More than 200 images of days gone by in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County are featured in the latest popular Images of America series simply titled, “Helena and Phillips County.” Bill Branch and Paula Oliver, on behalf of the Delta Cultural Center penned the 128-page picture book.
The book tells the history of this corner of the Delta primarily in photographs. The county's history dates back to the 1820s and was named after one of its earliest settlers, Sylvanus Phillips. The city of Helena, which eventually became the county seat, was officially incorporated in 1833. It quickly became a major economic and social center of this region.
All sorts of mills, including lumber and cotton-oil, and railroads began to spring up in the area. These along with burgeoning river traffic contributed to a thriving economy. Several ethic groups, including African Americans, Chinese, Lebanese, Greek, Italian and others played created a diverse and unique society and culture.
Located at what author Mark Twain describes as one of the most beautiful locations along the Mississippi River near the southern end of Crowley's Ridge, Helena's claim to history includes visits by explorer Hernando DeSoto and Father Jacques Marquette. It was also home to seven Confederate generals during the Civil War.
Phillips County's rich Delta soil attracted many farmers that turned the forests into plantations with luxurious homes.
Over the years, the county's economy has suffered a major decline in employment and population.
Highlights of Helena and Phillips County include:
• Photos of the development of the area's education system with images of past students.
• The King Biscuit Blues Festival and other musical influences in Phillips County.
• The early settling of the area and its growth as a result of its situation on the Mississippi River.
The book officially goes on sale Monday, March 18 and will be available at area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers. It is available directly from the publishing company Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665 or online.
About the authors
Branch is the curator of the Delta Cultural Center and Oliver, a native of Helena, is the center's public information officer.