Henry Emfinger’s passion is preserving Aldrich, Alabama’s history

Henry Emfinger, curator and historian of the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum, with wife Rose holding her handmade coal miners quilt, stand in front of Aldrich Post Office boxes, established 1883, in the museum. Henry Emfinger is holding the Brownie Hawkeye camera from which he took many of the historic photos in the museum. (Contributed)

Henry Emfinger, curator and historian of the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum, with wife Rose holding her handmade coal miners quilt, stand in front of Aldrich Post Office boxes, established 1883, in the museum. Henry Emfinger is holding the Brownie Hawkeye camera from which he took many of the historic photos in the museum. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Nestled near Montevallo off County Road 203 is one of Shelby County’s precious jewels, the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum.

The museum is the passion of Curator Henry Emfinger, son of coal miner Henry Thomas Emfinger, who came to Aldrich in 1942 when his father worked in the coal mine.

The mine depleted the same year, but the family continued to live in a small three-room home.

As a child Emfinger took pictures with his Brownie Hawkeye of the area. The pictures were developed by Montevallo’s photographer Otha Rakes and are on display at the museum with the camera.

Emfinger, born 1935, was career U.S. Air Force, 1960-1980, and brought his family back “home” to Aldrich after his retirement.

Emfinger and wife Rose had bought the mine’s company store, built 1928, and the historic Farrington Hall, built 1908, to fulfill their dream to transform these historic buildings into a museum to honor his father’s life work as a coal miner.

The Aldrich Coal Mine Museum, located in the company store, houses various collections of Alabama’s coal mine industry as well as other Shelby County artifacts.

It even includes a simulated mine to showcase mining.

One area of the museum is filled with Shelby County’s African-American memorabilia including photographs of the Prentice family of educators.

Emfinger’s diverse collections are on display: Roy Rogers, Gone with the Wind, Avon bottles, Avon cars, toys, bells, salt shakers, cookie jars, cans, camera, typewriters, radios, photographs of area churches, buildings, Montevallo mayors and so much more. An American Pickers paradise!

The museum and the elegant Farrington Hall, built by the Aldrich family, were placed on the Alabama Registry of Landmarks and Heritage in 2008.

Murals painted by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti, who sculpted Vulcan, decorate the walls of the “recreation” room as well as iron rails in the stairwells that he designed.

A monument in the nearby garden dedicated to Alabama coal miners was dedicated in 2011.

Historian Emfinger has authored several books including histories of churches, Montevallo and Aldrich.

The museum is open to groups by appointment only, adults $5 and children $3. Call 665-2886. Open to public Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

email author More by Phoebe Donald