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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Properly Dressed In The 1880's

While I'm still trying to wrap my mind around some of the findings in my research, I thought it would be a great idea to have a visual aid to help my blog readers experience what the times were like in the 1880's.  

History tells us at the time the Josephine Hotel was built in 1880, this decade was part of the "gilded age".  There was a great economic boom and Union Springs was right smack in the middle of it.  The town had everything going for it.  Two major railroads intersecting in town, jobs everywhere and cotton was like gold!  These were opulent times and it seemed everyone had money.  

The fashion is those days were like nothing we've seen since. Meticulous attention the finest details.  The highest quality fabrics, lace, buttons, and adornments were part of everyday wear. Unless you lived and worked on a farm, ladies and gentleman dressed proper to maintain their image in social and business activities.

 Womens shoes, (my favorite), from this era are nothing less than a work of art.  The fabrics used in many of the shoes from that day are that of silk and velvet.  Lots of detail went into the embroidery and stitching of each shoe.  I would have to assume that each shoe was hand crafted and hand embellished one at a time.  I also noticed in all the shoes and small boots that I have seen, the heels are the height and shape of a pump.  1-1/2" approximately.  It just wouldn't have made sense to have anything higher as it would be to difficult to walk in gravel, dirt, and sidewalks.  These examples are just dreamy in my opinion.

Other items you would have needed to complete the look of a properly dress lady would be these:

The tiara didn't always have to be dripping with diamonds and emeralds, but when they did it was for super special occasions. But there were other times where a tiara would be perfect for the event as an adornment in her hair.  Some were beautifully made from metals like brass and base metals.

No many women were without this necessary item in the daytime.  It wasn't for rain... it was for shielding her from the sun.  Hey, it gets hot in all those layers of clothing.

I think I know why women in these days look so annoyed... because the spent sooo much time on their hair.  Yes, these hairdos are quite elaborate and that was for the simple ones.  With all these twists, curls, braids, hair combs, barrettes, and flowers... wow, I think I would be annoyed too.

This is a good example of a popular hair comb adornment.  I don't know about all those dangly things.  That movement would make me feel like there is a bug in my hair.

Another necessity many women carried mostly when traveling was this compact sewing kit purse.  I love this.  With all the little tools she would need to do quick repairs, this little gimzo did the trick.  It would have been common in those days to find oneself in need of repairing a ripped hem, loose button, or even a small tear in clothing.  It was and still is a great item to travel with.

And lastly, for now, that is... the beautiful jewelry.
These are just a few examples I like. 
Simply and elegant everyday pieces like the turquoise with pearl bangle bracelet and the turquoise and diamond are just lovely.

Sapphire and diamond rings were very common engagement rings in those days.  Many still love the sapphire as an engagement ring today.  

Peridot & Pearls... Stunning.


I love this cameo set.  Earrings, bracelet, and brooch.  So feminine and classy. 

Also, a pretty stone that is as popular as ever... Aquamarine.

I will be adding more fashion in upcoming posts, including those amazing hats they wore and purses.  The hats are among my favorite accessories as they are utterly artistic.

Don't forget... 

The Josephine Hotel may not be operating as a hotel at the moment, but it is a great place to go for a day trip. 
There's the Ice Cream Parlor
Gourmet Sandwiches & Salads
Art Gallery
Ghost Tours
Meetings & Parties Accommodations 
Conference Room
HandCrafted Items 
Walking Tours
Architectural Tours

So much to do and worth the trip.
Josephine would love this place today!

Check out the website at: 


Follow them on Facebook at:
Josephine Art Center

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Remarkable Josephine Fleming

I've become committed to learning more about this amazing woman, who was a beloved daughter, wife, sister, and mother, but was also a benediction to all who knew her. In order to know what kind of woman Josephine was, I had to know what kind of family she came from. They always say if you want to know more about a person you must learn more about their family. Who they are and what kind of influence did they have over that person. Based on what I've learned so far, Josephine came from a very good family. She was a virtuous woman who's upbringing formed the very person she was. Josephine was surrounded by the combined influences of a large loving family, her friends, and her church.

Josephine Fleming was born:  Laura Josephine Cowan March 14, 1838, in Eufaula, Alabama.

Josephine, at the age of 19, met her soon to be husband, Dr. Robert A. Fleming, just after his arrival in Eufaula.  It was 1857 and he was fresh out of Medical School.  He attended a Medical School somewhere in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Robert was just 22 years old and would be working under the tutelage of Dr. Cowan, Josephine's father.  

Josephine would later marry Robert, September 22nd, 1858.

