Helican/Helicon History

Written in part by: George W. Ward

Helican, Alabama is located on the eastern edge of Winston County. Back in the 1800’s, Helican was a nice size community, with several general stores, a grist mill, gin, saw mill, and a post office. At present, there is a small grocery/gas station, a volunteer fire department, a beauty shop, and a cabinet shop.

In April of 1920, a tornado hit the community and blew away several homes and the school. The school house was a plank building with one large room and two teachers. Until a new school could be built, the children walked to the local church for classes. The new school was built with three large rooms. There was a small side room on each end of the school, a very small lunch room, and a library. Mr. Fletcher Cleghorn put seats and a shelter on his big truck and carried the children to school. There were three grades to each room, going through the ninth grade. Later, it was into a six year school with two grades in each room. The students were sent to Meek for the remainder of their education. Mr. Shell Denson drove the first bus to Meek.

For many years, Helican had a dirt road running through it. It was kept up by the men of the community. Each man either gave $5.00 or worked 5 days on the road. They would use a scoop and a wooden scrape with a piece of steel attached to the front to clean out ditches. The bridges were made of heavy lumber.

Helican has always been a farming community. Corn, cotton, strawberries, and pepper was grown in large quantities. There was also dairy cows and milk that was sold to the Deep South Creamery in Cullman, Alabama. Several large milk cans would be filled and picked up daily.

Today, there are some farms remaining. Most are made into pasture land for cattle and horses. There are also several chicken farms.

Liberty Baptist Church is the only church in the community now. At one time there was a Church of God, but it burned years ago and was never rebuilt.

Helican is a small community but it is still a very nice place to live and raise a family. Everyone knows you by name or face and most of the time are relatives by birth or marriage. It would be hard to compete with the friendliness of our community.

In this community from Clifton Bell’s place south to Crooked Creek and east to White Oak Creek and west to Mill Branch was where people lived in the 1870’s. They built a school house about where the Felton Cleghorn house sets on County Road 22, and named it Poplar Springs. About twenty families lived here at that time. The school district went east from Mill Branch by the Chester Parris place to the Cullman County line, south to Flat Rock Community, with several farms east of White Oak Creek and south of Crooked Creek that are not included in the number for this community.

There were two men here who loaned money. They were Wesley Bankston and John Bates. John Murphree had a store. There was a blacksmith shop and a grist mill at the upper mill place on Mill Branch.

Among the earlier teachers was a minister, James Parrott, who helped organize a Methodist Episcopal Church. There was a Baptist pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in the Wilson Bend area named Burrell who visited and preached for the Baptists helping them to organize Liberty Baptist Church. Both congregations used the school house for worship until they were able to build church houses.

In 1882, Robert Jones Ward entered a homestead at the Cross Roads now known as Helican. Today this farm belongs to the Felton Parris family. His elder son and family, George W. Ward entered land where the L.H. James family lives today. Bob Ward entered a homestead one-fourth mile north where the William Key’s now live. John J. Poss, a son-in-law of Robert J. Ward entered land where George W. Sisk lived. Frank Riley Ward settled the James Woodard place. These were the first to settle around the Cross Roads. Later R.J. Ward sold his claim to L.W. Freeman and entered the place where the Chester Parris and Elton Parris places are now. People were moving in fast and the name of the place was changed to Freeman’s Crossroads and a new schoolhouse was built about 200 yards east of the Cross Roads. After the Post Office Department rejected Freeman’s Crossroads and a second choice because these names were already in use. They sent the name Helican and it was accepted.

Other earlier settler were: Denson’s, Wall’s, Burns’, Woodley’s, Rollins’, Uptains’, and Thomas’.

Once, an argument arose between several people on what to name the town. After every name that had been suggested was turned down, two people both said that they just didn't know what to name the town. A gentleman spoke up and said "Hell I can."