MILFORD, PIKE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) On this Presidents’ Day, the popular opinion is that we celebrate two of our most famous chief executives, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Of course, President Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. nearly 155 years ago.
There is a local connection to the tragedy of April 15, 1865.
“Lincoln is considered one of the greatest presidents of the United States, I suppose.” Said Lori Strelecki of the Columns Museum of the Pike County Historical Society.
“When you say Presidents’ Day, you would think by now that it would encompass all of the presidents. But, certainly two come to mind…Washington and Lincoln. This flag was used as bunting around the presidential box the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. April 14th, 1865, right, and this was used as decoration that night in the theater, and it was taken by one of the members of the theater troupe after the assassination.”
“Thomas Gourlay, T.C. Gourlay as he appeared on the playbill, was also in the play (Our American Cousin), so he’s the one who took this flag. He had access to all parts of the theater (Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.). There were five flags being used as decoration in the theater that night, and all five of them disappeared.”
“She (Jeannie Gourlay Struthers) was in the play, her father was in the play, they all appear on the playbill. Her sister Maggie, so it appears on the playbill as M. Gourlay, that was her sister Maggie.”
“J. Gourlay was Jeannie and she ended up moving to Milford in 1888. She lived right here on Water Street until she died in 1928 (Milford Cemetery) and that is how the flag found its way to Pike County.”
“She, in turn, left it to her son, V. Paul Struthers, who donated it to the museum in 1954. There were two that were pretty large in size (153″x104″) and this one that were draped over the front of the presidential box, over the balustrade. There were two that were on either side of the presidential box, just regular size flags on poles, I believe. And I think there was one hanging across from the presidential box as well on the other side of the theater.”
“And of course it has been to Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. and it was part of a big exhibit of blood relics for the 150th anniversary of the assassination. So it was the lead artifact in that presentation of all the other artifacts that have Lincoln’s blood on it. I believe there were thirty witnesses to the assassination, and every story is different. People certainly felt a need to go back to the scene of the crime as it were, and relive it or have a piece of history.”
“We’re (The Columns Museum of the Pike County Historical Society) lucky enough to have a piece of history, such as this Lincoln flag, that is a somber reminder of the very sad event in history (April 14th, 1865). Certainly Lincoln is one of the most written about and talked about presidents still to this day.”
The authenticity of the flag has been verified and supported by numerous Lincoln and flag experts. To visit the Columns Museum on Broad Street in Milford you can find location information their website. They welcome visitors of all ages and encourage interested groups or individuals to contact them through their website.