By Edward Husar Herald-Whig
LOUISIANA, Mo. — The Louisiana Area Historical Museum has taken steps to preserve a tattered Confederate flag used during the Civil War.
The red, white and blue flag — featuring a dozen small stars encircling a large star in the center — was donated to the museum several years ago by Danny Strode of New London, a former Louisiana resident. Strode bought the flag from the estate of Etta McDannold, granddaughter of Confederate soldier Samuel O. Minor of Eolia.
Minor fought with Company D of the 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry under the direction of Col. Joseph C. Porter, a notorious Confederate leader. Minor later took part in some Confederate campaigns in Texas and Arkansas, which is probably where he got the flag, according to Judy Schmidt, vice president of the museum’s board of directors.
As the Civil War was coming to a close, “He folded it up and put it under his jacket and brought it home,” said Schmidt, a retired school teacher who has been researching the flag’s history.
Minor for a time hung the flag upside-down in his home — a sign of surrender or distress. Later, the flag was wrapped around a flag pole and placed into storage, where it remained for decades.
After the flag was donated to the museum, its historic value was immediately recognized, and the board initiated steps to preserve the flag — a feat recently accomplished thanks to a $2,100 grant from the Missouri Humanities Council and some private donations.
“It’s taken until now for us to get the money together to have it professionally, archivally framed,” Schmidt said.
The preservation work was carried out by Creative Art Services of St. Louis. The flag was simply laid out flat and delicately stitched to a layer of pure linen cloth. It was then pressed between two layers of archival-quality Plexiglas and enclosed in a frame fashioned out of weathered pine salvaged from the floor joist of a home built in the 1860s.
“We have not changed anything or added or cleaned or straightened up the flag,” Schmidt said. “We merely preserved it as it is.”
The framed flag will be shown publicly for the first time during the museum’s annual fund-raising banquet Thursday at American Legion Post 370 in Louisiana. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved by calling Schmidt at 573-754-5697. A social gathering starts at 6 p.m. with a buffet dinner at 6:30.
Schmidt will be the featured speaker. She will talk about the flag’s history and the steps taken to preserve it.
After the banquet, the flag will be stored at an undisclosed location while the museum undergoes some renovations and security enhancements over the winter. The flag will then be hung from the museum’s ceiling and will be unveiled for public viewing when the museum opens for the 2017 season over Memorial Day weekend.
Schmidt said Thursday’s banquet will be the only opportunity the public will have to get a close-up look at the flag from inches away while it is displayed on an easel. Once the flag gets hung from the museum’s ceiling, it will be out of reach for safety reasons. An exhibit of Civil War memorabilia will be displayed below it.
Martha Sue Smith, president of the museum’s board, said the flag will be a welcome addition to the museum’s historical collections.
“It truly is a treasure and definitely an asset for the museum, Louisiana and Pike County,” she said.
Board member Brent Engel said the flag has “great significance” to Louisiana and Pike County because of its ties to Civil War history.
“It represents a period in our history that was very contentious. There were a lot of sympathizers on both sides in Pike County,” he said.
“History in general gets overlooked too often, so this is an effort to keep a part of the past in the present and preserve it for the future.”
Schmidt thinks the flag will become a centerpiece exhibit for the museum and will help attract visitors to Louisiana as the town prepares to celebrate its bicentennial in 2018.
“The flag is one of the things that we think will draw people,” she said. “We hope a lot of people get to come and enjoy it.