Read about the Ranger Raid
The TRUTH abou the
By Clara Lynn (1929)
Our nation's flag, the stars and stripes,
Was made long, long ago,
The work of a young Quakeress
Named Betsy Ross, we know,
In Portsmouth, in the days of yore,
A handsome flag was made,
The handy work of many girls,
And on a ship displayed.
They made it for John Paul Jones' ship,
The "Ranger" was its name,
A ship at Badger's Island built,
Along the coast of Maine.
"The flag and I are twins," Jones said,
"A nation's place we won,
For I received a ship's command,
The day the flag was born."
Paul Jones, alert and handsome too,
Won praise from every one,
The Portsmouth lassies honored him,
For victories he had won.
A flag to float o'er his new ship,
These girls resolved to make,
With thirteen stripes of red and white,
And stars for ever state.
At Widow Purcell's boarding house,
When in Portsmouth, he would stay.
This house is now in history known
And bears his name today.
The widow had eight daughters,
And one of them became
The wife of Major Gardner,
Who had both wealth and fame.
Another of her daughters,
Was Captain Manning's wife,
He was a loyal patriot
In the colonial strife.
But these girls were unmarried when
The Ranger's flag was made,
And they with several other girls,
Flag making zeal displayed.
To Augusta Pierce, John Paul Jones told
The size the flag should be,
He said, " 'Twill bring me memories
of Portsmouth when at sea."
The maidens spent their afternoons
In making this big flag,
And from the first stitch to the last,
These lassies did not lag.
'Twas Helen Seavey, a young bride,
Who gave her wedding dress, :
She said, "A skill at needlecraft
I never did possess.
I cannot help at sewing stripes,
I'll cut the stars instead.
And of the flag's material
I will not waste a thread."
'Twas Mary Langdon's loom that wove
The cloth for the blue field,
And Caroline Chandler spun the threads
For weaving, on her wheel.
They said, "The flag's material
Must be the very best,"
They made a fast dye that was used
In coloring many a dress.
At Stoodley's Tavern, on Daniel Street,
Elijah Hall was host,
And workmen on the "Ranger" ship,
Of Stoodley fare would boast.
The landlord's daughter Dorothy,
Was one who helped to make
The "Ranger" flag that has renown,
Throughout the Granite State.
This sewing club, the lassies named,
"The Ranger Sewing Bee"
And proudly each maid did her work
With stitches hard to see.
And many were the words of praise,
For loyal zeal they had,
They showed their love for this free land,
By making the ship's flag.
On July 4th, seventeen seventy-seven,
The flag was on display,
The place where all could gaze on it,
Was "Mason's Hill," they say.
And on the "Ranger" that same day,
The flag waved in the breeze,
And proud was the commander, Jones,
To take it o'er the seas.
Today the name of Betsy Ross
Blends with our nation's fame,
But Portsmouth boasts the "Ranger" flag
That blends with Paul Jones' name.
The girls who made this famous flag,
Like Betsy Ross of yore,
Made a memorial that will stand,
Till flags shall be no more.
From "Poems About Portsmouth"
© 1929 Clara Lynn
Illustration from the Heroic Life of Captain Paul (1904)
See the women of Portsmouth with John Paul Jones
About Clara Lynn
All we currently know about Portsmouth poet Clara Lynn comes from her obituary in the Portsmouth Herald. This poem comes from her book
"Poems About Portsmouth" which was after her death at age 78 in 1929. Her
poems are a treasure chest of local legends, stories she must have learned
growing up in Portsmouth in the 19th century. Three books of her writing
appeared in her final decade and she was selected to write the city guide
to accompany the 1923 "Pageant of Portsmouth" produced by Virginia Tanner.
We may never know who sewed the Ranger flag, but
a popular legend suggests that the women of Portsmouth sewed the flag for John Paul Jones who captained the Continental frigate Ranger into history in 1777. No documentation, to our knowlsege, validates this story, but here Ms Lynn offers a wealth of detail about the young women of prominent families who were supposed to have participated in the event. Jones recorded that this flag was the first American colors ever recognized by a foreign nation. That story too, and the design and shape of the flag still engender conflicting discussions.
The importance of the story, locally, is the rare element of women's history into a largely all-white, all-male pantheon of Seacoast heroes. Where is the flag today? Another mystery still to be uncovered. - JDR
Read "JPJ: Wrapped in the Flag"
Read "Mrs. Safford's Flag"
Read "Unfurling the
Flags of JPJ"
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