History of the LDS Church in Tuscaloosa County Alabama
By Sister Helen Holloway Taylor Dyer, 1997
The church had not flourished much in Tuscaloosa county
until 1941. It was not that the church had neglected Alabama. In a special
conference in April 1843, with Brigham Young President, the following men
were appointed to Alabama: Benjamin L. Clapp, John Blair, Wilkinson Hewitt
and Lymon O. Littlefield. (History of the Church Vol. 5, pg. 347)
These men must have been very dedicated and found some
valiant people. In April 1844 a conference was held at Cypry, Tuscaloosa
County, Alabama. At the conference seven branches were represented. There
were 192 members present including twelve elders, five priests, four
teachers and two deacons. At that conference Elder Benjamin L. Clapp was
president and John Brown was clerk. Other elders appointed were W.G.
Brandon, L.D. Butler and T.J. Brandon (History of the church Vol. 6, pgs.
But people were very hostile to the Mormons and the
branches seemed to have dwindled away. Of course many faithful saints from
that time migrated to the West. The influence of the Church from that time
is still found in the area. North of Tuscaloosa we find a road called Mormon
Road. Up near Jasper is found a town named Nauvoo.
In about January of 1941 Elder W. Merle Anglesey and Elder
Clayton Larson were sent to open up Tuscaloosa ... again.
Helen Dyer began to write this account, she located
Elder McArthur who had baptized her. He wrote to her and said that he went
to his journal and found where he had written of her baptism. His journal
said, "I baptized Helen in the afternoon in the Black Warrior River, about
nine miles on highway eleven." That was on September 7, 1941. And he says,
''This appears to be the start of the church in that area." Other elders had
come, but there were no baptisms.
The morning that Elder Anglesey and Elder Larson Knocked on
the door at 1212 12th Street in Tuscaloosa, Albert Holloway, a teenager,
answered the door. The family had recently moved to Tuscaloosa from
Greensboro, Alabama. After Albert had invited them in, they inquired about
the rest of the family. After Albert had told them that he and his sister
were the only ones at home, they wanted to meet the sister. Albert went to
the back and told Helen, "Some Mormon missionaries are up front and they
want to meet you." "Like this?" Helen asked, indicating her mop in hand and
wet dress. Albert said that he didn't know how long they would wait, and to
So she went up
and joined tile small group in the living room. The Elders were told that
our papa was at work and our mama was visiting her mother in Newbul11,
Alabama, and would be home Friday. So the elders arranged to come back at
the end of the week when the whole family would be home.
No doubt that
the Elders were happy that a teenager and his sister were the only ones home
when they came because people in general were not friendly to the Mormon
Elders and usually sent them on their way.
The house that the Holloways lived
in was a six room dwelling on a quiet street that had lots of trees. The
trees were the reason for the town's nick-name "Druid-City". Natural gas had
not been available all over Tuscaloosa at that time, and people used wood to
cook with and coal to heat the homes. Late in the afternoon when people
began to start their night work, you were apt to hear neighborhood boys yell
up and down the street, "Open the door" with their arms piled high with wood
for the wood box behind the stove.
Papa and Mama were
William David Holloway and
Annie Ward Bayol Holloway. So in the week-end Mama returned and the elders came as
planned. Mama was very much impressed with the two young men so far from
home and family, so she asked them to eat supper with us. In those days we
didn't call the mid-day meal "lunch", we had breakfast, dinner and supper.
So they accepted and we all sat around the table friendly and congenial,
The elders came regularly for several weeks, then Elder
Larson told us that he was being transferred, and another Elder would take
his place. We did not see much sense in sending them away when we knew and
liked them. But the transfer was made anyway. And Elder McArthur moved in to
be with Elder Anglesey.
This family was totally ignorant of the gospel that the
elders taught, but we listened. Mama and papa had lost twin babies, eight
and one half months old and she told them of that. Mama was overjoyed when
they told her that she could have them again in heaven. Mama and papa were
Methodist and all they had looked forward to in heaven was to be angels
flying around and not knowing anybody they had known before.
Soon the elders were both transferred from Tuscaloosa, and
they told us that we would have "Traveling missionaries" and that they would
be around every five or six weeks. So Mama told them that when they were in
town, to plan to stay with us. So they did that, went knocking on doors in
the day and took their meals with us, and taught us at night.
But they didn't have much luck with Tuscaloosa. One elder
told Helen that Tuscaloosa was the hardest town he had ever seen. And Helen
believed Him. When Helen and her mother were baptized, our next door
neighbor said he did hate to see us join "that church", she wanted us to
join their church, the Baptist church. But she was a nice lady and we all
got along fine even if we did join "that church". The elders may have gotten
discouraged with some of the treatment they received.