Laura Josephine was the second oldest daughter of the Cowan girls. She had 7 siblings, 3 of which died at birth or as children. Those who died were Mary, Ann, and Emily.

These are her siblings: Maldonetta, James, Rosa, and Willie. With exception of James, All the sisters married very well.  Each sister married a lawyer who, in one way or another became District Attorneys, Senators, Representatives, as well as having in-laws who were Governors, Senators, and so on.  If there is one thing these girls did well, it was marry well.

Josephine's brother, James G. Cowan was an interesting guy as well.  He is a West Point Graduate, who, just as he was graduating learned the Civil War was just cranking up.  He put his plans to attend Law School on hold and served as an officer in the Civil War.  After the war was over, he resumed his plans to become a lawyer.  James later began his law practice in Abbyville, Alabama. He never married. I do have a little more information about him, but I will save that for a later post.

Dr. William L. Cowan, Josephine's Father, passed away in 1859 and by this time, Robert had already been living in the Cowan home for several months before Dr. Cowan died.  He is now the man of the home since his brother-in-law, James, was away at school.

Josephine's Mother was Anna Silva Pugh Cowan. She was from Burke Co., Georgia and born in 1812.  There is not much information available about her. What I have learned about Anna is that she is the older sister to Senator James L. Pugh. She is about 8 years older than James. When their parents passed away, James was only 11 years old.  Anna and Dr. Cowan took him in and raised him as one of their own.  Dr. Cowan even paid for his education.  He sent him to college and then on to Law School.  Wow, that's what I call a great Brother-in-law. Anna was also a devout Christian as was her husband and children and they all attended the first Presbyterian church to open it's doors in Eufaula. I believe it's safe to say that Anna had a great influence on her children. I also have a good bit more information about James L. Pugh and will post more about him later.

I have seen throughout much of my research of the Cowan family, a common trait among almost every member I've looked up. That trait is humility.  Sometimes you see families who are wealthy, have large homes, servants, cooks, and nannies for their children, enjoy flaunting their wealth and even seek attention for almost everything they do, including charity.  Not the Flemings.  They were as humble as it gets. Both Dr. Fleming and his wife, Josephine, each had a cheery disposition and walked in humility always.  Not that they never had the same challenges, tragedies, and heartaches we experience on a daily basis.  But it was how they handled these challenges that made them who they were.   

In the meantime I did find a photo of the Cowan family home in Eufaula. This is Josephine's childhood home.
This isn't what it looked like when she lived there.  At the time of this photo it would have been 40 years later. 


As fate would have it, while living in this very house, Dr. Robert Fleming's life would forever change.  It was a terrible accident that took place here one night.  It was sometime in the summer of 1862, that Dr. Fleming took to walking in his sleep. Robert mindlessly walked down the hallway and toward that 2nd floor balcony when the last step he took caused him to fall over the railing to the porch below. When his body slammed down on the porch, he hit in such a way that his injured spine would never recover. Robert was left paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.  

Josephine was pregnant with the only child the couple would ever have.  

My research has led me to learn that it was immediately following this accident that Dr. Fleming went for a time to stay with his uncle who lived in Hurtsboro, Alabama. His uncle's name was Dr. James Turner Persons.  It is believed he went here to recover under the care of his uncle who may have been well suited to help with some type of rehabilitation and possibly helping him to adjust to learning how to get around in his wheelchair.  His uncle would have assisted in bathing, dressing, and other things one would have to learn. There were also the emotional aspects to his healing too. His promising career as a physician was now seemingly a thing of the past.  I came across information that indicated he actually gave up his career as doctor and took a position in county government.  It was a position as Register in Chancery in Bullock County.  This was a position that he would hold until his death. 

Based on newspaper clippings, Dr. Fleming was still referred to as 'Doctor' until his death.  There is no evidence that he practiced medicine at all in Union Springs.  He may have, but I don't have any proof that he did.  What is known, was that he held the position of Register in Chancery, which is basically a court recorder.  It's kind of like a County Clerk. He was also a business man.  He owned several properties and possibly an investor in other businesses. Most notably, The Josephine Hotel.  I will go into this more in other posts, particular to those related to him. 

On December 6, 1862, Josephine gave birth to their only child. Lola J. Fleming.  The J is for Josephine.  This would account for some confusion over the years as both Josephine and Lola have the same initials- L. J. Fleming.  Remember Josephine's first name is Laura. Some census reports have messed that up. Just look at what I did find on the 1880 Census that could have been the source of much confusion, especially for those who are hunting for information on Lola, the daughter of Robert and Josephine.

