Historical marker unveiled at Aldrich

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

A nice crowd braved the cold on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 2, to celebrate the dedication of the historical marker recently installed on the grounds of the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum.  After the ceremony, guests were treated to a beautiful reception in the historic Farrington Hall hosted by the museum owner, Henry Emfinger and his family.

Spotted among those observing the dedication were Montevallo Mayor Ben McCrory; Bobby Joe Seales, director of the Shelby County Historical Museum and his wife, Diane; Ray Hamilton, director of  Shelby County Development Services; former mayor Sharon Anderson and her husband, Richard; Commissioner Jon Parker; and many other museum supporters.

Mayor McCrory unveiled the marker that read: “Coal was being mined in Shelby and the surrounding counties of Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, Bibb, Walker and St. Clair as early as the 1830s. By 1859, the largest mine operation in the state was the Alabama Coal Mining Company, consisting of several drift mines in the Montevallo area. Changing owners, names and locations several times, it was in continuous operation for more than a century when the Montevallo Coal Mine Company in Aldrich closed July 5, 1942. Two historic buildings remain: the Montevallo Coal Mine Company Store (1928) and Farrington Hall (1908), the office building from 1925-1942. These buildings make up the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum established as a tribute to the coal mining industry and coal miners in Alabama.”

Mayor Ben McCrory unveils the historic marker at Aldrich Coal Mine Museum as the owner, Henry Emfinger, looks on.

Both the company store and Farrington Hall are listed in the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

When asked about the beginnings of the museum, Emfinger explained that his interest stemmed from a happy childhood in the Aldrich mining community. Santa Claus brought him a camera when he was about 7 years old, and he went all over Aldrich taking pictures of the houses, churches, offices and other buildings. He saved nearly 100 of those pictures.  After serving 20 years in the Air Force, Emfinger returned to Aldrich, and eventually purchased both the company store and Farrington Hall.

For a time, Emfinger used the old building for rental apartments, but so many people were interested in his old pictures of Aldrich that his wife, Rose, suggested hanging them in the store building. Little did she know that her simple suggestion would provide the nucleus of a tremendous project.  From its humble beginning, the museum today boasts thousands of artifacts and a simulated coalmine tunnel housed in the store building and the historic Farrington Hall.

The museum is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and anytime by appointment. For more information call 665-2886.

Catherine Legg can be reached by email at clegg2@bellsouth.net.