Shelby County Historical Society celebrates 50th anniversary

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – Members of the community gathered together at the Shelby County Museum and Archives on Sunday, Feb. 4 for the celebration of the Shelby County Historical Society’s 50th anniversary.

“I just want to say that (in) doing the research to get ready for this 50th anniversary, I realized exactly how many people were involved in making this place what it is,” said Jennifer Maier, executive director of the Shelby County Museum and Archives. “The fact that we’re sitting in this very building is just a testament to all the work that was done, and I get chills thinking about it.”

The program opened with an invocation by Trent Robinson of South Shelby Baptist Church and a tribute to Fred Olive who served on the historical society’s board of directors and as president of the society for two terms.

“While we’re here celebrating the 50th anniversary of our organization, we’re also saddened by the loss that we had this week,” Board President David Nolen said. “He was a great guy and we are going to miss him very much. He was very active in this organization, had a long career as a librarian in the Birmingham Public Library system (and was) very active in a lot of other organizations such as the Sons of the American Revolution (and) the Alabama Genealogical Society.”

Attendees of the program were treated to a musical performance of “Amazing Grace” by Ruth Turner and Jacob Walker.

During the meeting, Ken Penhale was introduced and was given an opportunity to speak on the founding of the Shelby County Historical Society at his house in Helena on January, 18, 1974. The topic of saving the old courthouse which now serves as the museum and archives was also discussed.

“There were just a lot of people involved during the early days,” Penhale said. “(It) took a lot of hard work. We told the council when we first opened, ‘We’ll give you a building that you’ll be proud of.’ I think we accomplished that goal.”

During the meeting, the Shelby County Historical Society also showed a peek at its future and presented its latest project, the Shelby County Families Archive, which seeks to preserve the history of several significant families within Shelby County.

“We want to help families that have contributed to Shelby County, Columbiana, all the towns here by preserving their family history so that it can be available to all people for all time,” Second Vice President Ricky Harmon said.

The historical society began the initiative by awarding several significant local families with hardbound copies of their history, including the Ellis family, Hill family and Davis family.

President Barry Saddler of The Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints spoke on the church’s ability to partner with the historical society and the importance of preserving family history.

“We have a responsibility to search our family history and to preserve our history for those that come after us,” he said.

Nolen closed the program by expressing his gratitude for those that support the historical society.

“We thank the city of Columbiana for their support over the years,” he said. “The Shelby County Commission has been great since day one in supporting us.”