February is great month for history

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2006

As President of the Shelby County Historical Society, I encourage all Shelby County citizens to not only observe February as Black History Month but to observe February as &8220;American History Month&8221; and &8220;Local History Month.&8221;

This is a time for all Americans to study, appreciate and celebrate their heritage. By gaining a deeper understanding of the birth of our great nation, we become more aware of our responsibilities as American citizens.

Until 1971, both Feb. 12 and Feb. 22 were observed as federal public holidays to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22). In 1971 President Richard Nixon proclaimed one single federal public holiday, Presidents Day, to be observed on the third Monday of February, honoring all past president of the United States of America.

Henry Lee, the famous Revolutionary cavalryman who was known as &8220;Light Horse Harry,&8221; served with distinction under General George Washington.

Upon the death of President Washington, Light Horse Harry was asked by Congress to deliver a tribute to his beloved general, describing him in the phrase that has become famous: &8220;first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.&8221;

As the patriots showed support for their first president, let us also show support for our president and for our country.

The observance of February as &8220;Local History Month&8221; is an excellent opportunity to encourage the patriotic education of all Shelby County&8217;s youth. I urge you to study and enjoy reading about your rich county heritage. During the month of February please visit the Shelby County Museum & Archives, maintained by the Shelby County Historical Society, and see what is available through our county&8217;s rich heritage.

February was chosen to celebrate African-American heritage because of the pioneers and institutions born in this month. Eubie Blake, W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and Langston Hughes all celebrated birthdays in February. This tribute dates back to 1926 when Carter Godwin Woodson, known as the father of African-American history, organized the first annual celebration to bring attention to the contributions of African-Americans.

The February quarterly meeting for the Shelby County Historical Society will be Sunday, Feb. 5, beginning at 2 p.m. at the 1854 Old Courthouse in Columbiana. A group of men from Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Alabaster will be present to sing from 2-2:30 p.m. Their pastor, Rev. Richard W. Davis, will open the meeting at 2:30 pm with prayer. During this time Abby Merriweather Wooley, 1898-2001, who was a member of this church, will be recognized for her outstanding leadership in the Alabaster community.

Stephen Edward &8220;Eddie&8221; Bowling, a 16-year-old youth member of the Cahaba-Coosa Sons of the American Revolution in Shelby County and a member of the Shelby County Historical Society will lead in the Pledge of Allegiance. He will be dressed in his Revolutionary War general militia composite uniform that is a replica of the type of uniform that would have been worn by his seventh-removed grandfather, William Whitfield, who wintered with Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge. Revolutionary War soldier William Whitfield later came to live, died and is buried in Shelby County.

In conclusion, Lindsey Allison, current chairman of the Shelby County Commission will speak about &8220;Lessons Learned From Growth in Shelby County So Far&8221; as she highlights her topic on &8220;you got to know where you&8217;ve been to know where you are going.&8221; Everyone is invited