Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Helena, Shelby County, Alabama

Grace Presbytery

Southeast Synod

Helena Cumberland Presbyterian Church
3396 Helena Road
Helena, Alabama 35080

History of the Helena Cumberland Presbyterian Church

The town of Helena began as a crossroads stage stop with the first white settlers coming around 1835 headed by Colonel Griffin. Among the early settlers were the Actons, Davidsons, Lees, and Roys. Records show that two old gristmills were located along Buck Creek, and later, with the discovery of coal, the coming of the railroads, and the steel mills, the community centered around the rolling mill, which was built around 1862.

Pete Boyle headed the construction of the S.N. and A. Railroad and it was through his influence that the Railroad Station was named Helena in 1872, in honor of his sweetheart, Miss Helen Lee. The town was first incorporated about 1877 and the first mayor was M. H. Williams.

One of the earliest churches established in Helena was the Presbyterian, known as Old Harmony. This was around the year of 1850 and some of the first members prior to the Civil War were the Lees, Needham Jr., Edward, Henry, Davidsons, Fields, Griffins, Leonards and Roys.

Some of Old Harmony’s first pastors included Reverend William H. Meredith, who later became the president of the college at Montevallo; Reverend D. Y. Wyatt, John Caldwell, T. B. Travors, Sabe Ogelsby, J. B. Hall, L. F. Goodwin, D. G. Orman and J. M. Jones.

The earliest location of the church was just inside the cemetery gate, facing south. The first schoolhouse stood close to the Old Harmony Church building. In 1878 J. W. Davidson, who then owned nearly all the land comprising the site of Helena, donated a school lot. Between 1866 and 1893 the church was physically moved to its present site along Highway 261 with Mr. Lee deeding the property to the community. However, that building, along with the Methodist and Baptist Church buildings were destroyed by a tornado in 1933. Old Harmony was the first to rebuild, so the townspeople all worshiped together there until the other churches were reconstructed.

Sometime around 1937 the church was padlocked and kept closed for about a year, due to denominational problems. Some of its men kept “watch” outside the church with shotguns on Sunday mornings to keep people away. Reverend A. C. Acton was the minister that once again opened the doors and pastored the church.

During World War II the church grew to where it hardly held all the worshipers and two Sunday morning services were held.

In 1978, Old Harmony Church became known as Helena Cumberland Presbyterian Church when Reverend Earl Willoughby was the pastor.

Ministers who pastored the church in the past fifty years have been Ted Winn, Mary Amos, Jesse Fox, Roy Hall, Robert Cross, Tommy Johnson, Earl Willoughby and Stanley Reeves. Interim ministers being William Todd and C.E. Bishop along with two ministerial students: Randy Hall, as part-time minister, and Lynn Caine, a Baptist ministerial student who filled the pulpit each Sunday morning. Reverend Gary Whitworth continued to pastor his Spring Creek Church while holding early services each week for us. He also moderated our session for a time, as did Reverend Dewayne Pounds, pastor of the Rocky Ridge Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

At one of these session meeting the session members discouragingly spoke of closing the church doors due to lack of members, finance and interest. After much deliberating and prayer it was concluded to try to borrow money from the bank and bring a full-time minister in one more time. It was Reverend Pounds’ pondering that led us back to Tommy Johnson. This resulted in Reverend Johnson joining us as our pastor in March 1987. Due to both party's faith and love for the church, the church doors remained open. Under the pastorate of Reverend Johnson the church has continued to grow spiritually, financially and member wise.

In 1996, an addition was built onto the church. It is used as a fellowship hall with kitchen.

[Source: Written by Doris Young in 1989 with information from “An Early History of Helena, Alabama” by Kenneth Penhale and a book of Helena’s history compiled by the Al. Power Co., along with additional information by Beverly Edwards, Church Secretary, in 2002.]

Page Last Updated on December 3, 2003

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