Below: Note the first three names here. (Robert and the Fleming name is not here because it's on the page before.) The Census interviewer has Laura J. (Josephine), as Robert's wife, age 39 at the time of the interview.  Her occupation is... 'Keeps House'.  Over to the right the question asks of her place of birth which is Alabama. And Josephine's father P.O.B is Tennessee.  Next is a mistake.  It lists their daughters name as Laura J.  This should be Lola, as in Lola Josephine Fleming, age 17 and attends school. Also it says that her father, who is Robert, that his birthplace was Georgia.  *As a side note, I have found lots of evidence of his place of birth being in Georgia.  This should put to rest the years of speculation that he was from North Carolina. I've never found evidence of any sort that his family was from North Carolina.  Also you see a third name below where Lola's name should be, and you'll find Willie S. Cowan.  This was Josephine younger sister that she practically raised since the death of their Mother.  Willie did live in the Fleming home until she was married.  So the ages of all three I can tell you are wrong. Josephine was actually 42 in 1880, Lola was 19, and Willie was 22. No wonder it's hard to find information on your ancestors. Census records are often wrong.

After Robert took the position as Register in Chancery in Union Springs, it is unclear exactly when he and Josephine moved there. From what I gather it is most likely around 1862.  As far as the house they lived in?  I am still investigating some clues I have found. In time I hope to get those answers.  

Below: Robert Fleming on the bottom line.  They have him as age 40, when he was actually 45 at the time. But I do find this to be a clarifying as to whether he practiced medicine in Union Springs. Here is occupation is listed as 'Register in Chancery' and not a Physician.  Yes, he was still a Doctor, but he was not practicing medicine as far as I've been able to find. 

Below: This is a letter from Robert Fleming, as Register in Chancery.  See, it even has his name printed on this official stationary from his office.  I will post more about this letter on a later blog post.

After Josephine's second youngest sister married and left home in 1868 this left only her 54 year old Mother and her youngest sister Willie who was only 11 years old. Josephine's brother was still away at Law school and there was no one at the Cowan Family home in Eufaula to look after her ailing mother and this young 11 eleven year old child, Willie.  At this point they moved in with Robert and Josephine.  When Josephine's Mother, Anna passed away the following year this would leave young Willie an orphan. Josephine and Robert continued to care for and raise her as their own. 

In 1880, The Josephine Hotel was completed.  It was named after Dr. Fleming's wife, Josephine. Named in her honor, as she was described as a virtuous woman and was devoted to her husband. She was also an accomplished lady.  It is believed that she played the piano and possibly did so at her church.  She was a Presbyterian and since there was only one Presbyterian church in Union Springs it is likely that it was at the same one that is still standing today.  I understand that the original building was destroyed by storm around the turn of the century and the current one stands in its place today.  Also based off some documents I have, I believe that the home where Dr. Fleming and Josephine lived may have been across the street from this church.  Of course it is no longer there as this is where the Union Telephone Company building is now.  I'm still working to confirm this, but it is quite possible it was.  I will post more on this in a later post.

See below the current church as it is today:

 It is important to note that Robert and Josephine Fleming never ran the hotel at anytime.  Nor did they run any of the three retail spaces located on the first floor.  The hotel was run by a highly respected hotel manager, one of the best in the country of that day and personally picked by Dr. Fleming.  The businesses who leased space below, were handled and leased by Dr. Fleming.  

On September 27th, 1891 Robert passed away.  It was likely due to infection or pneumonia as was common to those with paralysis. Their 33 years of marriage had come to an end. Josephine's grief lasted just 11 months and she also passed away. It is not known what was the cause of her death. She was just 54.  Some agree that it may have been grief itself. 

This is what Josephine had placed on his gravestone:

The elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, "THIS WAS A MAN" 
              and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be nor more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away.  Rev. 21:4

It seems a sad ending, but it's not the end of the Josephine Hotel. The spirit of the Josephine still lives.  This is evident because after 136 years the building still stands.  It has seen better days, true, but she's making a come back.  I can't wait to see her returned to her glory days.  Until then we will always remember the remarkable Josephine Fleming.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Who was Josephine?

By the fall of 1880, the brand new Josephine Hotel opened and was ready to take in travelers coming to or passing through the town of Union Springs.  With two major railroads intersecting in the city and a booming economy, Dr. Robert A. Fleming must have felt this was a worthy investment.  He gave the contract to build this magnificent hotel to the finest architectural firm - Messer, Daniel, & Britt of Eufaula.  This same firm had built a similar hotel on the mainstreet of Eufaula.

