Knowles relishes in history

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Carolyn Knowles is a women with deep roots in Shelby County.

Born in a small mining town near Jasper, Carolyn’s parents were Jess Barton of Cordova and Floyce West Barton of West Blocton. Barton ran a commissary and moved his family to Alabaster in 1947.

Knowles graduated from Thompson High School and entered Alabama College, The State College for Women. Before graduating with a degree in physical education and a minor in biology, the school turned coed in her senior year. Today, that school is the University of Montevallo.

Carolyn married her high school sweetheart, Dick Davidson, and they had one son, Joe. She began her teaching career of 30 years with the Shelby County Schools teaching P.E.

Life was good in those days until a life changing moment in 1968. Her husband, who was mayor of Helena at the time, was tragically killed in a plane crash.

Left with a small son, the young widow taught school and began leading Shelby County students to Europe in the summer, beginning in 1970. For six years, she spent five to six weeks with a group of students touring England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. It was during these years that Carolyn began her love of history and saving things; keeping memories alive though pictures, mementos and articles.

In 1968, she became a member of Alpha Nu, the Shelby County Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International Educational Society. As historian, she became the keeper of history for Delta Gamma for many years.

In 1970, Carolyn married Charles Knowles. They were both teachers at Thompson High School. Charles had two daughters, Melissa and Amy, and Doug (now deceased).

In the 1980s, Knowles became a member of the Columbiana Culture Club. She became intrigued with the history of the longest, continuous civic club in Shelby County when she found all the club’s archives in several boxes in the Harrison Regional Library. She began the task of bringing order to the treasures she found, making scrapbooks out of the written and pictorial history. She has since been the historian of Culture Club.

The Delta Gamma and Culture Club scrapbooks, which contain much of Shelby County’s history from 1910 on, found a home under the Knowles’ bed until she moved them to the historical museum.

In 2005, Knowles became the historian of the Shelby County Historical Society and began a new set of scrapbooks.

So much history has been preserved because woman began to love to save things.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at