Written by: Patrick Cash
March 21, 1964: For many years, the American flag has held a prominent place overlooking the upper quad at Mars Hill University. During the 1960s, few students walking across campus may have realized the significance or history of the particular flag that they passed on their daily ventures. Mrs. Sallie Chambers Brigman gifted the flag flying over campus in 1964 to the college in honor of her sister, Miss O’Dessa Chambers, a nurse whom served her country during World War I.
Miss Chambers was born in Buncombe County and joined the Army Nursing Corps in 1916 and was stationed at the Station Base Hospital in Brest, France. Upon returning home to North Carolina, Miss Chambers donated her items from her time of service to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina and began practicing private nursing until the time of her death in 1963. At the time of her death, Miss Chamber’s family was given a citation for her service by President John F. Kennedy that read;
“Presidential Citation for the United State of America to the honored memory of Miss Constance O’Dessa Chambers awarded by a grateful nation in recognition for devoted and selfless service to mankind in the armed forces of the United States .”
Miss Chambers was connected to Mars Hill via her sister, Mrs. Sallie Brigman. Mrs. Brigman enrolled in an extended course at Mars Hill College before she embarked on a teaching career that saw her educate students in the Sandy Much, Yancey, Madison, and Buncombe County schools. Mrs. Brigman also served as the Barnardsville PTA president, organized the first home economics club of Barnardsville in 1925, was a member of the local Grange and Eastern Star organizations, served as a correspondent for the Asheville Times and the Asheville citizens for 25 years, and was the Barnardsville postmistress for 26 years. Following the death of her beloved sister, Mrs. Brigman felt it appropriate to honor her sister’s memory by donating an American flag to Mars Hill College, a place Mrs. Brigman held close to her heart throughout her life.