If in the Spring of the year when everyone has a desire to experience the joy of the winding road, one will travel nineteen miles east of Columbiana, Shelby county, he will reach a settlement termed by the native inhabitants “the dipper of the universe,” but more easily recognized by the name of Harpersville.
During the days of slavery, a few pioneers from Virginia began a search for a pleasant situation for a home. As they came near this place they saw fertile soil, attractive and unusually pleasant places for homes. This place has a very mild climate, so these people settled in this locality.
After a few years the people organized a school and a teacher was needed. From Carolina came a man by the name of Harper [William Webb Harper]. He proved to be a good and faithful teacher, and grew to be admired and respected by all who knew him. Mr. Harper grew so very fond of this beautiful little place that he made it his home. Later he died leaving a fond remembrance and the settlement was named after him. [This community was called Harpersville by 1820.] His body now rests in the old cemetery at Harpersville. [According to some historians Mr. Harper was never a teacher. He did sell his land to John W. Kidd and move away. It is told that Mr. Harper at one time actually owned a portion of the land that Auburn and the Auburn University is built on. Mr. Harper is definitely not buried in the Harpersville Cemetery.]
The post office and a plank store were built when the pioneers first settled in Harpersville. The store was owned by one of the first pioneers, Mr. [Tom] Martin.
When the soldiers were preparing to enlist in the Civil war, they gathered below the Methodist church, which has been in Harpersville for one hundred and sixteen years. From there they marched on foot to Columbiana.
Harpersville boasts of being the home of some very well known men of the world. Joseph Simmons is the originator of the Ku-Klux-Klan. He now lives in Georgia. [The Ku-Klux-Klan was reformed in 1915 under the leadership of Harpersville, Alabama native and former Methodist minister, the Rev. William Joseph Simmons. He was influenced by Thomas Dixon's book, The Ku Klux Klan, written in 1905, and the film of the book, Birth of a Nation, that opened January 8, 1915, directed by D.W. Griffith. In this silent film the role of Little Colonel was portrayed by Henry B. Walthall.] Henry B. Walthall [1878-1936] is one of the most noted actors the world has ever produced.
At the present time Harpersville has two churches, a Methodist and Baptist. In 1926 a modern up-to-date school building was constructed for the people. It is located in the center of the business section and two teachers are employed. Along the business line there are two large brick stores, owned by S.E. Elliott and Kimbrough Bros. In the year of 1927 a plant store [cotton gin] was built by T.M. Spruell and later sold to Mr. Darby. Recently a barber shop, owned by Lester Baker, and a garage, owned by Defford Morris have been built. Harpersville has one of the best gins in the county, and also a good grist mill. In 1928 the people began using electricity furnished by the Alabama Power Company. This has helped to increase the worth of the town.
Harpersville is a good transportation center. The A. B. and C. railroad which was laid in 1908 runs north of the town. It also has a good ferry, east of the town. A highway from Calera is now under construction, which will make this little place more progressive.
[In 1925 Highway 280 was constructed and became known as the Florida Short Route. Harpersville was incorporated in 1949 and the first mayor to serve "this fast-growing section of Shelby County" was J.W. Donahoo.]
The tornado that imposed such tragic consequences on the Harpersville community last Friday night brought forth a wonderful cooperative effort by citizens and agencies of Shelby County and adjoining counties.... [This tornado destroyed most of the oldest grave markers in The Harpersville Garden of Memories Cemetery, located on Shelby County Hwy. 25. In 2006 the cemetery was favorably reviewed and listed on the "Alabama Historic Cemetery Register" with The Alabama Historical Commission. Also, it is on the "Alabama Cemetery Register" with The Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance. The text of the Alabama Historical Cemetery Marker located at the cemetery ... "The oldest known grave is that of Orpah Moore (1772-1823), consort to Rev. (Doctor) Lemuel Moore. This is the final resting place of American Revolutionary War Patriot William Jennings (1761-1840) and the professed burial site of the Last Creek Indian Chief of the Kewahatchie Tribe, Boz Shepard and his family (c. 1836-37). On January 24, 1964, a devastating tornado destroyed most of the oldest grave markers and killed ten citizens, including five members of the same Kelly family. Thousands of Shelby County's earliest settlers and area residents are buried here."]
With 56 percent of the vote, Theoangelo Perkins on Tuesday became the next mayor of Harpersville and the first black mayor in Shelby County history ... Perkins is an intervention counselor at Vincent High School and works part time at his father's restaurant, Perk's Bar-B-Que. He has been on the town's Water Board for eight years ....