Why the Lincoln flag belongs in Milford

| 06 Aug 2015 | 08:02

To the Editor:
This summer I have had the honor of volunteering at the Columns Museum in Milford, home of the Lincoln Flag. A very common question that I heard was, "Why is the flag here of all places? Doesn't it belong in the Smithsonian?"

Immediately after President Lincoln was shot, the play's stage manager, Thomas Gourlay, rushed to the Presidential Box to come to the injured man's aid. Miss Laura Keene, the star of the play, rested his head on her dress until she needed to leave. Mr. Gourlay firmly thought that it was inappropriate to lay the president's head on the ground, so he pulled down a flag that was being used as bunting and placed it underneath President Lincoln's head. After a time had passed, while his head was laying on the flag, the president was carried across the street to the Peterson House, where he would die later that night.

Thomas Gourlay decided to keep the flag. When he died he left the flag to his daughter Jeannie, an actress in the play that night. Jeannie moved to Milford when she grew up. She then left it to her son, V. Paul Struthers. He felt that it belonged in a museum to be enjoyed by the public, so he donated it to the Pike County Historical Society in 1954. It has been the prized possession of the society ever since.

Multiple tests towards its authenticity have been run. The flag is definitely from the Civil War era, the blood stains are human and contact stains, meaning that something bleeding laid on it.

The biggest factor to guarantee that it is the real thing is the chain of possession. The flag was owned by the Gourlay/Struthers family until it was directly donated to the Columns Museum. Its current location is as much a part of the flag's history as its time in the private basement of the family. The Lincoln Flag is something that belongs in Milford, and will remain here for a long time.

Jonathan Langberg