Helena, Arkansas

Coordinates: 34°31′45″N 90°35′10″W / 34.52917°N 90.58611°W / 34.52917; -90.58611
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Helena, Arkansas
Downtown Helena
Downtown Helena
Location of Helena, Arkansas
Location of Helena, Arkansas
Coordinates: 34°31′45″N 90°35′10″W / 34.52917°N 90.58611°W / 34.52917; -90.58611
Country United States
State Arkansas
IncorporatedNovember 16, 1833[citation needed]
 • Total23.0 km2 (8.9 sq mi)
 • Land23.0 km2 (8.9 sq mi)
 • Water0.0 km2 (0.0 sq mi)
Elevation60 m (200 ft)
 • Total6,323
 • Density274.9/km2 (710.4/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code870
FIPS code05-31180
GNIS feature ID0077157[1]

Helena is the eastern portion of Helena–West Helena, Arkansas, a city in Phillips County, Arkansas, located on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It was founded in 1833 by Nicholas Rightor and is named after the daughter of Sylvanus Phillips, an early settler of Phillips County and the namesake of Phillips County. As of the 2000 census, this portion of the city population was 6,323. Helena was the county seat of Phillips County[2] until January 1, 2006, when it merged its government and city limits with neighboring West Helena.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Helena was fought July 4, 1863. Helena is the birthplace of many notable people including prominent African Americans and Arkansas' former senior United States senator, Blanche Lincoln. Helena is home to the longest running daily radio program in the U.S., King Biscuit Time.

From 1906 to 1946, Helena was a terminal point on the former Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad, which provided passenger and freight service to Joplin, Missouri.[3] After, a loss of rail service in early 2015, a successful effort was launched by the Helena-West Helena/Phillips County Port Authority to have freight service restored.[4] The service was restored on October 1, 2015, and two new freight customers were quickly gained.

Downtown Helena, seen from the Porter Bayou


Battle of Helena[edit]

Helena, 1863

In June 1863, Confederate Commander Theophilus Holmes sought to take pressure off of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by attacking the Union-held town of Helena, Arkansas. Holmes planned and executed three different failed attacks on the town. The main attack broke through Battery C, but Union troops fended off the attackers and sealed the breach. The Confederates withdrew on July 4, 1863. There were 1,636 Confederate casualties and 205 Union casualties.[5]

Fort Curtis[edit]

Fort Curtis was built in August 1862 by Union soldiers and freed slaves in Helena. For the next year, it served as a command post for the Union since it was centrally located on the Mississippi River.

Fort Curtis was not directly attacked during the Battle of Helena as the Confederacy focused its attacks on the outlying batteries. The Confederates charged Fort Curtis in their last attack, but the heavy artillery inside kept the attack from reaching the fort.[6]

Helena built a reproduction of Fort Curtis in 2012 that is free to the public.[7]


Helena is located at 34°31′45″N 90°35′10″W / 34.52917°N 90.58611°W / 34.52917; -90.58611 (34.5292, -90.5861).[8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, Helena had a total area of 8.9 sq mi (23 km2), all land.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[9]

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 6,323 people, 2,312 households, and 1,542 families residing in Helena. The population density was 710.7 inhabitants per square mile (274.4/km2). There were 2,710 housing units at an average density of 304.6 per square mile (117.6/km2). The racial makeup of Helena is 67.93% Black or African American, 30.59% White, 0.13% Native American, 0.60% Asian, 0.17% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. 0.73% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 2,312 households, out of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.8% were married couples living together, 28.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.28.

In Helena, the age distribution included 32.5% of the population under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 22.1% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 83.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.5 males.

The median income for a household in Helena is $18,662, and the median income for a family was $21,534. Males had a median income of $27,203 versus $17,250 for females. The per capita income for Helena is $13,028. About 38.4% of families and 41.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 54.9% of those under age 18 and 24.1% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]


Robert Palmer noted that in the mid-1930s Helena was "the blues capital of the Delta". Among the musicians who regularly visited and performed in the area at that time were Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Robert Nighthawk, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Memphis Slim and Roosevelt Sykes.[11]

Historic buildings[edit]

Helena, Arkansas is home to historic buildings such as the Sidney H. Horner House and the Centennial Baptist Church. The Edwardian Inn is located on land occupied by Union forces during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[12]


Helena-West Helena School District operates schools in what was Helena.

Schools in the former West Helena.[13]

  • J. F. Wahl Elementary School[14]
  • S.T.A.R.S. (Students Tapping Academic Resources for Success) Academy (alternative school)[15]

Eliza Miller Junior High School and Central High School, the designated secondary schools, were in West Helena.[16][17]

Helena previously had a Catholic grade school for black children, St. Cyprian School; it closed in 1963. [18]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Helena, Arkansas
  2. ^ "Phillips County, AR." Archived December 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine National Association of Counties, January 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  3. ^ "H. Glenn Mosenthin, "Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad"". encyclopediaofarkansas.net. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
  4. ^ "Helena Harbor celebrates return of rail service to Phillips County - Talk Business & Politics". Talk Business & Politics. November 23, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "Battle of Helena Facts & Summary". American Battlefield Trust. June 14, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  6. ^ "Encyclopedia of Arkansas". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  7. ^ "New Fort Curtis". Helena, Arkansas. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "Decennial Census Official Publications". U.S. Census Bureau.
  10. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  11. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. pp. 117–8. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  12. ^ "A Delta Classic Since 1904".
  13. ^ "CENSUS 2000 Block Map: WEST HELENA city" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved November 2, 2019. - Index Map - See Page 1 and Page 2
  14. ^ "J. F. Wahl Elementary School". Helena-West Helena School District. May 29, 2004. Archived from the original on May 29, 2004. Retrieved November 2, 2019. J. F. Wahl Elementary School 125 Hickory Hill Dr. Helena, AR 72342
  15. ^ "S.T.A.R.S. Academy". Helena-West Helena School District. May 29, 2004. Archived from the original on June 6, 2004. Retrieved November 2, 2019. S.T.A.R.S. Academy Students Tapping Academic Resources for Success 390 Highway 20 Helena, AR 72342
  16. ^ "Miller Junior High". Helena-West Helena School District. July 6, 2004. Archived from the original on July 6, 2004. Retrieved November 2, 2019. Central High School 103 School Road West Helena, AR 72390
  17. ^ "Central High School". Helena-West Helena School District. June 10, 2004. Archived from the original on June 10, 2004. Retrieved November 2, 2019. Central High School 103 School Road West Helena, AR 72390
  18. ^ Hargett, Malea (May 12, 2012). "State's last black Catholic school to close". Arkansas Catholic. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  19. ^ Smith, Lindsley Armstrong (October 29, 2009). "Dorathy N. McDonald Allen". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  20. ^ "Bankroll Freddie". AllMusic. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "Bruce Bennett (1917–1979)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  22. ^ "Saxophonist Red Holloway Dead at 84 Chicago tenor was prolific leader and sideman for six decades". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on March 27, 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  23. ^ "Alex Johnson Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  24. ^ "LINCOLN, Blanche Lambert, (1960 – )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  25. ^ "The Roberta Martin Singers". AllMusic. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  26. ^ "Conway Twitty". AllMusic. Retrieved February 25, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]