Orren Randolph Smith,
courtesy of the Tar River
Center for History and
Culture, Louisburg College
Bobbie Wrenn of Louisburg recently donated to the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College a tintype photograph said to depict Orren Randolph Smith (1827-1913), a veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War, who designed a flag that many believe to be the Stars and Bars, the first official banner of the Confederate States of America.
Louisburg College gratefully acknowledges this generous gift.
A native of Warren County, Smith was living in Louisburg in 1861, when the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America solicited designs for the Confederacy's flag.
He developed a design and asked Rebecca Murphy to sew a flag based on it.
According to members of the Franklin Rifles Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the flag was unfurled in Louisburg, and the pole on which it was flown is still maintained by the chapter.
Smith's design was one of an "immense" number submitted to the Confederacy's Committee on the Flag and Seal.
When he was an old man, Smith claimed that his design was the one adopted by the committee. This claim gained widespread support, largely as a result of an active campaign by Smith's daughter, Jessica, who often referred to herself as "Dad's Daughter."
By the early 1930's, Miss Smith's vigorous support of her father had garnered her a position as aide to the president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
When the UDC met in New York City in 1934 - the first annual meeting held in the North - the New York Times published a photograph of Jessica Smith wearing a Civil War-era dress and standing in front of a huge version of the Stars and Bars.
The state of Alabama has long held that Nicola Marschall, an artist living in Marion, Alabama, submitted the winning design, but Smith's story is literally etched in stone.
In 1923 the North Carolina Division of the UDC erected a monument in Smith's honor in front of the Franklin County Courthouse.
The national organization in 1930 sponsored another monument, which was installed at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, North Carolina, widely known at the time as the "Westminster of the South" because of the many tablets placed there in honor of southern heroes.
When Orren Randolph Smith died in Henderson, where he had moved by 1900, his obituary in The Raleigh Times noted his fame as the designer of the Confederate flag.
It pointed out also his notoriety as a house mover, a trade he had pursued in Durham and Raleigh.
According to the article, he moved the buildings that had been located on the site of Meredith College in downtown Raleigh.
The piece elaborated on his skill: "He moved the old post office building at Raleigh, which was of wood, so that business went right on and neither the stoves nor the clocks had to be taken down."
Smith was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Henderson.
Published in The Franklin Times on February 6, 2014.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at email@example.com.