Staci Glover may be one of the best known figures in Brookside, even though she doesn’t live there anymore.
The Gardendale resident is the de facto town historian, thanks to her work over nearly two decades in documenting Brookside’s ups and downs in the past 140 years or so.
“I got started when I did my master’s thesis back at UAB, doing a project about the history of the Slovak population in 1997,” she said. “And I’ve kept doing more work [on Brookside’s history] ever since.”
Then Staci Simon, her thesis began a relationship with the town that continues today.
Brookside began its life as a coal-mining community in the 1880s. Sloss Industries operated the mines, and recruited miners from as far away as Eastern Europe. “Back then, Brookside was a booming town,”
Glover said. “People from the area that became Gardendale would actually go to Brookside to shop. Now it’s the other way around.”
The mining boom attracted large numbers of Slovak immigrants, which led to the town’s history of Russian Orthodox worshippers. Brookside is still famous for St. Nicolas Church, which was originally built in 1916, and celebrates its heritage with an annual festival.
Coal mining in the town ended with a statewide strike in 1920. The strike was settled, but Sloss shuttered the mine. Strip mining returned to Brookside in the 1960s and 70s, Glover said.
Glover and her family grew up in Brookside. She now lives in Gardendale with her husband and children, but through her historical work she has kept close ties to her former home.
“The thing that has impressed me about the town is how resilient it is,” Glover said. “It has been through large fires, a devastating flood in the 1940s, and then again the flood in 2003. That flood took out much of the old downtown area. And yet it’s still going.”