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Tattered flag found in rafters

August 29, 1998

Tattered flagBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer [enlarge]




BOLIVAR, W.Va. - Betty Staubs occasionally looked at an unusual object that hung from the rafters in the attic of her home, but she never went near it, fearing it was a snake.

It wasn't until several weeks ago that workers replacing her roof reached down and finally figured out what it was - a ragged, 45-star American flag.

"She said, 'I'm a millionaire.' The fellow on the roof said, 'Don't forget who found it,'" said Betty's husband, Floyd Staubs.

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Now the Staubses are wondering what they will do with it.

The flag, measuring roughly 18 inches by 24 inches, was rolled around a thin stick. The stars are intact but the right edge of the cloth is crumbling. In the blue portion, there is space in the right, left and upper left-hand corners for additional stars.

Donald Campbell, superintendent of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said the flag appears to be original. Its size indicates it could have been used in a political rally or was hung from a house, he said.

"It's an interesting artifact," said Campbell.

Stars were gradually added to the U.S. flag to represent new states being formed in the country. The 45th state was Utah, which was formed in 1896.

"That would be a way of dating it," said Campbell.

The 46th state was Oklahoma, added in 1907.

It's unclear how much the flag might be worth, said Campbell. He said curators at the park could examine it for the Staubses to determine its value and where it might have come from.

Town Recorder Bob Hardy, who also owns an antique store in town, agreed that it is hard to determine its worth.

"I think it was a wonderful find in town. It's worth more to Floyd than anyone else. Right there in his house," said Hardy.

"I can't believe we found it here," said Betty Staubs.

The Staubses have been living in their house at the corner of Washington Street and Wager Alley for 43 years.

Before they moved in, a man rented the house, said Betty Staubs. When he moved out, he cleaned out the attic, removing old buttons, a trunk and other items, and hauled them to the dump, she said.

Knowing what she does now, Betty Staubs said she would have stopped the man from cleaning the attic.

The Staubses do not know how old their house is, but considering its construction, Floyd Staubs said he figures it has been standing for a long time. Stone and brick are laid between studs in the house, which was an old method of insulating houses, he said.

Campbell said relics like the one found by the Staubses can show up anywhere.

He recalled an incident about 10 years ago when a man found a walnut box under some floorboards in an old house in Winchester, Va.

The box contained drawings of the national armory in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The drawings were done by James Burton, who was the superintendent of the armory.

"They were in perfect condition, which was amazing. There's a lot of treasures in houses around here," said Campbell.

After finding the flag, Floyd Staubs said he went to Valley Hardware Co. in Charles Town, W.Va., and asked them how he should preserve it. Clerks at the store suggested he lay it between two pieces of Plexiglas and tape the edges to seal it.

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