memorial fund, to help support the programs, projects, and operations of the Beaver Island Historical Society, was established in Helen’s name by her daughter, Mrs. Ann (David) Broder.