In 1836, an eleven-year-old boy named William said a final farewell to his beloved grandmother, Elizabeth Ross.
In 1870, the now forty-five year William Canby stood before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, presenting evidence that his grandmother, Betsy Ross, had hosted a secret visit by George Washington to her upholstery shop in June of 1776. The new commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, along with Robert Morris and Colonel George Ross, approached the young Widow Ross about creating a flag to represent the 13 colonies fighting for freedom. According to William Canby, his grandmother helped design the flag with the circle of stars that is still known today as the Betsy Ross Flag.
Although many have disputed Canby’s story over the years, there appears to be much evidence to support his claims. So much so that in April of 2009, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission officially recognized Betsy Ross’ contributions to our fledgling nation. The official sign in front of her home on Arch Street in Philadelphia reads:
“Credited with making the first Stars and Stripes flag, Ross was a successful upholsterer. She produced flags for the government for over 50 years. As a skilled artisan, Ross represents the many women who supported their families during the Revolution and early Republic.”
The story of Betsy Ross is an inspiring one. She was widowed not once but three times in her 84 years. Her first husband died from an explosion at a munitions depot. Her second died in a British prison. Her third husband succumbed to illness. She gave birth to seven daughters, two of whom died in infancy. Despite these many tragedies, she continued to support her growing family by running her successful business.
Besides being credited by many with designing and sewing the first flag, she was commissioned in May of 1777 by the State Navy Board of Pennsylvania to sew flags for Navy vessels. The receipt for this work is kept in the Pennsylvania Archives.
That same year, on June 14, 1777, the first official flag of our new nation was adopted by the Continental Congress. Today, we still celebrate June 14 as “Flag Day.”
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I was about eleven-years-old when I visited the home of Betsy Ross. I was enthralled with the history that filled every corner, and clearly remember the kitchen being in the basement—such an odd concept for a child of the 20th century! I discovered a love for the ornate pitchers and bowls that early Americans used for washing up before they had indoor plumbing. I came home with two miniature pitchers and bowls that I bought in the gift shop and treasured for years.
When I think about the eleven-year-old grandson of Betsy Ross treasuring the memory of his grandmother sharing tales from the American Revolution, my heart is stirred. What an impact she had on his young mind! I can envision him sitting near his Grandma as she repaired one of the many flags worn with age that were returned to her hands for restoration throughout the years. The recipients of the flags had not forgotten who the seamstress was. Nor did William Canby. And he cherished the tales from the woman he admired.
What kind of a legacy will we leave our children and grandchildren? Will it be one of using our talents that the Lord has blessed us with?
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.” Proverbs 22:29 (NIV)
Do we use every opportunity to teach our children about God’s ways and inspire a dedication to Him?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut. 6: 5-7 (NIV)
If I learn nothing else from the story of William Canby and his dedication to his grandmother, Betsy Ross, I will always remember her legacy of inspiring memories of importance in his mind—memories shared along the way that were forever imbedded in his heart.
What memories will your children and grandchildren hold dear?
Happy Flag Day! Let our banner be one of Christ’s love and grace
For more information about Betsy Ross, click here.