The Holloways were taught several months before Helen was
baptized. Once as the elders were leaving, Elder MCal1hur had got to the
door and had his hand on the knob and he turned back and said, "The Lord has
not ceased to struggle with this family." And he gave Helen a Book of
Papa did not
join the church but when he died, he was reading the Book of Mormon the
third time. It was not that he didn't believe the book was true, but he
couldn't accept plural marriage. He did not protest when Helen and her
mother were baptized and he was present at both baptisms.
We had some wonderful missionaries
here and this report would not be complete without mention being made of
some of them. Not all by any means because Helen heard her father say that
he had fifty missionaries stay at his home over the years. I am sure he did.
A lot of elders who stayed with us left the family pictures
of themselves. And to read the message they put on the backs of the picture,
is to read a testimony.
Elder Anglesey left a picture on his visit on May
twenty-fifth 1941 and he wrote on the back. "It was a great pleasure and a
joy knowing you and discussing the gospel with you. I hope that you will
soon feel that you would like to join the ranks of the greatest people on
earth, the children of God. I feel that you are already one of us and hope
that you will soon be baptized. There is nothing on earth more valuable than
the gospel. I hope to see you soon, Elder Anglesey".
At that time Elder Anglesey and Elder McArthur were
companions and were visiting the HoIloways. Elder McArthur's message was: "I
am surely glad that the opportunity was mine of knowing and visiting with
you. I trust that my teachings and humble bit of knowledge may have shown
you that "Mormonism" is worth all the rest of life. I hope if ever you are
in the west, you will come to visit us. May the Lord bless you all,
sincerely, Eldon, May 25 1941.
After Helen was
baptized, Elder Anglesey was back in March 1942. He gave them another
picture and on it he wrote "I shall always remember the first day we met. We
hadn't had much success that morning. The Lord does marvelous things,
doesn't he? I don't believe you have a picture like this one. I would like
one of you too. How about it? God bless you and yours. Sincerely, Elder
W. Merle Anglesey."
Helen was baptized on September the seventh 1941, on a
beautiful afternoon, in the Black Warrior River. The only people present at
the baptism were Helen, her mother and father, her brother Albert and the
two elders, Elder McArthur who baptized her and Elder Wilford W. Jordan who
confirmed her that day.
No extra person being around to make a picture, Elder
McArthur had a camera with a remote control contraption on it. He arranged
us all including himself like he wanted us. Then he went and placed his
camera in the right place, then ran back and took his place and snapped the
Helen was the first person baptized in Tuscaloosa county in
recent years. Her mother, Annie Ward Holloway was the second person, being
baptized in the same Black Warrior River as Helen. She was baptized by Elder
Wallace B. Adams and confirmed by Elder Wilford E. Christenson. The only
people present for that baptism were the elders, Helen and her father. The
war had come along and Albert had joined the air force. The date of that
baptism was October 18, 1942.
There is no
record of any other baptisms until Helen's son, Morris Wayne Taylor was
baptized on October 6, 1957. He was baptized by Elder Wayne Shoenfeld and
confirmed by Elder Corwin Elsworth of Show Low, Arizona. This baptism was in
the McCalla Community. There were fifteen members in the branch at that
At that time there were no
churches in Tuscaloosa, Bessemer or Birmingham, so rivers and creeks and
lakes served well in that capacity. During the 1940's about the time Helen
was baptized, the Mormons had a conference in Birmingham. No church being
available, the conference was held in a room over a store in the south side.
There were probably one hundred people attending the conference. Helen
didn't hear a count given, but the room was full.
In those days when no member was available for the calling,
a missionary could be called to be district president. At that conference
elder Eldon McArthur was called to be our District President. That was in
Normally Alabama doesn't have very severe weather. But one
year we were hit by a blizzard. We had snow everywhere and all the water
pipes in the house were frozen solid, and the only hydrant that would agree
to be thawed out was out in the back yard. Every morning papa and AI would
go out and deal with the one hydrant that would agree to humor them. Mama
put her number three wash tub on the floor behind the door and they filled
it up for hand washing and doing the dishes and all the buckets for us to
use for drinking and cooking. During this arctic weather Elder McArthur and
Elder Martin Harris came. This Elder Harris was the great-great grandson of
the Book of Mormon witness, Maltin Harris. So Mama explained the procedure
of the pipes to them and about the tub behind the door.