Preserving History, One Page At A Time

By now most of our readers have read about the ongoing digitization project here at the Shelby County Museum & Archives, but many people still have questions about what the project actually involves.  Being a visual person myself, I thought I would share some images that will bring the project to life. . .

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“What If YOUR Ancestors Had Been Slaves, And…”

It wasn’t until Albert “Peter” Datcher reached the age of 50 that he first reflected on the long history of his ancestors. A history that was certainly full of hardships and struggles, but that was also full of faith, family and friendships.

Datcher, whose great grandparents, Albert and Lucy Baker, were slaves, has worked tirelessly to piece together the story of his family. But discovering the past can be challenging, even painful when you consider the many injustices that have been endured over the years.

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Shelby County Camera Club Continues Museum Collections Project

The Shelby County Camera Club paid another visit to the Shelby County Museum & Archives in September.  On hand from the club were Ted Vodde, Hank Siegel and James Brown.  I hope you will their images! Continue reading “Shelby County Camera Club Continues Museum Collections Project”

Meet Gracie Sproull: Our New Falcon Scholar From The University Of Montevallo

My name is Lauren Grace Sproull (aka Gracie) and I am the current Falcon Scholar for the Shelby County Museum & Archives! I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and I am a junior at the University of Montevallo studying History. When I graduate from Montevallo, I plan on pursuing a graduate degree with a focus in archives and preservation.

History is a passion of mine and it has always fascinated me. I can remember exploring my family’s home in Birmingham and discovering my great grandfather’s blueprints to the home in an old built-in drawer in the dining room. This document fascinated me, and only sparked my curiosity for the hidden treasures which lay “forgotten”. I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather with a passion for our family history, and he made resources for researching ours available to me at a young age and would tell me stories of family we would have never known without his time spent collecting these precious memories and histories.

Through archival work, the histories of not just individual families, but us all can be preserved and admired for years to come. Here at the Shelby County Museum & Archives, I feel like I, and all of the volunteers, are helping so many people connect back to their roots through every document scanned or photographed. Helping people connect to their family or their home’s past is such a personal, powerful thing that I feel honored to be a part of.

I encourage anyone who has the time to come out and volunteer to do so! I may not be from Columbiana or Shelby County, but I am glad to be here and learn about its history and help the community have this resource available to anyone and everyone.

Shelby Iron Works Fall Festival Set For October 14th

Old-time traditions will be on display October 14 at the Shelby Iron Works for the annual Fall Festival. This family-friendly event will offer fun and educational activities for people of every age.

The festival, which has been going on for about 27 years, always draws a great crowd and features many things to see and do.

“People coming to the Fall Festival can expect to see a variety of old time activities,” said Frank Hebert, Historic Shelby Association President. “There will be antique tractors on display with a tractor parade around noon.  We will be squeezing and cooking sorghum syrup, running the antique sawmill and giving blacksmith demonstrations. We will have live music, a variety of vendors, and hamburgers and hot dogs.  There will be face painting and a bouncy house for the kids.”

This year’s festival will feature theater students from Calera High School playing the roles of people that worked at the Iron Works so long ago.

Antiques and tractors are just one of many things that will be on display on October 14th at the Shelby Iron Works Fall Festival.

Vendors are welcome for $15. If you are interested in being a vendor for this event, contact Hebert at 205-531-9298 or by email at

“Parking and admission are free but donations are welcome. Both the Iron Works Museum and Industrial Museum will be open for tours at no charge,” Hebert said. “The festival will begin at 9a.m. and last until around 3p.m.”

The Shelby Iron Works has a rich industrial history, and was home to what was the largest charcoal blast furnace in Alabama. It was established in 1846 by Horace Ware.  The Fall Festival provides an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the coal industry, which was instrumental in the development of Shelby County.

“History as Art” Winners Announced at Exhibit

From a shelby county arts council press release written 6/24/2017:

The Shelby County Arts Council and the Shelby County Museum and Archives are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 “History As Art” Adult Juried Art Exhibit. Sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the exhibit challenged artists to create work inspired by a item (or items) on display at the Museum.  The exhibit is one of the events for Alabama 200, a three-year celebration of the people, places, and events that form the rich history of our state.

Best in Show: “Passage” / Stan Copeland

Best in Painting: “Has The Phone Changed Us “ Lynita Motes

Best in 3D: “Relics” Dave Livesay

Best in Mixed Media: “Return to Saw Mill Town” Scott Owen

Best in Drawing: “Powder Check” Ainsley Mc Neely

Best in Photography: “Soldier’s Belongings” Penny Wegener

Judges Award for “Process”: “Shelby Iron Works” Jared Ragland

Judges Award for Unique Approach : “Alabama 200 Liner Diner” Ben South

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Congratulations to all the winners and artists who participated in this year’s History As Art Exhibit.

“A Stitch In Time” Quilt Exhibit Was A Great Success

The quilt exhibit on April 29th was a huge success thanks to the hard work of Cassie Blair. Blair, who has worked at the museum for over a year through the Falcon Scholar Program at the University of Montevallo, spent an entire semester preparing for the exhibit, titled “A Stitch In Time: A Tribute To Shelby County’s Quilting History.”

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Shelby Sentinel Class of 2017 Graduates During May Membership Meeting

The Shelby County Historical Society honored seven graduates of the Shelby Sentinel Youth Ambassador Program during the society’s membership meeting on May 7th, 2017.

The Sentinel Program was established by members of the 2015 Leadership Shelby County class. Graduates from this year’s class are Cole Sullivan and Erin Acree, Oak Mountain High School; Emily Standige and Samantha Pearce, Helena High School; Olivia Railey and Cailyn Perry, Thompson High School; and Emma Harvey, Chelsea High School.

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Pelham Gets Its Name From A Very Gallant Man

Written by emily standige,
Sentinels Historical Research team 2017

One of the many cities in Shelby County includes Pelham, incorporated on July 10, 1964. Before this rather recent incorporation, the city of Pelham was often referred to as Shelbyville or Middleton before being named after the “Gallant Pelham” of the Confederate Army.

Major John Pelham fought in more than sixty battles during the Civil War before being killed in 1863 at Kelly’s Ford. His help with the victory of the Confederate Army at the Battle at Fredericksburg was enough to be mentioned in General Robert E. Lee’s official report.

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Helena: A Little Town With A Big History

Written by emily standige,
Sentinels Historical Research team 2017

Within the Shelby County Museum & Archives, there is a simple black and white snapshot of Helena, Alabama. The small city doesn’t look like much, but it played a big role in Birmingham’s steel industry.

A steel mill was opened by Burwell B. Lewis and Rufus W. Cobb. Rufus Cobb eventually was appointed the Governor of Alabama in 1878. Along with steel, Helena is also known for its coal mines. In fact, the newly built high school rests on top of what once was a mine.

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