In 1954, with very little fan fare, a man named Vivian Paul Struthers delivered a 36 star flag which was stained with the blood of the 16th President to a meeting of the Pike County Historical Society.
For nearly 70 years, this relic has been a part of the historical society’s collection. It sits in a very nice display case with the blood stains easily seen. Information, pictures and other memorabilia belonging to the Gourlay-Struthers family complete the story of how the flag came into their possession all those years ago.
It is a rather simple story, which seems impossible given the panic in Ford’s Theatre the night President Lincoln was shot. But it remains true that Vivian Paul’s grandfather, Thomas Gourlay, took the flag and kept it. Gourlay was an actor and was in the play being performed that evening at the Ford’s. In fact, his daughters Maggie and Jeannie (stage name Jenny) were also in the play, and his two sons were in the audience.
In the years to come Thomas Gourlay travelled abroad to perform and left the tainted American flag, in the care of his daughter, Jeannie, who had married and moved to Milford. The family kept the flag until well after Jeannie died and finally Vivian, a lifelong Milford resident, donated the flag to his local historical society. Simple, right?
This April 15 and 16, the Pike County Historical Society and Museum will be open from 1-4 p.m. for those who wish to see and learn more about the Lincoln Flag.
On April 16 at 4 p.m., the Society and Grey Towers heritage Association will co-host a special performance of a play “Thinking Inside the Box” which tells the story of the three women who were in the Presidential Box the night of Lincoln was shot. It is a one woman live performance of Laura Keene (the star of the play being performed that night and made her way to the box after Lincoln was shot), Mary Todd Lincoln and Clara Harris (an unlucky guest of the Lincoln’s that fateful night).