 At the time the hotel was built, cotton and other agriculture were very important to the city to continue it's growing economy.  More and more people flocked to Union Springs, to live, get jobs, and become a part of what was becoming a thriving city. The Josephine would now be a symbol of those prosperous times.  After all, the South overcame the challenges of a long and expensive war.  The past was behind them and the reconstruction was alive and well in Union Springs.

That fact that the Josephine Hotel was named in honor of Josephine Fleming, the wife of Dr. Fleming, made me even more curious about her.  There is very little documentation of her on record and the few facts locals know is limited to say the least.  But I knew there had to be more to know about her and I've recently stumbled upon some new information that I will be adding as my research continues.

Here's what the locals know:

1. Josephine's full name is Laura Josephine Cowan (Fleming).

2. She is the daughter of a prominent  Dr. from Eufaula.  Now this is where things get confused around here.  Many think her father was S. C. Cowan, (Samuel), also a doctor and from Aberfoil, which is not to far from Eufaula.  But actually, Samuel was the brother of Dr. William L. Cowan who is without any doubt, her Father. I have lots of research to back that up.

3. She is the wife of  Dr. Robert A. Fleming who, himself is not a native of Alabama, but was born in Georgia.  He came to Eufaula fresh out of medical school to study under Dr. William Cowan.  This is how he met Josephine.

4. It is said that the hotel is named in her honor because of her many virtues.

I will delve more into Josephine Fleming in upcoming posts.

Below: There are four of these cast iron plates, one at each entry way.  They read: Josephine Hotel, 1880. The 1880 would be in the rectangular.  You can barely make out 1880, but gosh, they are 136 years old.

 In this photo, (sorry about my shadow), you'll see half of the same iron entry plate. This is because it was where the original stairway led up to the hotel lobby.

In this photo the original entrance to the hotel leading up to the lobby was directly between the two white posts.

In these photos you see the original brick color peeking through.  The windows will soon be put back as the owners tell me.  They hope to have the old white paint removed so the original brick bringing the building back to it's original look. They are hoping to also add the original facade back to the building.  That being the balcony and it's beautiful wood railings.  That will something beautiful to see.

With a little closer look you can still see the sink there in the window.  Almost all the rooms have a sink in them.  They weren't there when the hotel was built but most likely added during one of the first renovations between 1903 and 1905

In my next post I will have more information about Josephine Fleming.

To keep up with current events at the hotel, check out the website at:
Follow them on Facebook at: Josephine Art Center

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Thing of Beauty - The Josephine Hotel

As one who has had the privilege of touring most of the Josephine Hotel building as it stands today, I wanted to close my eyes at every turn to imagine this place in the beginning.  I could see the flicks of cream colored paint that have fallen to the floor at the base of a beautiful staircase on the second floor.  The original dark walnut stain peeking through as if to say, "look at me, I'm still here."  Plaster and peeling paint that form small piles here and there because of past neglect reveal a beautiful and haunting red color on the walls.  Yes, it was the original paint.  It's under layers of other attempts to renovate her.  But it almost seems like the building is telling you, "I here, look at me, I used to be beautiful.", and that is how it draws you in.  I believe even in its current condition, it's still lovely.  

Joyce Perrin, the owner has great plans for this place. I am happy to say, I am so excited to be part of the on-going resurrection of the great Josephine Hotel.  Joyce, sent me several photos, clippings and a whole host of information to use in this blog, in addition to what I will contribute from my own research.  

Below, is one of the many announcements of the new hotel that would soon be opening in the fall of 1880.

The Josephine was called a "thing of beauty", and was regarded as one of the "lions" of Union Springs.  At the time it was considered to be one of the nicest hotels in the entire State of Alabama.

Compared to old B & B's, renovated hotels, and various places I've stayed in my lifetime of travels, I was quite surprised to find these rooms as large as they are.  They are rather spacious and some have adjoining rooms with some shared bathrooms.  Yes, bathrooms.  I didn't expect to see bathrooms.  Now, I have been told originally there may have only been one or two bathrooms on each floor, which meant bathrooms were a "shared" experience.  More were later added, but there are still only maybe 6 or so to each floor.  

In the early days of this marvel on Prairie Street, the building had a small garden in front and a dinner bell.  The food served at the hotel was the best you could find anywhere.  It amazed me when I discovered that you could go in and order a meal, and I mean a nice meal, for the whopping sum of just 35 cents. 

Here is another couple of photos of the hotel: Sorry, I wish this was better.  This is the only one of have where you can see the word "HOTEL" across the top of the building.

Check out that horse and buggy parked out front, and that very large Water Oak right in front of the hotel.  All of Prairie Street used to be lined with those huge Water Oaks.  They would have not only been beautiful to the scenery but they provided much needed shade from the hot setting sun each afternoon.  As a former business owner on that side of the street, I wish I had one of those trees in front of my store.  It got awfully hot in there everyday.  Sadly, all of those trees were cut down a long time ago.

