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‘Images of America’ book chronicles Chilton County history

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

“Images of America: Chilton County,” compiled by local historian Billy Singleton, will be released by Arcadia Publishing on Aug. 7.

Singleton, who is not originally from Chilton County, dedicated the book to “the people of Chilton County, who welcomed my family into their home.”

“I am very grateful to the people of this community and I hope the book will in some small way repay their kindness,” Singleton said.

This is the first book of its kind for the county.

“I got a call from the county administrator that Arcadia was looking for someone to do a project on Chilton County,” Singleton said. “She knew I had an interest in history.”

Finding the images was a “treasure hunt,” Singleton said.

“It just takes doing a lot of digging, putting on some old clothes and going down in basements and up in attics,” Singleton said.

Each “Images of America” book requires 180 to 240 images.

“It’s almost overwhelming, but when you start looking and you start making contacts, opportunities present themselves,” Singleton said.

He said he has enjoyed learning about the area and how transportation impacted the development of towns and communities here.

Photos for chapter one, Peach Capital, came mostly from Gay West with the Chilton County Extension Office.

“We are the largest peach producer in the state, so that is very important to the people of this county — the Peach Festival,” Singleton said. “I thought that was the perfect place to start as the peach capital.”

Other images were contributed by the Thorsby and Maplesville historical societies.

After finding images, Singleton then had to decide how to use them and in what order to tell the story.

Most are photographs, while others are postcards. Singleton said sometimes postcards are the only pictures of an area that have been preserved.

“I do a lot of online searching. I can’t pass a flea market that may have postcards or photographs,” Singleton said.

Each image has a caption that tells the history of the scene and its significance to Chilton County. Singleton said he enjoyed researching the people and places in the images, spending a lot of time in the Chilton Clanton Public Library.

Verbena was the most difficult place to find photographs for. Singleton said he also had trouble finding old photos of Clanton and Jemison.

Singleton said he was touched by the willingness of community members to share their photos with him.

“People were excited about the prospect of recording the history of the county and its communities. This tells me that they take pride in their home,” Singleton said.

He said the images chronical the efforts “to move Chilton County forward.”

“As I drive down the road now, I also get a sense of what has been, not just what it there now,” Singleton said.

Proceeds from the book will go to the Thorsby Historic Preservation Museum and the Maplesville Historic Society.

The book will be available locally where books are sold and at www.arcadiapublishing.com.