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Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa
Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887

JOEL HELLER, living on section 2, Jackson Township, was born in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, March 10, 1823. He is a son of Jacob and Mary (Davis) Heller, natives of Pennsylvania. Joel was reared on a farm, and at the age of twenty-eight left his father's house and emigrated to Champaign County, Ill., where he resided two years, engaged in carpentering. From Champaign County he went to Henry County, Iowa, where he lived one year, working at his trade as carpenter. He then came to Benton County and settled on section 2, Jackson Township, where he now resides, the owner of ninety-six acres of land. Shortly after the breaking out of the Rebellion he enlisted in Co. G, 13th Iowa Vol. Inf. He served four years, participating in the following battles: Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth, Holly Springs, Abbeville, Greenville, siege of Vicksburg, Big Shanty, Marietta, Peach Tree Creek, Black Jack Mountain, siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Savannah, Columbia and Bentonville. He was wounded at Jefferson City, Mo., by being run over by a horse. He was detailed as one of a squad for the building of pontoon bridges, and on one occasion was sent with a number of men with a pontoon train from Sweetwater to let Gen. Stone's command cross the Etawah River with a brigade of cavalry. He was ordered to lay the bridge and wait twelve hours for news from his commanding officer, and if he did not hear from him then they were to take up the bridge and get back into the lines as soon as possible. After waiting the required time and not hearing from headquarters, they took up the bridge and started back about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. About sundown they were attacked in the rear by a brigade of rebel cavalry. They made a running fight all that night, the next day and the following night. They were then reinforced by a squad of Union cavalry and were enabled to get back across the Sweetwater, which brought them inside of the Union lines. At another time he was detailed as one of a squad of eight men to forage for provisions. Stopping at a plantation to get some sweet potatoes, Mr. Heller was sent to the barn to get feed for the horses, while the rest of the men engaged in digging potatoes. While at the barn they were surrounded by a squad of rebel cavalry, and all the men captured who were engaged in digging potatoes. Mr. Heller witnessed the capture of the men from the barn, and, with a hope of afterward effecting his escape, hid in an old fanning-mill, around which a large patch of weeds had grown. The rebels, knowing that another one was near, engaged in a hunt for him. As the rebels were drawing near he started to run for a swamp which lay a short distance away, and through which a horse could not follow. The rebels fired at him as he ran but did not succeed in hitting him, and at night he got safely back into camp. After this he was given command of another foraging party, being the only one left of the original squad. While on a foraging expedition, shortly afterward, he stopped at a farmhouse to get a meal. The woman told him to come in and wait and she would get it for him, as she was a Union woman. As she did not engage in the preparation of the meal, Mr. Heller became suspicious and told his men that he believed that they were trapped and ordered them to start at once. They refused to obey his order, and he left without them, and they were captured in less than ten minutes after he left. Mr. Heller was twice wounded — once in the hand and once in the hip — and had many other close calls. He was mustered out in 1865 and returned to his home, where he has since been engaged in farming.

In 1846 Mr. Heller was united in marriage with Hettie Davis, a native of Pennsylvania, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Keffer) Davis. They have four children — Benjamin, now living in Henry County, Iowa, engaged in farming; James W., now in Nebraska, engaged in farming: Jacob H., at Vinton; John T., at home. His wife died April 18, 1880, and he was again united in marriage, Jan. 20, 1883, to Elizabeth, widow of William Jeffrey, of Massachusetts.

Mr. Heller is a member of P. M. Coder Post, G. A. R., of Vinton.

Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies"  [database online]  Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 221-222.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on January 28th, 2009.  Copyright © 2009 The IAGenWeb Project.

Return to: 1887 Biography Index

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