Born in Gorham, Maine in 1840, Helen moved to Martha's Vineyard at age 12 to live with her Aunt Chloe and husband Dr. John Pierce. After graduating from Edgartown High School in 1859, she was hired as an assistant teacher in the North Primary School earning $13 month. She is known to have given first mathematics instruction to many students who would later become navigators on whaleships. Helen gave up teaching in order to marry the dashing widower, Captain Jared Jernegan.
Helen was 21 when she married 37 year old Jared on June 5, 1861. She was a bright and adventurous woman who brought Captain Jernegan joy and, soon, a second family. On June 29, 1862, less than a month after Jared left for the Pacific, their healthy baby daughter, Laura, was born.
Although Jared's desire to be with Helen and Laura was strong, the call of the sea and the need to provide for them often took him away. In March 1865 a lonely Jared wrote to Helen from the Pacific urging her to bring baby Laura west so they could sail home together on the ship Oriole. Knowing the journey would be difficult for a three year old, she left Laura in Edgartown with relatives. Helen traveled by sailboat and train to San Francisco. After waiting there for her husband for two weeks, she took a steamer to Honolulu to meet him. When they returned to New England in April 1866, she had been gone seven months and Jared for 3 1/2 years.
Martha's Vineyard Museum