3 Mysteries Surround Betsy Ross

Do you know what the mysteries are that surround Betsy Ross? How many times was she married? How many children did she have? How many times was she buried? If you have answered yes or no, read on.

What are the mysteries that surround Betsy Ross?

Elizabeth Griscom was born on January 1, 1752. She was born the eighth of seventeen children sixteen girls and one boy. She was called Betsy. Her family were Quakers. Her parents were Samuel and Rebecca Griscom. Her father was a master carpenter.

Betsy went to school at a Quaker School. She learned reading, writing, arithmetic and sewing. After leaving school Betsy undertook an apprenticeship in upholstery, this is where she met and fell in love with John Ross. She learned to repair chairs, curtains, rugs umbrellas and to make flags.

Betsy and John eloped. Her parents did not approve of John since he was not a Quaker and Betsy was, “read out.” This means she was severed from her parents, her large family and the Quaker Community.

The couple returned to Philadelphia to start their own upholstery business in 1774. Betsy and John attended Christ Church and sat next to George Washington’s family. Betsy and John were married three years when John died in 1776 guarding an ammunition site during the Revolutionary War.

Betsy now widowed and alone inherited land. She continued to work at her upholstery business. Business was hard because of the Revolutionary war and material was hard to come by.

In the summer of 1776 Betsy met with the committee of three General, George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris. This led to the sewing of the first historical flag. Thirteen stars in a circle and thirteen strips. General, George Washington was very specific. He said, “I want the stars in a circle to represent the thirteen colonies. I do not want any of the colonies names above the others.”

In 1777 Betsy wed a sea captain Joseph Ashborn. They had two daughters one died in youth. Caption Ashborn was captured and died in prison.

In 1777 Betsy’s home was seized by the British Army during the historic winter at Valley Forge. Betsy was a strong supporter of the Militia.

Widowed again Betsy remarried an old friend John Claypoole, They had 5 daughters. John died in 1800 of a stroke.He had been bedridden for 17 years.

94 years later the story of the making of the first flag was told by Betsy’s grandson in 1780 William J. Canby at the meeting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The speech was printed in the Harper Weekly.

The only fact which was found after extensive research is this The State Navy Board Pennsylvania for May 29, 1777, an order on William Webb to Elizabeth Ross for fourteen pounds twelve shillings, and two pence for making ship’s colors, & c put into Richard’s store. Betsy made ship’s colors for Pennsylvania state ships.

There is not any other documentation available.

Not only does mystery surround Betsy about the making of the first flag – but in her death.

Betsy died in Philadelphia at age 84 completely blind. Her house is located at 239 Arch street, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania it isa popular tourist attraction.

Not only was Betsy married and widowed three times – she was buried three times. Betsy Ross was first buried at the Free Quaker burial ground on South 5th street. 20 years later her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia in the family gravesite. In the preparation of the United States Bicentennial the city ordered her remains to be moved to the Betsy Ross house in 1975. However, workers did not find any remains under her tombstone. Bones found elsewhere and unidentified were declared hers and re- buried in her grave at the Betsy Ross home.

Whose bones are in Betsy Ross’s grave. Hers, or another family member?

In 1909 a book was written by George Canby and nephew Lloyd Balderson. The book is titled, The Evolution of the American Flag. It gave positive information about Betsy making the first flag as was told to her family by Betsy.

A painting by Charles H. Weisgerber was printed into the book called, Birth Of Our Nations Flag. It showed Betsy and her granddaughters presenting the flag to General George Washington and others. This book became an instant sensation. The picture was printed in all the school text books in the United States.

A fund was started by school children to contribute ten cents each until they reach two million dollars to purchase and renovate the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Historians do not believe the house is the Betsy Ross house. But once again records were not available.

Is the house really Betsy Ross’s house?

The question is why did the public believe Betsy Ross did indeed make the first flag?

(1) The Speech her grandson made at the Historical Sociiety of Pennsylvania.

(2) The book, The Evolution of the American Flag.

(3) Married 3 times and widowed two times during the Revolutionary War.

(4) Owned and managed her own land.

(5) Single mother.

(6) Business woman.

(7) Using Betsy’s name in advertising was big business for selling flags and other items.

(8) Managed her own household.

(9) Member of the “Fighting Quakers.”

(10) Made American Flags for 50 years.

(11) The public loved the idea of a woman being a hero.

Does it really matter if Betsy Ross sewed the first flag? She was a gutsy lady. Way before her time. She proved her patriotism many times over and mystery still surrounds her life.

Thank you for reading my article. Please feel free to read any of the numerous articles I have written on several different subjects.

Copyright Linda E. Meckler 2008