Restored 155-year-old American flag flying in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) –A 36-star American flag dating back to 1864 will be on display in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda through Veterans Day 2020.

According to local newspapers of the day, the flag flew on Capitol Square during the repose of President Abraham Lincoln on Apr. 29, 1865. The flag was one of four flags flying at half-mast, according to the Ohio History Connection, and Chris Matheney, Historic Site Manager with the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

The route of the funeral train carrying the body of the fallen president in April 1865 was similar to the one Lincoln took to Washington when he was President-elect in 1861. The 88th Ohio Volunteer Infantry escorted the casket in Columbus to the Ohio Statehouse, with thousands in attendance on the solemn day.

The flag had been given to David N. Murray of Portsmouth for his contribution to the Union effort during the Civil War, when he turned his iron foundry into a factory to produce cannonballs. Newspaper articles dated Sept. 19-20, 1901, thanked the Murray family for providing the flag during President James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, and William McKinley’s memorial services held at the First Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth.  

Murray’s descendants lent the flag to parades, memorials and special events in Columbus between 1925 and 1945, including the inaugurations of Ohio Governors John W. Bricker and Frank Lausche at the Ohio Statehouse. The flag last hung in the rotunda when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945.

The great-great-granddaughter of David N. Murray, Ret. Lt. Colonel Mary K. (Katie) Van Tilburg, discovered the flag in a box in a dresser drawer at a family home in Oklahoma, where it had been deposited 45 years earlier.

The huge flag–22 feet long by 9 feet wide–was soon shipped to Van Tilburg’s Westerville home. She was joined by family members, including Dr. Emmalou Norland, when the flag was unfolded at the Ohio History Connection on Feb. 25, 2016, for the start of the restoration process.

“This flag belongs to the people of Ohio,” said Van Tilburg. “This flag has seen and been through a lot of strife and things just like what is going on today. But just like the flag made it through 155 years of history, our country will too.”

Burt Logan, Executive Director and CEO, Ohio History Connection, said “Few words strike a deeper and more patriotic feeling in Americans than the words ‘Old Glory.” How wonderful it is to have this one back at the Statehouse, “where it will be admired and treasured by thousands of Ohioans.”

The flag will be on display in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda through Veterans Day, and then on “rest” for six months at the Ohio History Connection, Matheney said. The flag will be back in time for the anniversary of the repose of Lincoln on Apr. 29, 2021, for another six-month interval.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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