MADISON, NE — “It’s just history, you know. The history of Madison and the history of my family,” Gene Trine said.
Over 150 years of history in one 5.5 by 7.5 foot piece of cloth. In 1867 the flag was hand-sewn by a sail-maker in Chicago for Water Craig of Stanton County. Craig gave the flag to J.C. Trine to present to the town of Madison in 1869.
Since then, it’s had many homes including the old Presbyterian Church and the Grand Army of the Republic Hall. On Sunday it officially got a new home at the Madison Art Center.
The flag’s significance to the town and to the Trine family is why Gene and Phyllis Trine sent it to the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis to be professionally preserved.
“The flag was on a backing. They had to take that off stitch by stitch, and vacuum the whole flag bit by bit,” Gene Trine said. “You know, it’s very fragile.”
The words “Peace, Plenty and Happiness” are sewn into the white stripes of the 36-star flag. Gene says the words were the wishes that Walter Craig had for the new town of Madison.
But the gift to Madison could have had a relatively short life. A tornado struck the town in 1881 and took out the whole Presbyterian Church, except for the west wall where the flag was displayed.
“If it could survive the tornado,” Phyllis Trine said. “It was like the Star Spangled Banner line,’And the flag was still there.’”
The flag is fragile so it can only be displayed for about three months at a time. The Trine family says it will remain at the Madison Art Center for now.