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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Historic Josephine Hotel... For Sale

          Yes, you read that title correctly.  The historic Josephine Hotel that I've been blogging about is actually up for sale now.  The owners are ready to slow down and take it easy.  I was surprised when I heard the news, but I completely understand.  They've put their heart and soul into renovating the building to the best of their abilities.  They have done most of the work themselves, with the exception of contracting the help of the electricians, plumbers, and roofers who put in a fantastic roof that will probably be there for another 100 years. The owners have simply run out of time.   Sooner or later, age catches up to all of us. What we envision doing or getting accomplished is driven by our heart but the age of our bodies simply says, "No, I don't think so." 

       The owners didn't get to reach the goals they had hoped for, but they gained a whole lot more.  They learned so much about the long 136 year history of this fantastic building. The businesses that have occupied the ground floor over the years.  Even the 2nd and 3rd floors remained a hotel from day one of 1880 until sometime in the mid 1980's.  

From what I know, the bones of this grand building are structurally sound.  I've personally been in almost every nook and cranny of this building, it has tremendous potential.  Even as I walked up the grand staircase, there is not as much as a squeak or a cracking sound. 
If you go back through my previous posts about the building, I have thoroughly documented, floor by floor, all this building has to offer. *Check out my 7 part series I did on the building. There are lots of photos and info too.

Just about anything you want to know about the Josephine, I have probably written about it and will continue to for as long as I can find new information. 

       Oh yes, and there is that book I've already begun writing. That's right.  The builder of the Hotel, Dr. Robert Fleming named this building in honor of his beloved wife, Josephine.  I have spent the last 2 years and 4 months researching these two people and their families. There is a beautiful love story that surrounds Robert and Josephine.  Their lovely story has to be told and it will as soon as the book is released.  This will hopefully drive interested people to Union Springs to see the town, it's historic sites, and of course the Josephine Hotel.  I'm personally hoping someone does buy the building and restores it back to a fully functioning hotel.  The story and the history that swirls about the building will breathe new life into this wonderful historic place. 

Here's a link for details on the building and how to buy it:

On that site you'll find the historic home that the owners are selling as well. They will be moving from Union Springs. Just check it out while you're there.

On that note I'll just say that I will continue to blog about the building, it's history, and the people it's affiliated with. There is still so much to tell and I have plenty of information to keep me busy for quite sometime.  So, stay tuned. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Ever Happened To Lola?

     Did you know that Dr. Robert Fleming and his wife, Josephine had a daughter?  That's right, they only had one child and her name was Lola Josephine Fleming.  Born December 6th, 1862.  She was actually born in Eufaula, Alabama.  

She may have been born right inside the Cowan family home and delivered by a mid-wife, which was very common in those days. She was not delivered by her father, Dr. Robert Fleming as he had suffered a terrible fall from the balcony that left him paralyzed for life.  

After Robert's recovery and rehabilitation he moved his family to Union Springs, Alabama, when he had began his new career in county government as a Register in Chancery.  Today we call that position a County Clerk.  Dr. Fleming may have still practiced medicine but it wouldn't have been his primary profession.  He was a business man, and of course, we know he built the magnificent, Josephine Hotel. 

Lola was also raised with her Mother's youngest sister, Willie. This came to pass when Josephine's Mother became to ill and could not care for herself and her youngest child, Dr. Fleming had them move in with them so that Josephine could care for her ailing Mother, Anna.  When Anna passed away in 1869, her youngest daughter, Willie was just 12 years old.  This is why Josephine and Robert would then raise Willie as their own, along with Lola who was just 5 years younger.

I later found an 1880 Census report that confirms my findings.  It shows both Robert and Josephine in the home as well as daughter, Lola, who is at the time of the gathering of information, just 17 years old.  It lists her as a student. Willie Cowan is also listed as living in the same home.  She is 22 years old.  It's is believe she may have attended college.  But in other instances I have found that she lived in the Fleming home until she was married to Robert C. Jelks. I have much to tell about Willie and her husband Robert.  I will save that for another post.  

1880 is also the year of opening The Josephine Hotel in Union Spring, Alabama.

In September 1891, Lola's Father, Dr. Robert Fleming died.  I can't find how or what he died of but I am still on the hunt. Lola was still living at home at age 28.  I can only guess that Lola's only job for the coming months was to console her grieving Mother.  

Just 11 months after losing her Father, Lola's Mother now passes away in August, 1892.  Again, I do not have a cause of death and am still looking for that information. After Lola has buried both her Father and Mother, Lola marries James David Williford just 4 months later.  The date of their marriage was December 15th, 1892. James Williford was 9 years older than her.  He was 39. She turned 30 just before her wedding. 

My sources tell me that James had never been married before nor did he have any previous children. I also learned that he was an Attorney and that he was living in Union Springs at the time of their marriage.  I don't know if he was practicing law there or somewhere else outside of Union Springs. I do know that after they married they left Union Springs.  At first, it looks like they went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but that was for a short time. 

Lola and James had three children together:

Robert F. Williford - Born 1894  (Named after Lola's Father)
James D. Williford Jr. - Born 1895 (Named after Lola's Husband)
Lola Williford - Born 1897 (Named after herself)

I have a copy of a document that is a promissory note that shows a time when James and Lola returned to Union Springs to sign papers selling some property along with the Josephine Hotel building in 1894.  (See document below)

They later moved to Akron, Ohio.  He set up his law practice there and that is when sadly, in 1899, Lola's husband suddenly passed away at the age of 46.  All three of her children were ages 6 and under. 

I have a copy of another document which shows that Lola once again returned to Union Springs, perhaps one final time in 1912. The document refers to Lola J. Williford as a widow.  The document, while hard to understand, is a legal document that uses land survey markers in describing the property that is being sold. It's difficult to tell if it is just land, a home, or both.  She is selling to a Mr. J. T. Shirley for the sum of $2000.00. 
(See document below)

Lola returns to Akron, Ohio where she continued to raise her children.  I have no evidence that she ever married again as everything I came across showed that she was a widow and remain that way until her death in 1933.  She was 71 when she died. 

I wish there had been a happier ending for Lola.  I'm sure she found joy in raising her children and perhaps surrounded by grandchildren.  I am still searching for info on her and her family.  I will post as soon as I know.