For the last few weeks, The Vagabond has been talking about Etowah Historical Society founder Mary Harrison Lister and the interesting story about her life. This week is another story that must be reported once again.
Another Gadsden’s finest and original member of the Etowah Historical Society is Hazel Oliver. Because she stays extremely active and involved in many things, no one can keep up with her. This physically fit lady is on the go every day and few can keep up with Hazel’s pace. Her mind is sharp as a tack and she will give you an answer at a moment notice.
Hazel Louise Pierce Oliver was born in Walsenburg, Colo., on Aug. 11, 1915, to Lawrence and Louise Christopher Pierce. For those who can’t do the math, a few months this year and Hazel will be 99 years young!
When she was five years old, Hazel’s mother moved the family back to her ancestral home of Gadsden. The Christopher family was pioneers of Gadsden and played a major role in its founding. Hazel’s great-grandfather William Christopher’s home and farm adjoined the original survey of the City of Gadsden. He later sold the house to R.B. Kyle.
Hazel’s grandfather was Abihue Christopher, a veteran of the Confederate Army who lived until 1935. Hazel grew up hearing the stories her grandfather told of the war, and of her mother’s activities in the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Abihue joined the Confederate Army in 1862 and was being assigned to Company I of the 10th Alabama Regiment. He served his full time with that regiment.
Hazel attended the old Eleventh Street School and graduated from Gadsden High School at the age of 17. She was in the first Gadsden Symphony Orchestra, where she was first seat in violin. Hazel was also an avid swimmer and diver. She later attended Gadsden Business College and the Alabama School of Trades, as well as the University of Alabama-Gadsden Center.
On Christmas Day of 1947, Hazel became the bride of Clarence Elwood Oliver, who unfortunately died five years later on July 20, 1952.
Hazel became a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the age of 18. Along with her mother and aunt, Hazel soon was involved in its many activates, including the placing of the Emma Sansom marker on Black Creek in 1954. She has served faithfully in the chapter as president, in the state division as 2nd vice-president, and on many committees in that organization.
Hazel was a charter member of the Etowah Historical Society, where she served as Secretary-Treasurer for 35 years. The second meeting of the society was held in her home and throughout its history, Hazel has missed very few of its monthly meetings.
From 1938 until 1955, Hazel was employed at Ross-Gramling Furniture as a bookkeeper. She also was on the staff of the Gadsden Business College. In 1955, Hazel took a position with The Life Insurance Company of Alabama, where she worked until her retirement.
Hazel is a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church, where she has served as a member of the administrator board, the Wesleyan Circle, as president of United Methodist Women, on the Staff Parish Relation Committee and as lay delegate to their annual conferences. Hazel also taught the junior department as a Sunday school teacher to the 12-year-old girls for 30 years.
Hazel was a charter member and past president of Beta Sigma Phi and served as treasurer of the Etowah County Fund for Indigent Children.
Hazel is a member and past president of the Gadsden Music Club, an affiliate of the Alabama Federation of Music Clubs and the National Federation of Music Clubs. She was a member of the Northeast Alabama Symphony as a violinist.
When the Friends of the Gadsden Public Library was organized in 1960, Hazel was a charter member and treasurer, as well as doing volunteer work in the library. She presently is on the Board of Director at the Gadsden Public Library.
In 1962, Hazel was one of charter member of the General John H. Forney Historical Society, where she has served as treasurer and director. This group has placed many historical markers in the area.
Hazel Oliver has a vast knowledge of local and area history. If you can ever catch up with her, be sure to ask Hazel about her wonderful life and historical knowledge.