Henry County Siftings
By T. Larry Smith
Vol. 17, No 5
Headland Entrepreneur J. J. Espy, 1878-1934
It has been stated “that only 3% of the people make things happen; 7% of the people standing around watching things happen, they write about it, pontificate about it, make predictions, and discuss it; while the remaining 90% of the people just wonder what in the heck happened.” Henry County has had her share of those who ranked in the top 3% in making things happen. One such man was John Jolly Espy of Headland. J.J. Espy was a mover and shaker. He was active in all facets of life including the legal profession, politics, business, religion, education, civic, social, banking, agriculture, and in entrepreneurial activities by creating new incorporations. J.J. followed Dr. Wyatt S. Oates as a promoter/developer of Headland. J.J. Espy began his law practice in Dothan, AL in 1900 in his relative’s Espy & Farmer Firm. He quickly became a partner and made friends with the notable Dothan banker and entrepreneur George H. Malone and family. J.J. and the Malone’s soon began incorporating companies together. Now listed are the presently known 40 incorporations in which J.J. Espy had a majority or lesser interest in from 1903 until his death in 1934. The attached image depicts J.J. Espy.
(1) Espy Mercantile Co. of Headland-1903, Thomas F. Espy, J.J. Espy’s father, opened this business in a two story wooden building on the west side of the square in 1890. J.J. moved his law practice to Headland from Dothan in 1902 at age 24; he removed to Headland to live in 1903 to enter the mercantile business after buying his father out. This business is now 124 years old since 1890. This business has been re-incorporated several times in Headland with various stockholders retaining the same name, and still remains in the fifth generation of Espy’s today; this is present Henry County’s oldest incorporated company. (2) Malone & Espy Co. of Headland-1903. J.J. Espy was the largest stock holder along with George H. Malone and his 3 brothers, and E.G. Espy a sister of J.J. The corporate office was in the office of George H. Malone in the First National Bank of Dothan where Malone was president. (3) Bank of Headland-Formed in Jan. of 1903 as a private bank inside of the Malone & Espy Co.; this was Headland’s first bank with the same shareholders as Malone & Espy Co. (4) First National Bank of Headland-1904. This was the Bank of Headland switching over to a National Bank. This bank continued until 1933 when it became part of the present Headland National Bank, and is still controlled by the 5th generation Espy family. (5) Merchants & Planters Warehouse of Headland-1904. Dr. W.S. Oates of Headland was the main player along with J.J. Espy and other stockholders. (6) Headland Fertilizer Works-1905. J.J. was the largest shareholder with the Malone family and Dr. C.F. Sporman. (7) Kelly Hardware Co. of Headland-1906. J.J. was president with J.L. Kelly and others. (8) Post Publishing Co. of Headland-1906. J.J. was 4th largest shareholder with several others. (9) Newville Mercantile Co. of Newville-1906. J.J. and eight others, with H.C. Price, Sr. as manager (11) The American Stock Regulator Co, of Headland-1907, dealt in livestock, with J.J. and several others. (12) Standard Mercantile Co, of Headland-1907, Charles Roland was largest shareholder with J.J. and others.
(13) Roberts Stock Co. of Headland-1907. M.W. Roberts was largest shareholder with the J.J. Espy and G.H. Malone families. (14) Farmers State Bank of Newville-1909, H.C. Price, Sr. was largest stockholder; J.J. was second, along with W.L. (Billy) Shelley of Tumbleton, G.H. Malone and others with several Newville citizens. (15) Farmers Cotton Oil Co. of Dothan-1910, J.J. Espy was main shareholder along with the Malone family and others. (16) Brown & Monk Lumber Co. of Headland-1911, J.J. Espy, J.L. Monk and two others. (17) Headland Oil Mill and Feed Co.-1911, J.J. was main shareholder with W.L. Shelley, and others, this was the 1st oil mill in Henry County. (18) First Trust & Savings Bank of Headland-1911, was Headland’s 4th bank, J.J. was largest shareholder with W.L. Shelley, Daniel W. Capps of Capps, AL, W.E. Woods, E.G. Espy, with George H. Malone as president, J.J. Espy as cashier. (19) Ashford Supply Co. of Ashford, AL.-1912, G.E. Jackson an in-law of J.J. as main stockholder, J.J. Espy, and E.R. Malone. (20) Price Fertilizer Co. of Newville-1913, H.C. Price, Sr., J.J. Espy and T.A. West. (21) Covington Manufacturing Co. of Headland-1913, shareholders included W.F. Covington, Sr., J.J. Espy, George H. Malone, and E.R. Malone. This company is still in business after 100 years and is now located in Albany, GA after re-incorporating several times, moved to Montgomery, back to Headland, and to Dothan and now in GA. (22) Planters Cotton Oil Co. of Dothan-1915, J.J. Espy, the Malone family, and others.
