152-year-old flag donated to Ohio History Center museum

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Mary K. Van Tilburg, 75, a Westerville resident, is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. After researching her family history, she realized that there was an important box in Oklahoma that a cousin had tucked away for more than 45 years.

A Union flag given to her great-great-grandfather David Nevin Murray in 1865 had been passed down through several generations and put away in box. Mary studied the history of the 1864 flag with 36 stars, representing the number of states in the Union, and knew it had to be returned to Ohio.

Murray, an Ohio pioneer who resided in Portsmouth from 1837 until his death in 1895, received the honorary Old Glory from the Ohio Delegates to Congress in recognition for his contribution to the Union Army.  He was then too old to serve, but the government honored his efforts in the Civil War to convert his Portsmouth Foundry and Machine Shops in order to make cannonballs.

According to various newspaper sources that Van Tilburg reviewed, the flag was used during a memorial service for President Lincoln, and later at services for James A. Garfield, William McKinley and Warren G. Harding. The flag that found its way to Memorial Day parades also made appearances at the inaugurations of Ohio Governors John W. Bricker and Frank Lausche.

The latest mention of the family flag in the press was at the memorial service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, when it was displayed on the wall in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda.

The huge flag, spanning 22 feet long and 9 feet wide, that had been shipped to Tilburg’s home was unsealed and unfolded at the Ohio History Connection on Friday morning, where it will be shielded from the elements and preserved, before being unfurled for the public in the Ohio History Center’s New Acquisitions Display. The wool bunting that was common American flags is a fabric that holds up through the time, with only some frayed edges evident.

Mary K. Van Tilburg was flanked by several generations of family members, including her grandnephew, Eli Krabill, a sixth grader who represents the fourth generation to honor David Nevin Murray.

Tap here to learn more about how you can visit the museum.

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