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Elizabeth "Betsy" Ross (Griscom)

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, American Colonies
Death: Died in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Samuel Griscom and Rebecca Griscom
Wife of <private> Ross; Joseph Ashburn and John Claypool (Claypole)
Mother of <private> Newman (Ross); Elizabeth Ross; Rev. Aenas Ross; Margaret Ross; <private> Ashburn and 7 others
Sister of Sarah Donaldson; Deborah Bolton; William Griscom; George Griscom; Abigail Griscom and 10 others

Occupation: Upholsterer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Elizabeth "Betsy" Ross (Griscom)

A Patriot of the American Revolution for PENNSYLVANIA. DAR Ancestor # A022879.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Griscom (1 January 1752 - 30 January 1836), popularly known as Betsy Ross, was the eighth of seventeen children born to Samuel Griscom (1730 - 1793) and Rebecca James (1730 - 1793) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Betsy Ross was an American seamstress and upholsterer who has been widely credited with making the first American flag.

Marriages and Children

  1. John Ross (1752 - 1776) married 14 November 1773 Hugg's Tavern, New Jersey; no children.
  2. Captain Joseph Ashburn ( - 1782) married 15 June 1777 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Zillah Ashburn (c.1778 - c.1780)
    2. Elizabeth Ashburn (born c.1780)
  3. John Claypoole, variously spelled Claypool, Claypole (1752 - 1817) married May 1783
    1. Clarissa Sydney Claypoole (3 April 1785 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 10 July 1864 Fort Madison, Iowa) married Jacob Wilson; six children
    2. Susannah Griscom Claypoole (15 November 1786 - 11 June 1875) married Abel Satterwaite; seven children
    3. Rachel Claypoole (born 1 December 1789) married Edward Jones, Sr. (one child) and John Fletcher (three children)
    4. Jane Claypoole (13 November 1792 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 4 January 1873) married Caleb Harlan Canby; ten children
    5. Harriet Claypoole (20 December 1795 - 1796), d.s.p.

Biographical Summary

Betsy Ross grew up in a household where the plain dress and strict discipline of the Society of Friends ("Quakers") dominated her life. Betsy went to a Friends (Quaker) public school, where for eight hours a day she was taught reading, writing, and received instruction in a trade — probably sewing. After completing her schooling, Betsy's father apprenticed her to a local upholsterer named William Webster. Today we think of upholsterers primarily as sofa-makers and such, but in colonial times they performed all manner of sewing jobs, including flag-making. It was at this job that Betsy fell in love with another apprentice, John Ross, who was the son of an Episcopal assistant rector at Christ Church.

On a November night in 1773, 21-year-old Betsy eloped with John Ross. They ferried across the Delaware River to Hugg's Tavern and were married in New Jersey. Quakers frowned on inter-denominational marriages. The penalty for such unions was severe — the guilty party was "read out", or expelled from the Society of Friends. Being read out meant being cut off socially and economically from both family and congregation. One's entire history and community would be instantly dissolved. Betsy's wedding caused an irrevocable split from her family. She and John joined Christ Church, where the congregation included George Washington and his family.

Less than two years later, Betsy and John started their own upholstery business. Their decision was a bold one as competition was tough and they could no longer count on Betsy's Quaker circle for business. Fabrics needed for business were hard to come by and business was slow. John joined the Pennsylvania militia.

While guarding an ammunition cache in mid-January 1776, John Ross was mortally wounded in an explosion. He died on 21 January and was buried in Christ Church, leaving Betsy a childless widow at the age of 24. She continued to run the upholstery business, mending uniforms and making tents, blankets, musketballs, and cartridges for the Continental army. In late May or early June of 1776, Betsy had that fateful meeting with the Committee of Three: George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris, which led to the sewing of the first flag.

After being widowed, Betsy returned to the Quakers, in a way. Quakers are pacifists and forbidden from bearing arms, which led to a schism in their ranks during the Revolutionary War. When Free, or Fighting Quakers — who supported the war effort — banded together, Betsy joined them.

Betsy married her second husband, sea captain Joseph Ashburn, in a ceremony performed at Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia on 15 June 1777. As a mariner Joseph was often at sea, leaving Betsy alone in Philadelphia. During the winter of 1777-1778, Betsy was forced to share her home with British soldiers whose army occupied Philadelphia. Meanwhile the Continental Army was suffering that historic winter at Valley Forge.

On a trip to the West Indies in 1780 to obtain war supplies for the Revolutionary cause, Captain Ashburn's ship was captured by a British frigate. Captain and crew were charged with treason and transported to England. While Joseph was incarcerated at Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England, their first daughter, Zillah, died at only nine months old, and their second daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Joseph never learned of Zillah’s death nor had the opportunity to see his new daughter, because he died before the British released the American prisoners in 1782.

Betsy married John Claypoole in May 1783. He was an old friend and a fellow inmate of Joseph Ashburn, and had brought her the news of Ashburn's death. Betsy convinced her new husband to abandon the life of of a sailor and find employment on land. Claypoole initially worked in her upholstery business and then at the U.S. Customs House in Philadelphia. After the birth of their second daughter, the family moved to bigger quarters on Second Street in what was then Philadelphia's Mercantile District, where they had three more daughters. Claypoole passed on in 1817 after twenty years of ill health and Betsy never married again. She continued working until 1827, bringing many of her immediate family into the business with her. After retiring, she went to live with her married daughter Susannah Satterthwaite in Abington, Pennsylvania.

In 1834, there were only two Free Quakers still attending the Meeting House. It was agreed by Betsy and Samuel Wetherill's son John Price Wetherill that the usefulness of their beloved Meeting House had come to an end. At that last meeting, Betsy watched as the door was locked, symbolizing the end of an era. Betsy died on 30 January 1836, at the age of 84.

Notes

  • Betsy had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. She had no children with John Ross, however.
  • Although it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Philadelphia, the claim that Ross once lived at the Betsy Ross House has not been proven.
  • Although many modern historians and flag experts regard the tale of Betsy Ross making the first flag as a fable, the oral history testimony of Betsy Ross's daughter and other family members remains unrefuted. Circumstantial evidence also supports the story, including the paper star found in a trunk in the 20th century.
  • The Free Quaker Meeting House, which still stands a few blocks from the Betsy Ross House, was built in 1783, after the war was over.
  • Betsy claimed to have done tailoring for George Washington.
  • She was initially buried at the Quaker burial ground on South 5th Street, Philadelphia. Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in the Cobbs Creek Park section of Philadelphia. In preparation for the United States Bicentennial, the city ordered the remains moved to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House in 1975; however, workers found no remains under her tombstone. Bones found elsewhere in the family plot were deemed to be hers and were re-interred in the current grave visited by tourists at the Betsy Ross House
  • A major Philadelphia bridge is named in her honor.

Sources

Links

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Betsy Ross's Timeline

1752
January 1, 1752
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, American Colonies
1773
November 4, 1773
Age 21
Hugg's Tavern, New Jersey, American Colonies
1773
Age 21
Virginia, American Colonies
1774
January 6, 1774
Age 22
1777
June 1777
Age 25
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
1777
Age 25

This is Betsy Ross, of American lore.

http://www.ushistory.org/BETSY/index.html

1783
May 8, 1783
Age 31
Pennsylvania, United States
1785
April 3, 1785
Age 33
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
1786
November 5, 1786
Age 34
November 15, 1786
Age 34