Without Opp’s money, no Andala or Alatex

Published 1:46 am Saturday, January 25, 2014


Editor’s note: On Thursday, Henry Opp was inducted into the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership hall of fame. Not satisfied with the biographical data printed earlier this week, Wiley Ward shared his own research.

Henry Opp was born in Lowndes County, Ala., on March 29, 1859. He was the oldest child of five sons and two daughters born to Valentine and Catherine (Hart) Opp, who were natives of Germany and Ireland, respectively. They immigrated to the United States around 1850 and were married in Lowndes County, Ala., on March 25, 1858. Henry Opp studied law under John D. Gardner of Troy, Ala., in the early 1880s, and around 1890 he married John D. Gardner’s oldest daughter, Addie Belle Gardner, who was born in Troy, Ala., on March 15, 1867.

Opp moved to Andalusia around 1890, and on May 2, 1892, he purchased the old John R. Salter home site and all of the land in Andalusia Downtown Forty, between the present Dunson and Church streets and west of Opp Avenue. Soon after making this purchase, he constructed a large house in the northeast corner of Church Street and the present Opp Avenue, and he and his wife lived at that location for the remainder of his life.

In the early 1890s, Opp represented the Central of Georgia and the Mobile and Girard railroad companies in their effort to gain possession of the 170,000 acres of land in Covington County granted to the Moble and Girard Railroad in 1856. When the railroad land grant suit was settled in 1893, Henry Opp was successful in regaining tite to approximately 75,000 acres of this land, even though the railroad companies had failed to meet their obligations to earn any of the land in Covington County.

When the L&N Railroad decided to extend their tracks from Georgiana, Ala., to Gallagher, Fla., they crated a wholly owned subsidiary named the Alabama and Florida Railroad Co. to perform this task. Elijah Livingfield More was named president of the company and Opp as the principal lawyer.

He never received much attention for his work, but he was apparently paid well, and he was honored by the L&N Railroad when they named one of their principal depots for him. In 1901 the Alabama General Assembly incorporated the area surrounding the Opp depot as the Town of Opp.

Before the first trains arrived in Andalusia, Opp began devoting his attention to developing the town, which had not elected officials in 12 years. He served a one-year term as mayor, and was reelected to office for the next six years. During this period the population increased three fold, from about 500 to at least 1,500, and most of the brick buildings currently located on the court square were constructed.

Henry Opp died on Jan. 15, 1921, leaving an estate appraised at $190,712 ($2.4 million in 2014 dollars), making him one of the richest persons in Covington County. His estate included $11,577 deposited in Andalusia and Opp banks, $50,000 in U.S. Gold certificates, $1,000 in war bonds, household and office furniture valued at $1,500, and about $110,000 in outstanding loans to individuals, including G.O. Waits, $32,000; Trammel Henderson, $15,000; Walter and John Riley, $15,000; Covington County Fair, $15,000; A.C. Darling, $10,000; J.D. Henderson, $8,000; Bonnie (Riley) Crenshaw, $7,000; and J.L. and W.M. Knox, $4,200; plus about $7,000 to other individuals.

Most of the estate went to his widow, Addie Belle Gardner Opp., 55, who on Oct. 24, 1922, married Jesse Hillary (Hill) Guy, 36, who was born in the Herbert Community in Conecuh County.

Soon after receiving the assets from her husband’s estate, Addie Belle Guy and her new husband began purchasing property and investing in businesses in Andalusia. On March 1, 1923, they invested $5,000 of the $10,975 start up capital for the Andala Corp. J.G. Sherf invested $2,000, and 11 other individuals invested the remaining $3,975.

Within one year, J.H. Guy and J.G. Scherf had bought up all the outstanding stock in Andala. Of this, Guy owned 400 shares at $25 per share; Scherf owned 450 shares; and Allen Crenshaw owned two shares. On June 14, 1924, the three shareholders voted to dissolve the Andala Corp. and Andala became a private company owned principally by J.H. Guy and J.G. Scherf, with Guy as president and Scherf as secretary and treasurer. Andala remained a private company with Guy as president until his death. in 1959.

When the Alabama Textile Products Corp was incorporated in 1929, Addie Belle and J.H. Guy invested heavily in that corporation, and J.H. Guy became a board member.

It can been seen from the above that the Andala Co. and the Alabama Textile Corp. would have never come into existence without money from Henry Opp’s estate.