The Girl in the Window

By Harriet Outlaw
Posted 6/3/16

Leafy and William read the advertisement in the Chicago Tribune: “Bounteous Farmland in Alabama- Cheap.”  Let me tell you the story just as my Grandmother Leafy Coon told me more than 60 years ago.

Your grandfather Bill and I packed up our …

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The Girl in the Window

Posted

Leafy and William read the advertisement in the Chicago Tribune: “Bounteous Farmland in Alabama- Cheap.”  Let me tell you the story just as my Grandmother Leafy Coon told me more than 60 years ago.

Your grandfather Bill and I packed up our little girls, your Aunt Margaret and your mother, Harriet. The southbound L&N train was hot, crowded with people seeking their futures in the Promised Land.  Across the aisle sat a lovely girl with tears running down her cheeks, so I gave her a motherly shoulder to cry on.  It was not long before she confided in me. Maureen was a loving daughter in her Amish family in Ohio, but when she realized she would bring shame on her family if she stayed, she took her cheese money and slipped away in the night. She, too, had heard of Baldwin County, and hoped to find work.

When we arrived in Bay Minette, we all stayed overnight at the Hamilton Hotel.  An agent showed our family some farmland on Phillipsville Road, and we decided to stay, but Maureen boarded the Homeseekers’ Excursion on the spur line running south. At the second stop, she saw the grand Loxley Hotel and hoped to find work there. She was hired on the spot by the kindly owner; her Amish training served her well as she kept the hotel spotless and cooked delicious meals. She was given a room in the upper right corner of the railside inn.

When the hotel owner realized why Maureen had run away from home, she reassured her the new baby would be welcomed into their world. After the baby’s birth, Mother and daughter lived there happily as long as that proprietor was alive. However, when she died the new owner was not pleased with a child living in the hotel. He made the little girl stay in her room all the time, with the understanding that if guests ever saw the child, Maureen and her daughter would have to leave. The little girl seemed happy in her room, busy with dolls and books, but she often looked out the window watching town people pass by and newcomers get off the train. When Maureen ran errands, she always looked up at the window, seeing her lovely daughter holding her doll. When I went to visit them I, too, saw the child at the window as I got off the train. She was always there. Maureen wrote me many letters – she was homesick, but wanted her parents to hear from her never again.

When the great influenza epidemic hit the county it was disastrous. The hotel shut down for a bit, but when the epidemic subsided, and it reopened, Maureen did not come downstairs. The proprietor went upstairs, heard her singing and the rocking chair creaking. After no one answered his knock, he opened the door. He saw the loving mother rocking her little girl. When she did not answer his questions, he approached them and realized there was not a breath of life in either one.

After the burial, the hotel returned to business as usual – except for one little detail. Anytime a guest was assigned to the upper right bedroom the owner would be awakened during the night by the guest demanding to be moved. Many claimed they heard creaking and the saw the chair rocking. The owner put the chair in the attic, but still roomers heard eerie sounds. He finally closed off the room and never again rented it out.

Later, when I went on the train to Foley, I looked at the old hotel and there in that window I saw a vision of a little girl holding her doll. The conductor told me that she appears many times as he passes through, so I told him the story, and he enthralled passengers for years with the legend behind the girl in the window. A few people are able to see the image in the window even these days. When the hotel was permanently closed and furniture auctioned, I bought this very rocking chair I am sitting in. I hope you will always take care of it in memory of Maureen and her beautiful little girl. And if you go to look at the lovely old hotel, wave to the little girl in the window for me.