Now in this photo below you see the beautiful wood facade on the front of the building.  The porch was a popular place for guests to sit and people-watch, read, or talk.  If you'll notice on the 2nd floor down on the end you will see a swing. 

The guy closest to the tree and leaning against the post is just in front of the original stairway to the lobby and registration on the second floor.  The bottom floor had three separate businesses occupying them.  The one at far left was a hardware store, the one on the far right was some type of merchant, possibly clothing or fabric.  Those are bonnets hanging on a line and for sale.  The one in the center I am not sure of. 

In the photo below, you will find a group that have turned their chairs and rockers around on the balcony and have the town of Union Springs in the background.  I would love to know who these folks were and I am unsure as to when this photo was made.  But it's interesting to say the least. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oh, that Josephine - Introduction

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Stephanie Wingard.  I am a friend and business associate of the owners of the The Josephine Hotel in Union Springs, Alabama.  Owners, Allen and Joyce Perrin purchased the building about 12 years ago.  This historic building now operates as the Josephine 1880's Complex.  The business they run is an old fashion soda shoppe, ice cream parlor and cafe with what they refer to as the "no fry zone".  The cafe features wonderfully made gourmet sandwiches and salads that are healthy and delicious and never fried.  

The building also houses a museum of local history, old photos, artifacts, and books from local authors and historians.  In addition, there is an art gallery of local artists' work and paintings as well as local crafts for sale.  

The "Josephine Hotel" was built in 1880 by Dr. Fleming who named it for his wife.  The hotel was known as one of the nicest in the State of Alabama at the time it was built.  It has housed several businesses over the years on its main floor, which included the hotel lobby, a restaurant, Jinks Saloon, and several Mercantile shops.  At the time it was built there were 24 rooms total, located on the 2nd and 3rd floors which were still in use until the 1970's.  

Today, the plans for the hotel are to restore the 2nd and 3rd floors.  The plans for the 2nd floor is to have Art Incubators to occupy the rooms.  This would be for artists of any mediums, like potters, painters, and sculptors.  Even writers would find inspiration occupying the historic spaces.  The 3rd would be returned to hotel rooms eventually. 

Plans are also in the works to restore the facade of the building.  The original building had red brick and beautiful wood railings and a porch on the 2nd floor.  

Here's how it looked in the 1880's:

At the time it was considered a marvel and the crown jewel of Union Springs. 

Now, here's how it looks today:

You may notice the address at the bottom of the picture.  Yes, the Ghost Hunters have been here, and yes there are ghost in the building.  That is a fact.  It is well documented.  The Alabama Paranormal Research Team holds ghost hunts here.  It's pretty cool!  Go to their site and sign up for the next hunt.  But I will get more into the ghost stuff later.  For now, I just want to lay down the foundation and purpose for this blog. 

I chose to write this blog because I am a huge history buff and the stories surrounding the building of this hotel and it long history in this town fascinates me.   The town of Union Springs is filled with so much history and with the amazing architecture of many of it's buildings and churches, but also the huge and breath taking antebellum homes will leaving you hungry for information about them.  

Union Springs is the town chosen for its county seat.  I've lived in Bullock county for a little more than 21 years.  I even owned an antique business just one block north of this old hotel.  I've drove past the building more times than I can count and always hoped one day I would get to see the inside.  Then it happened.  One day about a month ago, (from the date of this blog entry), I was invited to participate in an Art Show at the the Josephine Art Center.  From that day, the owners and myself have become friends and I now have my art own display, as well as the jewelry I design.  I have had the rare privilege of ascending that grand staircase that leads to the 2nd floor.  It was very exciting.  While, it was subject to elements for years with no decent roof to speak of.  The new owners have since replace the roof in order to stop any further damage. 

In my future posts, what I hope to accomplish is a look back at the making of this magnificent hotel.  The culture of the day.  When it was built, what was going on in those days they had the hotel?   What was the hotel like?  What kind of parties did they have?  Also I hope to explore a little more about the town and it's history too and the future of the Josephine today.  I'd like to take everyone on the journey of breathing new life into the Josephine.  Will she make a come back?  What will it take to get her there? 

Union Springs is an amazing place.  In it's hay days it was a mecca for culture, opulence, wealth, and a booming economy.   What happened?  I will explore just that.  There is so much to learn and so much to share here.

I hope you will enjoy all I have to bring you.  It will be a fun journey and we all will learn a lot in the process.  

Stephanie Wingard