This ideally located small town in the western section of Shelby county, Section Fifteen, Township Twenty, Range Three West, nestles among the green hills and pleasant valleys of the Cahaba coal fields, while the limpid waters of Buck Creek, a stream made up of mountain streams and large springs, winds through the center and flows westward into Cahaba river a mile and a quarter away.
The first white settlers were headed by Colonel Griffin, who came about 1835. Among the early settlers were the Lees, Actons, Davidsons and Roys.
The oldest church in Helena is the Presbyterian, known as old Harmony. The first building was erected about 1850 and stood on the ground that is now enclosed by the cemetery. A new building, the present one, was built about 1880. The Baptist church and the Masonic Lodge built a two story building for church below and Lodge above in 1877. The present Methodist church was built in 1882. The Baptist built a new church in 1910.
The first school house for the public stood close beside the Old Harmony church building, and among the old teachers were Felix McLaughlin, Prof. Kirksey, and Ollie Cast. About 1878 Dr. F.J. Tyler got the people interested in school, and through his efforts a school lot was donated by J.W. Davidson, who owned at one time nearly all the land now comprising the site of Helena. A two story building was erected by public donations, a good school, patronized by distant as well as local patronage was the result. This school building was burned about 1889. And a three room school house, one story, was built about 1890. Later the town decided to build a new school house. The town voted bonds, and we have today a modern six room, one story building and auditorium well equipped, heated, and lighted. The school is valued at $25,000.00. Mr. J.A. Woodward has been principal for the past four years. The present enrollment is 261.
The springs of the surrounding community furnish plenty of pure water, including lime, freestone, white sulphur, red sulphur, and chalybeate, but most of the water supply for the homes comes from wells.
The old Ashville Public Road made a junction of the Elyton and Montevallo Stage Coach Road at Helena and this was the mercantile center before the railroad came, and Helena absorbed Hillsboro as Birmingham absorbed Elyton.
The first railroad to come through Helena was the S & N. A., extending from Montgomery to Decatur. It was completed so trains could get thus far from Montgomery about 1870, and it was extended to the present location of Birmingham during 1871.
In 1873 the Fell Brothers, Albert Charles, and Dickens, organized the Central Iron Works. They rebuilt the rolling mill which had been destroyed by the Yankees during the Civil War. These works changed hands and products several times before being dismantled.
The old S. & N. A. railroad was combined with the L. & N. railroad as it is known today; so we have the main line of the L. & N. with one line running north through the Acton coal basin and one running south through the Cahaba coal fields, known as the Birmingham Mineral. We also have the main line of the A. B. & C.
While located at this point Peter Boyles, who was at the head of the construction of the S. & N. A. met Miss Helen Lee, the beautiful daughter of Esquire Needham Lee, and was later married to her. As the Ashville public road was intersected at this point by the railroad, and a public grist mill which was patronized by the surrounding community was near by, it was a desirable place for a station, and Boyes through his influence, naturally had the Station named Helena in honor of his sweetheart, Helen Lee.
Helena was first incorported about 1877, and the first mayor was M.H. Williams, railroad agent at that time.
We have unlimited quantities of limestone adjoining our eastern limits and the whole Cahaba Coal Fields, cutting through our western limits.
The population has fluctuated somewhat, but it has never been more than 1,500 nor fewer than 500 in the last fifty years. The present population is around 750. There are at present approximately 100 homes in the corporate limit and 15 business firms, including stores, garages, barber shop, and drug store; also two secret orders - the Masons and the Odd Fellows. Each of these orders owns its own building.
C.T. Davidson operated a town telephone system here for several years, but financial returns would not justify; so we only have now the long distance system. The town is well lighted by electricity furnished by the Alabama Power Company.
Dr. Robert Hayes, Dr. Howard Hayes, and R.W. Cobb were once residents of Helena. R.W. Cobb was elected Governor of Alabama for two terms. All made good.
Every community consists of a group of people who occupy a more or less definite locality. Much depends in community life, upon the character of both the people and the locality they occupy. But the essential thing about a community is that the people who comprise it are working together under an organization for the common good.If the people in our little community would cooperate, we could do a great deal in improvements. We could improve our churces and church property, making them much more attractive; make our homes and home surroundings sanitary and attractive; have a “clean up day” for our town, improving our streets, back yards, and destroy all the breeding places of mosquitoes.
Beauty in one’s surroundings adds much to the enjoyment of life and therefore, also to one's efficiency in work and as a citizen.