History of Harpersville

Travelers Motel & Cafe


Air-conditioned - Panel Ray Heat Vented - Innerspring Mattresses - Tile Baths - Shower & Tub.
1 Mile East of Intersection of Highway 25.
Mr. & Mrs. Renol Walton, Owners, Harpersville, Ala.
Tel. - Vincent, Ala. - 2-492.

Travelers Motel & Cafe

 Click here to read more about Harpersville published by the Shelby County Historical Society, Inc. in the February 2011 Quarterly Newsletter

History of Harpersville

Shelby County Reporter
Thursday, February 28, 1929

Copied by Bobby Joe Seales

Written by Ophelia Nixon, Jr. II Class, Vincent High School.
[Ophelia Nixon married Earl Baker, affiliated with the Old Baker Farm]

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.]

Meadow View Court
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The Shelby County Reporter
Friday, January 30, 1964

 "Tornado Hits Harpersville"

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."]

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The Birmingham News
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 "Harpersville ... Theoangelo Perkins is First Black Mayor in Shelby County History"

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 ....

The Historical City of Harpersville
As Told By Bobby Joe Seales
Harpersville is one of Shelby County's oldest communities. It precedes Shelby County and the State of Alabama. Big Springs as it was originally called was settled by the Harper and Kidd families. [Some historians disagree that Harpersville was ever called Big Springs. There was a Big Springs community because that is where the Big Springs Baptist Church was located. The church was began in 1825 and Rev. James Mark Scott was the first pastor.] Harpersville was named for pioneer settler William Webb Harper that sold his property to John White Kidd who came in about 1816. It is said that prime farmland, the abundance of creeks, springs and branches are what attracted the first families. Soon after the first settlers others from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesse, Virginia and Georgia took up residency establishing a store, blacksmith shop, a steam driven cotton gin and a variety of other businesses. The first store was built and operated by James McGraw. Later Tom Martin owned and operated a store. Mail delivery soon followed and the community prosperity soon lead to a regular stage coach stop. Early settlers made one-room schools characteristic of the area. After the Civil War the Alliance School was built. Later, the construction of Elmhill Academy attracted both out-of-town and out-of-state students who boarded in the community. Harpersville soon became well known for its educational facilities and cultural activities. The Florida Short Route or Highway 280 has brought many opportunities to Harpersville. As late as 1854 George Shortridge wrote that there were only three towns in Shelby County; Montevallo, Columbiana and the community of Harpersville. In 1945 Harpersville officially incorporated and shortly after purchased the old Harpersville School converting it into the Town Hall and municipal complex. The Old Baker Farm stands as a historic marker of days gone by. It has withstood the perils of the Civil War and remains today as a traditional family farm. Other historic homes include the Chancellor Home, Wallace-Klein Plantation, The Newman Rock House and The Darby House. In February 2009 the "Harpersville Heritage Area" was listed in the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage by the Alabama Historical Commission [See The Shelby News section in The Birmingham News dated Wednesday, April 8, 2009 for additional information].