Helena: A Little Town With A Big History

Written by emily standige,
Sentinels Historical Research team 2017

Within the Shelby County Museum & Archives, there is a simple black and white snapshot of Helena, Alabama. The small city doesn’t look like much, but it played a big role in Birmingham’s steel industry.

A steel mill was opened by Burwell B. Lewis and Rufus W. Cobb. Rufus Cobb eventually was appointed the Governor of Alabama in 1878. Along with steel, Helena is also known for its coal mines. In fact, the newly built high school rests on top of what once was a mine.

After being battered by tornadoes and the Great Depression, the city of Helena has steadily grown. Helena was settled in the mid-1830s, but before then, the Creek Indians roamed the wooded areas of the Cahaba river. Helena life was good until the coal and steel industries moved into Birmingham.

Old Town Helena sits right next to Buck Creek, which was used for industry. Every year, there is a Buck Creek Festival that lasts for two days. Despite the Buck Creek festival being invented in 2001, the increase of popularity has led it to be a city favorite. It is sure to be remembered in recent history. Because of this popularity, the festival has raised more than $140,000 for charity. As Helena’s population increases, the more enriched and interesting this city’s humble past has become.


Kaetz, James P. “Helena.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Foundation, 8 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.