The Fayette County Genealogical Society Meeting was held Monday, June 18 with Robert “Bob” Grim presenting “The Real Betsy Ross” for the evening’s program.
Grim told the story of Betsy in period costume of the American Revolution as Betsy was born the eighth child in a Quaker family of 17 children to Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James Griscom in Gloucester City, Colony of New Jersey on Jan. 1, 1752. Therefore, Elizabeth Griscom “Betsy” came to adulthood during the time of the American Revolution. Betsy became a very accomplished seamstress due to the tutelage of an aunt and her parents apprenticed her as an upholsterer.
While working as an upholsterer, Betsy met John Ross and eloped with him when she was 21 in 1773 because he was not a Quaker, and her family would not have approved. John Ross and Betsy began their own upholstery business. The Revolutionary War broke out and John Ross went to war and was killed in 1775, leaving Betsy a widow with no children.
The story goes that General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and two members of a congressional committee, Robert Morris, and George Ross, who was an uncle of her late husband, visited Betsy in 1776 to change the shape of the stars in the sketch of the flag showed to her from a six-pointed star to a five-pointed star that was easier to cut. Then Betsy made the original first United States flag. There is no archival evidence or other recorded verbal tradition to substantiate this story of Betsy making the first United States flag.
The first appearance of this story surfaced in writings by her grandson 100 years later in the 1870s with no mention of earlier documentation of proof. Betsy married two more times — Joseph Ashburn in 1777, who died in 1780, and John Claypoole in 1783, who died in 1817. Betsy died Jan. 30, 1836, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She had seven children.
During her lifetime Betsy made many flags, among which were flags for the Pennsylvania Navy during the Revolution, and garrison flags for the U.S. Arsenal in 1811, but many historians doubt that she made the first United States flag. She did however make many United States flags over a period of 50 years. This was a very informative program by Bob Grim dressed in period costume with wonderful pictures to share.
The next meeting of the Fayette County Genealogical Society will be the annual summer picnic on Monday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the home of Cathy and Doug White, 111O Golfview Drive, Washington Court House. The meat and drinks will be provided, and Society members and their guests are asked to bring side dishes and desserts.
For more information about this meeting, information concerning the Society, Society membership, the Society’s Lineage Societies, or research, contact Sue Gilmore, president, at 614-864-9609 or [email protected], Cathy Massie White, lineage chair, at 740-333-7227 or [email protected], or Peggy Lester, research chair, at 740-495-5720 or [email protected].