Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

Helenwood In Its Heyday

By Kathleen West Robbins
Contributing Columnist

On July 27, 1859, a town by the name of Homestead was surveyed and laid out in 50 by 200 foot lots - a plot for a school, one for a church and a third for a town square. Also, a cemetery was plotted and is in existence today - now known as The Cut Cemetery (because of the "cut" made through the hill when building the railroad through. the county). Records show there were 95 of these lots sold and that the town of Homestead developed into what is now known as Helenwood.

There are conflicting stories as to where the name of "Helenwood" came from. Some say it was named for a Captain Wood’s daughter, Helen, and some say it was because of the rough and rowdy escapades of the saloon days when it was called "Hell - In - The - Woods" - anyway, it is now called Helenwood and has been for as long as I can remember. Most of the saloons of early Scott County were located in Helenwood - three as recorded and their heyday was from 1880 to 1902.

The first store in the town was owned by IKE SHOEMAKER. It was on the left corner of the lane leading to RICHARD A. MARCUM’s house just across the railroad; SHOEMAKER operated this store from 1880 to 1904, when he sold out to RICHARD A. (R.A.) MARCUM Mr. MARCUM was a native of the Pine Creek Settlement below Oneida. He also had the Post Office in the back of this store, while his son, HARRY L. MARCUM, was serving as postmaster.


The R.A. (Richard) Marcum Store & Post Office in Helenwood

The first Post Office was in Dr. NEWMAN’s office and ALVIN PARKER was the postmaster, beginning on March 12, 1880. This office was directly across the road from the present one (1991). Incidentally, I was clerk at this present office for nine years and postmaster for 24 years - 33 years in all. I retired .on January 25, 1980. The other postmasters serving were: JAMES H. NEWPORT, Aug. 17, 1881; Mrs. C. CORDELL, March 13, 1882; MILTON L. BYRD, April 7, 1886; JAMES FRYE, September 18, 1886; JOHN CORDELL, February 13, 1889; JAMES C. PARKER, September 9, 1889; WILLIAM H. CARSON, October 16, 1893; LEANDER CARSON, February 27, 1896; JAMES C. PARKER, September 10, 1897; JEFFERSON C. NEWMAN, February 19, 1901; BAILEY P. SMITH, January 11, 1905; PATRICK FOSTER, December 19, 1908; HENRY LEE MARCUM, April 30, 1914; MAGGIE FOSTER, July25, 1918; LAWRENCE E. RYAN, August 28, 1943; KATHLEEN W. KEETON, April 15, 1955; LOWELL D. WEBB (OIC), January 25, 1980; ALVIN KRAHN, August 9, 1980; SAM WILLOUGHBY, December 30, 1989; BRENDA POYNTER, April 25, 1990; and PHYLLIS STRUNK, June 2, 1990.

The second store in Helenwood was that of a Mr. DAN CHAMBERS of Huntsville who came there in 1901. BAILEY CARSON brought to Helenwood its third store, located a short distance north and across from the site of the Railway Depot.

The first hotel in Helenwood was operated by a Mr. John Porter and it was located across the tracks and to the left past R. A. MARCUM’s Store. The second hotel was operated first by a Mrs. VOSS, MARION STRUNK and his wife, EVE. It was later owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. PAT FOSTER for many years.

The first mines in Helenwood were opened in 1881 by JIM and JOHN PEMBERTON. They soon sold out to Fry & Co. (who were later Campbell Coal Co.). They also built a Company Store and about 30 or 40 company houses. The store was run by a Mr. CAMPBELL and CRUSOE CECIL. I do not know how many years the mines were run by this company - several years, I am sure. Then, later they were re-opened by a company comprised of CHURCH PEMBERTON, JAMES BAKER and others. This company was known as Ridgeway Sprinkle Co. They continued to operate until after WWI and at one time had one of the largest payrolls in the county. A Mr. L. E. BRYANT came from Winfield to this company in 1917. He brought with him a Mr. L. E. (Ed) RYAN, who was his bookkeeper at his place in Bear Creek or Roberta as it was called then. By the end of 1919, they had from 150 to 200 miners working for them. Incidentally, my father, LAWRENCE A. WEST, was working this company store when he and my mother, FLORENCE BOSHEARS, were married in 1921.

These mines and store shut down for good some years later – but the Masonic Lodge continued to meet in the rooms upstairs over the store and their nearby warehouse was being used for storing powder and dynamite.

A terrible explosion wrecked much of Helenwood on the morning of April 5, 1935. The Warehouse, company store and Masonic Hall, plus at least eight dwellings within a one – half mile radius of the scene were completely destroyed. Luckily, no one was killed because they saw the fire in the nearby house and, knowing what was in the warehouse, an alarm was sent out and the people ran some distances from their homes. Several were injured and homes were lost. The Red Cross was called in to help and several homes were repaired and food, clothing and furniture were provided. The Red Cross certainly was a blessing to our little town.

