The year was 1887, and Grover Cleveland was in his first term as President of the United States. The wounds were only now healing from the conflict which had pitted brother against brother, leaving the South spiritually and economically devastated. It was the era of railroads and sixteen years before, the city of Birmingham had begun where railroad lines intersected in a cotton field. The village had quickly grown into a boom town of more than 25,000 people drawn to the promise of opportunity and prosperity, linked to the production of pig iron. Electric lights were still a novelty. No automobile had yet driven the dirt roads of the continent. It was a time of unbridled capitalism, economic instability and high optimism. The appearance in Birmingham some seven years before of horse-draw street cars had made practical the city's first residential suburb–The Highlands.
It was out of this turbulent, rich and exciting medium that St. Mary's on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church was born on February 11, 1887. A committed and visionary group of men and women left the young Church of the Advent, and established a new parish–a neighborhood church overlooking the young metropolis, and inseparably linked with it. The parishioners, the clergy, the prayer books, even the original buildings, have disappeared in the subsequent century of unimagined and unimaginable growth and change. And yet that which called St. Mary's into being and which maintained her, remains; that is, the knowledge and love of God - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - and commitment to the Anglican tradition. Those men and women who laid the foundation upon which we continue to build, would believe, affirm and bless the worship and ministries of St. Mary's of today.