During my travels around Pennsylvania, I’ve visited many fantastic historical society museums, and many of these have showcased items that are truly extraordinary. However, I don’t know that any of them can compare to the Lincoln Flag at the Columns Museum.
The Columns Museum is located in Milford, PA, and is the official museum of the Pike County Historical Society. It tells the story of this corner of the Poconos, and while their collection is just as impressive as the building’s exterior and there are many items that are sure to interest anyone who loves history, the Lincoln Flag is in a class on its own.
The Lincoln Flag is located just inside the entryway and is surrounded by a variety of items from the Civil War.
Believe it or not, this flag was hanging from the box at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. on the night that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. It is said that this flag was placed under Lincoln’s head before he was moved from the box and that the dark stain that is visible on the flag is his blood.
I’m naturally skeptical about claims like this. However, not only is there very good provenance about how the flag got to the museum but it’s also been extensively studied by experts who have concluded that the flag is, in fact, authentic.
This is the type of exhibit you’d expect to find in a large museum, or even at the Smithsonian or Ford’s Theater, but instead, you can find it in this small-town museum in the Poconos. Truly remarkable.
Next to the Lincoln Flag, there are several other related items of interest.
One of them is a dress that was worn by Jeannie Gourlay, who was an actress in the play Lincoln came to see that fateful evening, and the dress on display is said to be the one she was wearing that night.
It was her father, Thomas Gourlay, the stage manager at Ford’s Theater that night, who saved the flag. It was eventually passed down to Jeannie, who eventually settled in Milford. Her son, V. Paul Struthers donated the flag to the historical society in 1954.
While most visitors come to the Columns Museum to see the Lincoln Flag, there is actually a lot more to see in the museum. And, while the rest of the museum is devoted to the history of Milford and the rest of Pike County, anyone who loves history will be sure to enjoy the other displays in the space.
For example, another great display is a case filled with taxidermied birds.
In addition to being a great collection of unique species, there is some interesting history here as they were all done by John Graham Bell. Bell was a close associate of John James Audubon and was the person who taught Theodore Roosevelt how to taxidermy animals.
Seeing some of his work was definitely interesting.
Two other famous Pike County residents that have sections are author Zane Grey and forester, conservationists, and Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot. Both men had major impacts on this corner of the state, the country, and the world, so it was interesting learning a bit more about their lives.
Of course, most residents of Pike County had little fame, but the museum still does an excellent job cataloging what it was like to live in the area dating all the way back to the Lenape tribe of Native Americans through to more recent residents and events.
The Columns Museum highlights some of these residents, as well as displaying great collections of military items, local camps, and Native American artifacts.
There’s even a historic stagecoach on display that once carried people and goods through the Poconos.
Of course, the building the museum is in is also historic, having been built in the first decade of the 20th century. There are many great architectural touches within this Neoclassical building, so make sure to take some time to appreciate the beauty of the space both inside and out.
Overall, there’s no question that the highlight of the museum is the Lincoln Flag, and it’s worth visiting just for the chance to see that. However, if you love history, there are a lot of other great displays at the Columns Museum that give you a reason to explore even more of the space.
The Columns Museum
Hours: Hours Vary.
Address: 608 Broad St