Before being adopted by James H. Allen, (the first Presbyterian Methodist Minister in Alabama), Will was known as William Hellings. He was born in Bristol, England.
His father was deceased and his stepfather, Hellings, worked on the docks as a “Lumper” (unloading of ships.) His stepfather was reported to be a mean sort, drinking and mean to his wife. This is probably why Will chose to run away.
According to the Nautical School for Naughty Boys, William repeatedly ran away. William was charged with “wandering” and was assigned at the age of 11, on October 16, 1884 to the Nautical School for Naughty Boys which was a docked ship the Formidable in Bristol England.
In the school log he is described having “a height, without shoes, 4 feet, 1 inches, eyes -hazel, hair- light, chest measured 23 ½ inches and he had a mole on his right hip. He was a bright little boy who didn’t have fits.”
He left the detention school on July 12, 1889 at the age of sixteen. He signed on to the ship Souvenir as an ordinary seaman for a wage of 25 shillings per month. Captain Collis and his crew were bound for “Buenos Ayres” but had a stopover in Mobile.
William jumped ship in Mobile and lived on the streets of Mobile until Rev. James H. Allen found him and adopted him bringing him home to Allentown. His name was changed to Will Allen. Will was married to Irene Snow. He and his wife are buried in Allentown Cemetery.
Personal Note: As a child my father took me to visit Will and Irene Allen. They lived in a large two story clap board unpainted house. The house was located on Snow Road a short distance from Wulff Road and before you get to Howells Ferry Road. The house is long gone; the land has trees on it where the house stood.
A fond memory was seeing the large size of the kitchen, which was the center of activity of the home, and the fact that there was a hand pump by the sink so you did not have to go outside to pump water to carry in.
Mobile Register April 6, 1997 “Unraveling the English Will Mystery,” by Jay Grelen
On April 22,2020 the 200 ALABAMA Bicentennial Commission notified Semmes Heritage Park , Semmes Heritage Day was being recognized with a Bronze Commendation plaque for its outstanding participation in the 200 Alabama Bicentennial Celebration. Due to manufacturing difficulties, COVID-19, the plaque was not received until September, 2020.
On September 19, 2020 Semmes Heritage Park held an open House celebration in honor of receiving the Commendation Award. The plaque is mounted to the school house.
Sen. Arthur Orr, Alabama Bicentennial Commission chairman said, “Communities invested time and resources in an amazing range of Projects. Our successful bicentennial celebration owes a real debt to their effort especially for projects that will be important to the state, its communities and its citizens for a long time to come.”
Awards were given in two categories: Commendations Awards, (forty-one for outstanding bicentennial programs and projects) and Legacy Awards (twenty-one for projects of exceptional and lasting impact.
The awards represented every region of the state and ranged from small towns to major metros, including Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville. Each winning project received a bronze plaque noting the name of the project and its award. The plaque is a public reminder of the achievements of the Alabama communities during the bicentennial commemoration.
The Mayor of Semmes, David Baker, issued a proclamation from the City of Semmes, proclaiming September 19,2020 as Semmes Heritage Park Day. Receiving the proclamations is Semmes Heritage Park President, Carolyn Owens.
Preserving our History