VERDEL — Finding old U.S. flags inside the walls of a Verdel house that was being reconstructed — after suffering damage during the historic March flooding — came as a surprise to everyone involved.
“We were amazed to find flags in one of the walls in the house after we tore off the plaster and wood lathes,” said Carvella Wickersham of Verdel, whose mother, Susan Svatos, owns the house.
Three months after the water damage occurred, a construction crew from Texas with ties to family in Verdigre traveled to the area to help with repairs.
As the crew — which included family and friends of Svatos’ — began tearing out the walls damaged from the flooding, they were amazed to find a particularly interesting wall. As they peeled the layers off the wall, which included newspaper and wallpaper, they found something else -- U.S. flags.
They were able to peel some of the flag fabric off, despite it being very fragile, and were amazed to find the colors of the flags imprinted on the wood.
“We had no clue it was there and were certainly surprised to see the imprint on the wood,” Wickersham said.
It was common to use newspaper to insulate wood houses in those early years, but the flags as the last layer was a surprise.
There were several flags used on one wall, and the family retrieved all the imprinted wood pieces. Wickersham said people have even offered them money for the wood pieces.
Only a small amount of fabric was saved and Svatos plans on framing it so it will hang inside the renovated house when she is able to return to her home.
It wasn’t the first time the Texas crew came to Nebraska.
“The first time Jeremy Caruthers came with a load of hay and stayed to fix fence,” said Lorie Kreycik Knigge.
Knigge is a resident of Verdigre and a professional photographer who spent many hours documenting the flood damage.
She also spent countless hours organizing flood relief efforts, coordinating anything from food for people and animals to donations of money and also hundreds of hours of volunteer help. The Texas crew came to Nebraska thanks to a Facebook post by a 4-H leader from York County, which was read by a 4-H leader in Texas.
Knigge even did some digging to find the trail of ownership of Svatos’ house. The first recorded owners were Taylor and Julia Glick in 1905, who were among the original founders of Verdel.
The work on the home, which had never previously suffered water damage, is going well. The Texas crew is expected to be able to depart in about a week.
Wickersham recalls that fateful day of flooding quite clearly.
About 1 p.m., Svatos called Wickersham at work and said she better come home. She lived just down the road from her mother.
“I rushed home and my mom said she would give me 10 minutes to collect some clothes for myself and my kids,” Wickersham said. “I barely had time to collect those few items and I was waist deep in water walking out of house.”
Svatos had already chased her cattle, belly-deep in water, out of the their yard to higher ground and was loading her sheep herd into a livestock trailer out of a barn that was filling with water when her daughter called for help.
“You are coming to get me, right?” Wickersham said to Svatos on the phone. A neighbor, Jeremy Mahan, was sent with a tractor and a loader to rescue Wickersham.
As his tractor slammed into Wickersham’s deck from the force of the current, Wickersham threw her bags and jumped with her dog into the loader bucket.
“I didn’t think we were going to make it back to my mom’s house,” Wickersham said.