The Helenwood School, Built In The Late 1890’s

The original plot of Homestead (1859) had set apart a location for a school and a church but the people had taken over and built the school where they wanted it. So it – like in many other parts of the county – became the meeting place for the churches. There had been a Presbyterian Church in Huntsville since the early 1880’s. Some of the Helenwood residents had become influenced by this church and had begun, as early as 1888, to meet in the schoolhouse for their services.

A baptizing is held in a creek near the Helenwood Community as scores of church goers turn out to witness the event

Here is a photograph of the R. A. Marcum home in Helenwood, taken around the turn of the century

Like most Scott County Communities, Helenwood had its own community school for a number of years. The known teachers and students pictured here (marked on photo) are Reason Cecil and Hettie Marcum Keeton (standing on porch) and the following students: Harry Foster, Jerome Smith, Edgar Cecil, and Lola Cecil

By 1883, they were in the process of organizing a Presbyterian Church. They built their church just a short distance up the road from the schoolhouse were the Baptists were also meeting. Some of their first members were: ELIHU McDONALD, Judge PARKER and family, Dr. NEWMAN, PAT FOSTER and wife, Maggie, JUNE TOOMEY and wife, Mrs. JOHN TOOMEY and FLEM DUNCAN and his wife, CASSIE. This church is no longer in existence, but it stood for many years – until all the above families were gone. It has since been torn down but the beautiful lot belongs to , who lives just across the road from the site. He keeps it mowed and cleaned really well.

This street scene in Helenwood was taken around 1918. In foreground are H. F. and Rosa Lee Marcum, children of Henry L. and Martha Sexton Marcum

In the meantime, the Baptists continued to meet in the school building. They finally decided to organize their church and with the help of an extended arm of the Pine Creek Baptist Church, it was organized on December 22, 1906. Their charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. L. D. WEST, Mrs. RUTH WILDER, Mr. and Mrs. JOHN MOORE, DENTON OWENS and ALBA ROBBINS. Their first pastor was R. D. ELLIS and the first clerk was L.D. West.

In the early part of 1912, the county built a three – room schoolhouse to the east of and in back of the old schoolhouse. Then they offered to sell the old building to the Baptists for $50.00. They bought it and remained there until 1946, when they voted to build a new one. They began the present building in 1947 and moved into it around 1950. We have done additions on two different occasions. In 1965, we added classrooms and restrooms and later (in 1976) a wing was added on the east side to enlarge the auditorium. We also added a Baptistery and, in the meantime, we also built a parsonage for our pastor. We are all proud of our church and our pastor, Bro. ROGER CECIL (1990), a son of our former pastor, Bro. VIRGIL CECIL, who served us for 37 years. He passed away March 12, 1974.

Also in the town of Helenwood was what should be called a unique school. It was founded in 1910 by a Mr. ED TREAT and wife, WILMA; her brother, Professor ARRINGTON, a graduate of the Universities of Virginia and Harvard; and still another brother, WENDELL ARRINGTON, a graduate of Princeton. Mr. TREAT bought all the defunct Campbell Coal Co. buildings and set up this school for "wayward boys." These were boys of rich parents and just couldn’t or wouldn’t "make it" in colleges back home. They were sent to this small college for a trial (out of desperation, I suppose). Among these boys were the sons of the noted Dr. CRANDALL of St. Louis, Mo.; two sons of the Dodge automobile manufacturer; the son of the president of the B&O Railroad; a nephew of financier J. P. MORGAN of New York; a son of one of Lexington, Kentucky’s noted racehorse owners, and others.

The Masonic Temple and Treat’s Building are the two main buildings seen in this early shot of Helenwood, once a bustling community in central Scott County which grew up around the Southern Railroad station there

Martha, George Harrison and Jean Phillips on the the County Bridge on Phillips Creek

The Foster Hotel, in Helenwood, as it appeared around 1918. The big two story structure was originally known as the Voss Hotel and was among the oldest in Helenwood

Mail Messenger Shafter Angel hangs mail bag on northbound crane at Helenwood

My father, LAWRENCE WEST, was a young lad at the time, and he had told us of several pranks and incidents concerning these boys. He became acquainted will all of them and was around with them quite a lot. One of the incidents he talked about was: One of the boys bet some of the town folk that he could crawl on his hands and knees all the way up to the door of the Courthouse in Huntsville. Several took him up on it and a large crowd went with him to see that he did not get off his knees. Some were walking but most were riding their horses. He did just what he set out to do! I can’t remember how long Daddy said it took him, but he, Daddy, was right along. There were many more escapades too numerous to mention, and some even "unmentionable" ones, but we used to love to hear Daddy talk about those days.

Almost all of these buildings and people above mentioned are no longer here, but the memories still linger. When we used to sit and listen to the older folks talk about the past in "Ole Helenwood" it was really interesting! I only wish I had been thoughtful enough to have taken lots of notes and even had had a tape recorder! But the few things that I can remember will have to suffice.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Winter 1991
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(page 1, 4, 9-10)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

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