My Father showed me this flag when I was just a small boy. I thought that pretty much everyone knew that it existed in this location. I was surprised when I read this article about it in the Register-Herald. I hope you enjoy the read.—Bucky
Although historical Lewisburg’s abundant landscape of Civil War tales has been well documented, there is one chapter in its war-torn past that’s shrouded in mystery and continues to be embroiled in debate.
Unnoticed by many who live here is a white oval, approximately 6 feet in diameter, high upon the right-hand side wall of the two-story brick building located at 124 W. Washington St. And inside the oval is a red flag with criss-crossed blue bars flying from a post.
Greenbrier County historian Jim Talbert says the rendering is a depiction of a Confederate battle flag that most likely was painted there by a Confederate soldier named D.R. Thomas in 1897. Thomas was a veteran of the 14th Virginia Calvary, Bryan’s Battery.
Deed books show Thomas bought a wood-framed structure on that lot in 1884, but it burned to the ground, like much of downtown Lewisburg, in the great fire of 1897.
“The Civil War was over in 1865, and if he was going to show his loyalty to the Confederacy, then he would have painted a flag on the building out of tradition, but as far as a written record, we don’t have it,” Talbert said. “It’s entirely possible that he could have inherited the flag, but tradition says that D.R. Thomas painted the flag on his building.”
The absence of stars on the flag only adds to the enigma of how it got there in the first place.
“Probably stars were too hard to paint,” Talbert said.
Since 1897, the building has been owned by three different families, Talbert said, and in 1965, two brothers, Edward and Munir Yarid, bought the building. Talbert said there exists only two documented instances mentioning Lewisburg’s not-so secret flag. The definitive, high-tech modern research tool — Google.com — revealed no information when queried about the flag.
In 1957, noted historian Ruth Dayton Woods featured the flag in her book, “Lewisburg Landmarks,” and said the flag was first painted on the building during the Civil War. She also suggested Thomas painted the flag on the side of his new building in 1897. A drawing of the star-less flag is shown beside the article.
“In recent years, the paint had begun to fade, but through the interest of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was again repainted,” Woods wrote. Talbert was unable to confirm that, although some community members have sketchy recollections of the event. There is no longer a local chapter of the UDC.
In 1968, a photograph of the flag, along with and editorial-styled article, appeared in Charleston’s Sunday Gazette-Mail and was written by William C. Blizzard. Talbert said that was previously the only known published photograph of the flag. Talbert called the flag a “landmark of Lewisburg” that “has been there longer than any other living person.”
“Any political meaning attached to the painting is simply a personal prerogative,” he said. “To my knowledge, it’s always been thought of as nothing more than a tribute to an old soldier.”
Through the years, the building has been a grocery store, quilt store, restaurant and a gallery. It’s now home to a gift shop called Stonehouse Gourmet and is still owned by the Yarid brothers.
“There were no shoe stores in Lewisburg when we bought the building in 1965, so I thought that would be a good shoe store,” Edward Yarid recently told The Register-Herald. “Of course, the flag was already there when we bought the building.”
How a painted flag of this size can go relatively unnoticed in downtown Lewisburg is because of the building next door that was built sometime in the 1930s. There is about a 4-foot gap between the two buildings, and this obscures the flag from most viewpoints in the city.
However, the flag can easily be seen from the front doors of City Hall across the street. The Register-Herald requested comments about the flag from all seven council members, but only three responded. Mayor John Manchester said only two individuals have personally expressed dislike for the flag since he won office four years ago.
“I asked (one of them) if he had contacted the owner of the building directly to begin a dialogue about the flag and what it meant to him … and he said he had not,” Manchester said. “I told him that would be the proper place to start. The Confederate flag brings out a lot of heartfelt emotions by a lot of people in this area and around the country.”
Council member Beverly White, 55, the lone African-American on city council, said it’s time “to move forward” concerning the flag.
“History has happened. We can’t change that. We must learn from the past and move forward and treat each other as God commands us to do so,” she said. Newly appointed council member Mark Bowe also responded to The Register-Herald’s request.
Aaron Trigg, 25, an African-American and local evangelist, said displaying the Confederate flag shouldn’t automatically brand someone as a “racist.” For him, the flag is not an immediate symbol of racism.
