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.
Early Pioneer families often migrated together to establish new settlements. These Early Settlements were often called by the family name. Allentown was named after the Allen Family and had a church, school, blacksmith shop, store, and cemetery. The Allentown Cemetery remains and is used today. The Bureau of Land Management records indicate that James M. Allen bought 163.75 acres and James G. Allen bought 160.05 acres for cash on April 24, 1820 in Mobile County, which became Allentown. Allentown was located near the area of Wulff Road and Howells Ferry Road.
Reverend James H. Allen was born on Nov. 1, 1811 in South Carolina. He was the first Presbyterian Methodist Minister in Alabama. He married Lenora Maples, a native of Washington County. He died on December 22, 1893. Lenora died in 1903. Both are buried in Allentown Cemetery. (Source-Deep South Genealogical Quarterly Vo. 22 in 1985)
Perry W. Allen was born on April 28, 1841 and died January 10, 1911 in Allentown. He was a Private in the Confederate Army, CSA 21st Alabama Volunteer. He fought in the Battle of Corinth and Farmington and the siege of Fort Morgan. When the fort fell, he was taken as a prisoner to New Orleans where he was kept for two months and then sent to Elmira for nine months. He was paroled and sent home June 15, 1865. After the war he married Temple Melinda Pierce. He homesteaded property at the corner of Howell’s Ferry and Wulff Rd and established a grocery store, and a blacksmith shop (wagon yard). Their home was a stopover place for weary travelers. He was a loyal church member for fifty years and was buried in his confederate gray in Allentown Cemetery. (Source- First “Scrapbook of Memories” 1997).
Henry Warren Allen (1874-1953) married Harriet Georgia Lowery (1897-1944). He homesteaded land across from his father, Perry W. Allen. Some of the Teachers who taught at Allentown school and boarded in their home were Josephine Schmitz, Eugenie Van Aller, Helen Gill, William Fagerstrom, Katie Curry and Essie Williams. Henry and Harriet are buried in Allentown Cemetery.
On May 20, 1862, James B. Allen, homesteaded 168.62 Acres: James H. Allen, 80.8 acres; Sarah M. Whiting, and James H. Allen, 161.19 acres.
Allen’s born in Allentown
Return of the Church Bell
The historic twelve hundred pound cast iron church bell made by the Cincinnati Bell Foundry in the late 1800’s has been returned to Malone Chapel. Malone Chapel is the replica of the 1900’s Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church located on the original site In Heritage Park. The name of the church was changed to Semmes First Baptist Church in 1904. The bell was donated to the park by Semmes First Baptist upon the completion of the Mt. Pleasant church replica.
The bell was purchased by Albert P. Funk, the owner of Semmes Funk Hotel, in 1902 for $50.00 C.O.D. and arrived in Semmes by train for Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Miss Fellie Christopher, the railroad station agent for Semmes collected the fifty dollars.
The bell was transported by horse drawn wagon to the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church. It was installed using ropes, pulleys, men and horses to lift the bell to the belfry.
Recently, it was discovered that the bell and belfry need maintenance and repair. The removal and repair of the bell was a challenge and no small task even with modern machinery.
When Semmes Air Specialty Heating & Air learned of the bell’s endangerment, they came to the rescue with their expert know how. Crane Works was called. The bell was safely removed and returned to the belfry by Crane Works after maintenance and repairs by Air Specialty.
Community Spirit is alive and well in Semmes. Thanks to Air Specialty and Crane Works the historic bell can once again ring!
The Mobile County Act No. 153 divided Mobile county into three revenue and road districts in 1888-89. These districts were then divided into precincts. The second district precincts were as follows:
County roads and bridge were maintenance from one point to another with different individuals responsible for each section. These individuals were paid by the county and lived close to the section they were responsible for. Work was completed by hand and horse- drawn equipment.
Schools are a reflection of the growth of the population of Semmes and its surrounding areas.
Schools in Semmes today with attendance are listed below:
MGM offers Academies of study and training in the following special fields:
MGM Electric Car and Robotics Displayed at Semmes Heritage Day!
Video-Mary Montgomery High School is Well Known is on the Mary G. Montgomery High School website.
Semmes Heritage Park videos are on Semmes Heritage Park Vimeo
April 22, 2020
Semmes Heritage Park is pleased to announce that Semmes Heritage Day has been honored by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission with an Alabama Bicentennial Legacy [award/commendation].
The honor recognizes outstanding projects by communities and organizations that were part of the commemoration of the statehood anniversary. Semmes Heritage is a celebration of Semmes History, remembering our past as we look to the future.
“Communities invested time and resources in an amazing range of projects,” noted Alabama Bicentennial Commission chairman Sen. Arthur Orr. “Our successful bicentennial celebration owes a real debt to their efforts, 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 for outstanding bicentennial programs and projects and legacy awards for projects of exceptional and lasting impact. Forty-one commendations and 21 legacy awards were given, representing more than 40 municipalities in 35 counties.
Projects ranged from celebration events to city murals to preservation and restoration of sites and structures. Many projects were locally focused while some were regional or even statewide. Many are especially notable for their long-term relevance and 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 will receive a bronze plaque noting the name of the project and its award. The plaques will be a public reminder of the achievements of Alabama communities during the bicentennial commemoration.
For more information on the plaque and plans for a dedication in the fall contact Jeanette Byrd, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Alabama Bicentennial Legacy Awards and the bicentennial commemoration, visit www.ALABAMA200.org or call 334-242-4537.
Mildred Wiggins was a native of Semmes. Her parents were Henry Hiram Pollard and Lena Van Christopher who were married in 1918 and settled in Semmes in 1918. Mildred had six sisters and six brothers. Most of the descendants of the Pollard family still live in Semmes today.
Mildred taught at Semmes School until her retirement, was a founding member of Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc. and the first schoolmarm after the restoration of the little schoolhouse. She prepared lessons for students and served in this position until her death on December 3, 2003.
The vision of the founding members of restoring the one room school and for it to continue to be used as a school goes on today. Children on Field trips experience School 1902 style with lessons in reading writing and arithmetic.
Preserving our History