Sandy Tutton didn’t anticipate the treasure she would unearth at Delaware County Historical Society while diligently working to help the organization fulfill its stewardship responsibilities.
A retired history teacher, Tutton’s involvement at DCHS began as an extension of her ongoing research of her family tree, which had roots in the area preceding William Penn. During her exploration, she was recruited by Margie Johnson to volunteer and was eventually trained as the accessionist.
In that role, Tutton takes the donations dating back to 1895 and enters them into the database, preparing them for storage into the DCHS collection. As the computer arrived in 2008, hers is quite a task ahead.
In administering her duties, Tutton has run across various items from her extended family such as the day DCHS received a handmade wedding dress from the 1890’s. Upon opening the box and reviewing the family tree, Tutton pleasantly learned they were, in fact, her cousins.
However, the jackpot find was yet to come.
One day, Tutton was working her way through a group of enormous archival boxes that had yet to be processed from when they were donated. Sometimes, these types of boxes hold clothing.
“I find clothing to be special because it was chosen by someone, was worn by someone generations ago, and it expressed their personality,” Tutton shared.
One box that particular day, however, happened to be heavier than the boxes of clothes.
Inside was 10-feet by 15-feet 35-star handmade American flag from the Civil War era.
Reading an article included in the box about the flag, Tutton learned it was made by her great-great-great-grandmother Phoebe Osborne Miller and her sister-in-law Mrs. George Clegg and others from the Shoemakerville neighborhood in Chester in 1862 to honor the men from Chester who had volunteered to fight in the Union Army, who called themselves “The Chester Blues”.
The Blues were sent to train in upstate New York before being sent to fight the war in the West over the Appalachian Mountains. This flag was used as a regiment standard as they left to join the Northern Army on April 24, 1862.
The flag itself shows signs of wear with the corners having been repaired and other parts soiled. It’s assumed it was flown often. Parts of it, particularly the long seams, were sewn using a sewing machine and the stars and the finishing details were sewn by hand.
Mrs. George Clegg, also known as Great Aunt Jessie Miller Clegg to Tutton, was the very person who donated the flag to DCHS in 1929. Clegg authored Tutton’s earliest family history and any of her family members researching genealogy referred to Clegg’s work.
In 1862 while making the flag, Phoebe Osborne Miller was pregnant with Jessie, who was left to become its guardian.
“It was at this point that I screamed, loud enough for DCHS Executive Director Laurie Grant to hear me and to come running,” Tutton said. “It’s not often that you get to touch something made by your ancestor!”
Clegg died in 1950 but her work and the flag remain.
Other genealogical treasures and the flag are preserved at the home of Delaware County Historical Society at 408 Avenue of the States. Please call 610-359-0832 or visit padelcohistory.org with any questions. DCHS is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Appointments and group/school tours are available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot. Memberships are encouraged and donations are graciously accepted.
Delaware County Historical Society Board Member Sandy Tutton stands near the Civil War-era flag she discovered among the collection.