“People use it for various reasons and I can see why generations before me view it as a symbol of hate, but for me personally, I don’t see it that way.”
Although local civil rights leader Joan Browning “despises” the flag, she said it didn’t matter to her if it was painted over.
“The symbol is losing its steam, and in another generation or two it won’t be looked upon in the same manner,” she said.
But members of the Greenbrier County branch of the NAACP have a marked different opinion. President Larry Baxter said the matter will be taken up at this week’s meeting.
“The display of the Confederate flag in downtown Lewisburg should be condemned by all people regardless of color who reside in this community,” he said. “Some will excuse the display as historic significance … but would we accept it if a Swastika was painted on a building in Lewisburg? I think not.”
Yarid believes the flag is for “public viewing” and is part of the history of Lewisburg. He and his brother have no plans to paint over the flag.
“I think it is a piece of history and it was put there for a purpose, and there’s no reason to disturb it,” Yarid said. “And it should be perpetuated. I don’t see the negative aspects.”
What people are saying about the painted Confederate battle flag in Lewisburg:
Jim Richmond, 56: “That flag is no more a rebel flag than the United States flag would be without its stars on it.”
The Rev. Nelson Staples, III, 59: “The Confederate flag is a symbol of days gone by when, if the South had won, we would still be in slavery. It is an unfriendly reminder and a vestige of the institution of slavery.”
Louis E. Longanacre, 76: “I’ve been here since 1948 and I may have seen it, but never paid attention to it. It’s a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.”
Gloria Martin, 65: “It’s incumbent upon us to be aware that for many people this is a symbol of oppression and slavery.”
Mindy McCormick, 49: “I think it’s part of our heritage and part of our history to see and learn from our mistakes and to learn from those important parts of history. I don’t think it has the same meaning today that it had before.”
Aaron Trig, 25: “I don’t feel that it’s a racist symbol, although some people use it as such.”
Mark Bowe, 37: “I have lived and worked in Lewisburg and did not notice the painting until you brought it to my attention. Perhaps the best display of the Confederate flag in Lewisburg would be the North House Museum, where it could be displayed as part of our history and used as an educational tool.”
Teresa Poole, 44,: “I really didn’t know the flag was there. I don’t have any issues with it. It adds to the culture and diversity of the community.”
Joan Browning, 64: “People who swear allegiance to that flag are traitors to my country. It’s a hateful, hateful symbol.”
Donna Toney, 63: “If it were my building, I would paint over it. The only consolation that I have is that hardly anyone ever sees that flag.”
Jim Morgan Jr., 59: “I understand that people’s sensitivities are going to be different, but I don’t have a problem with the painted Confederate flag. I don’t feel it’s a celebration of slavery.”
Larry Baxter, 58: “We should care what visitors may think when they walk the streets of Lewisburg and look up and see this symbol that has signified oppression for so many.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on it, even if your not local to the area.–Bucky
4 thoughts on “The Confederate Flag Flies In Lewisburg WV”
It is unfortunate for the Confederate battle flag that it no longer has a government to defend it. Some states have it incorporated in their state flag. Georgia does for example and Atlanta is the wealthiest City in the world for blacks. So this state government should receive credit for that along with its flag which has a version of a Confederate flag.
Naturally there would have been issues for blacks and whites if the south had won. The Union won and there are still issues. Even if the south had won or if there had been no secession, slavery would have petered out (take my word for it). Brazil was the last slave nation and it ended in the 1880â€™s.
As a student of history, it interest me to read individualâ€™s perspective on the topic. I have found that perspective can often be easily influenced. Particularly if one is not well read on a subject. Iâ€™ve also found that there are those that have vested interest in promoting others to embrace a given prospective like the NAACP or almost any black activist group. They want us to see the Battle flag as a swastika. They want to keep the grievances and victim status of black folks front and center. Theyâ€™ve become some what radical and irrelevant reaching for any thing good. I donâ€™t wish to knock their earlier achievements. When you conceder a family program like Dukes of Hazards that ran thru the â€˜80â€™s without a hitch and imagine such a thing now, the NAACP would make the issue all about them.