(23) Headland Horse and Mule Co.-1918, J.J., C.A. and C.T, McGee, and William
Hardwick. (24) Dothan Bonded Warehouse-1918, J.J., the Malone’s and others. (25) Brannon & Yerby Shingle Co.-1918, with principle offices in Headland and Fountain, FL. L.S. Brannon of Newville was president, J.J. Espy was VP, and Lewis M. Yerby of Tumbleton and of Fountain, FL was sec/treasure and all had equal shares. The company started with 1,660 acres in Jackson Co., FL and a shingle mill producing wood roofing shingles. (26) Espy Mercantile-1919, re-incorporated with several different shareholders including Mrs. J.J. Espy. (27) Headland Reality & Farm Corp.-1916, J.J. Espy, D.W. Capps, W.L. Shelley, the Malone’s, W.E. Woods, T.A. West, and E.G. Espy “J.J.’s sister”. (28) Omussee Stock Farm of Headland-1917, J.J. Espy, O.F. Thomas and W.M. Hardwick; a chicken and hog operation on 660 acres. (29) Wiregrass Milling Co.-1917, J.J. Espy, R.M. Lingo and W.M. Hardwick. (30) Adams Auto Co. of Headland-1918, W.D. Adams, J.B. Johnson, and J.J. Espy. This was a Chevrolet car dealership upstairs in the two-story brick building on the square where the new chicken restaurant is presently located on the 1st floor. Cars were pulled up a ramp to the 2nd floor by a large steel wheel.
(31) Solomon-Mitchell Hardware Co. of Headland-1919, J.J. Espy was major stockholder, W.A. Mitchell, and R.S. Solomon. (32) W.F. Covington Planter Co. of Headland-1926, a re-incorporation with different shareholders, W.F. Covington, Sr., Edna Covington, W.F. Covington, Jr. with J.J. Espy, Sr., J.J. Espy, Jr., Major W. Espy, and Espy Mercantile Co. (33) Covington Gin Co. of Headland-1920, W.F. Covington, J.J. Espy, and E.C. Solomon. (34) Solomon-Davis Hardware Co. of Headland-1923, J.J. Espy, R.S. Solomon, and J.B. Davis. (35) Wiregrass Petroleum Co. of Headland-1927, J.J. was largest stockholder with A.E. Malone as President, with J.J. Espy, Jr. and Major W. Espy. To buy and sell oil and gas leases, drill for oil and gas and develop petroleum business in the Wiregrass area. (36) Nehi Storage & Ice Co. of Headland-1928, Espy Mercantile was largest stockholder, J.J. Espy, T.H. & D.M. McGriff, Major W. and J.J. Espy, Jr. (37) Wiregrass Farming Co. of Headland-1929, set up to buy, sell, own & control farmland in S.E. Alabama, J.J. Espy family, W.A. Douglas, and Espy Mercantile Co. as the largest stockholder. (38) The Independent Kash & Kary Store, Inc. of Headland-1929, a general grocery store, cash only. G.M. Cooley, Pres., J.J. Espy as V.P., M.W. Espy, and Espy Mercantile Co. (39) Headland Bonded Warehouse-1931, to store farm products. J.J. & M.W. Espy, R.A. Weeks, Clarence Cunningham, W.A. Douglas.
(40) The Headland National Bank-1933. Formed when Headland’s two banks, The First National Bank of Headland and the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Headland, closed during the “bank holiday” during the Depression. J.J. Espy led the organizing of the two closed banks into forming the new Headland National Bank. J.J. Espy was Pres., D. G. Solomon, Cashier, Major W. Espy, Executive V.P., and L.T. Solomon, V.P., with R.S. Solomon, V.P. This was J.J. Espy’s last known incorporation; he died in a car wreck 15 months after incorporating this bank. HNB is now 80 years old and is the largest bank in Henry County. John Jolly Espy earned an eminent position in the annals of Henry County history; he was indeed an entrepreneur extraordinaire.
- More Anon!