If the slaves had been white then the topic when discussed would be more focused on the Constitutional meanings. Not just the race debate. During the day the south had 30% of the population and was paying at least 70 % of the federal taxes with only about a 10% return. The other 90% went north. Northern industrialist could not compete with European industrialist. The entire situation was a mess. With the election of Lincoln Washington had become a total sectional government and the south did not trust the north. Even having said that, we cannot deny the issue that the slaves at that point in history were African. Lets just say welcome to the club. Those days were ignorant on the issue of race not like today. Of course slavery already existed in Africa by Africans.
I believe the flag is a simple expression of southern pride for most as there are differences between northerners and southerners. That goes for black and white.
Too many people have a completely warped perception about what the civil war was really about. The civil war was not fought over slavery. Why would the north pass a law outlawing slavery during the civil war, EXCLUDING the areas that provided the north with needed supplies? Sound like a contradiction, doesn’t it? The only reason the slavery issue was pushed so hard was for the purposes of political manipulation & propaganda. People are just too damn hung up on symbolism. Symbols only mean what the individual perceives it to mean. Learn from the past, but stop DWELLING in the past, leave the flag alone, & move on with your life. You’ll be much happier. Oh, yes. And turn off that damn television.
My company is based in Lewisburg and I know this painted flag. Friends own the building and some of my friends find the flag charming, while other of my friends are offended by it.
I am not upset by it at all, except that some friends view it as offensive. I regard it as a link to local history, much as the Confederate monument at a few blocks west or any other historic structure in the city/area. Some of our history is wonderful and uplifting and some of it is not…it is all history though.
That said, I certainly appreciate that this flag painting, and any presentation, whatsoever, of the Confederate flag is offensive to some. Accordingly, I would not fly or wear the Confederate flag in any way—on a cap, on a bumper sticker, on a tee shirt, or on a flag pole. The flag remains symolic of racism to some, and sadly, we should recognize that it is actually intended to do just that by some who display it. For most, I do not doubt that it is not racist at all, but rather identified with a region of the country that they love.
As to the comment in another response about the Civil War not being fought over slavery, with all due respect, it most ceratinly was from the south’s perspective. Tarrif issues were a problem, of course, but not enough to go to war over. Salvery was the big issue for the south and why she left the Union when she did. How does histroy know this for sure? Simple. Several of the southern states passed now little known resolutions at the time stating the cause for their secession.
South Carolina was the first to do so. I suggest anyone wanting to know the truth about what caused the war, simply read South Carolina’s “Declaration of Causes” because she tells us all of the reasons in detail. She states, in short, that that the northern states are violating “States’ Rights” by not enforcing the federal constitution’s clause requiring run-away slaves to be returned to their respective home states. She rants about the northern states’ opposition to slavery conflicting with her principals, culture, and commerce, and she says that has she has finally come to the point that she must leave the Union as a result of it. Well, duh, I guess we know what caused the war! And while we are on the topic, what about these “States’ Rights” anyway…
The southern states demand for “States’ Rights” in the Civil War era primarily meant the federal government enforcing the constitution’s protection of slavery by forcing the speedy return of all run-away slaves, thereby protecting a slave state’s rights. (Yes, that lofty document does, indeed, guarantee the rights of slave states to be just that and required that run-aways be returned—sorry to disappoint). However, by the time of the civil rights era, when the southern states wanted to continue with segregation, “States’ Rights” was convoluted to mean the right of a state to do as it pleased (without outside, federal intervention) especially with regard to its limiting the rights of citizens and visitors based solely on color or race. Thus, a political term was changed at the south’s convenience to mean just the opposite of what it had earlier meant—now it meant the federal government butting out of a state’s affairs, not butting into them. It is no wonder the Confederate flag is offensive to some, given slavery and “States Rights.” Accordingly, I wish all Americans would take time to understand and be at least sensitive to their point of view on the flag, even those who disagree with it completely.
This was my great-grandfather’s store. D.R. Thomas was a confederate soldier and also one of six men who raised the statue commemorating the consecrate soldiers that is located in Lewisburg. When I visited there three years ago, they have boarded up the alley and the flag is no longer visible. I am thankful I took pictures of it and the statue in 2010 after eating lunch in the cafe that is housed there.