Search billions of records on

Family Group Sheet


John Ross47




21 Jan 1776


20 Jan 177650


Rev. Aeneas Ross


11 Apr 1773


Elizabeth Griscom47


1 Jan 175250


30 Jan 183650




Samuel Griscom (1717-1793)


Rebecca James (1721-1793)

Other spouses

Capt. Joseph Ashburn

John Claypoole

Notes for Elizabeth Griscom

One year before William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1681, Betsy Ross's great-grandfather,
Andrew Griscom, a Quaker carpenter, had already emigrated from England to New Jersey.

Andrew was successful at his trade. He was also of firm Quaker belief, and he was inspired to move to
Philadelphia to become an early participant in Penn's "holy experiment." He purchased 495 acres of land in the
Spring Garden section north of the city of Philadelphia (the section would later be incorporated as part of the
city), and received a plot of land within the city proper.

Griscom's son and grandson both became respected carpenters as well. Both have their names inscribed on a
wall at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, home of the oldest trade organization in the country.

Griscom's grandson Samuel helped build the bell tower at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). He
married Rebecca James who was a member of a prominent Quaker merchant family. It was not unusual for
people in those days to have many children, so it is only somewhat surprising to learn that they had 17!

Elizabeth Griscom -- also called Betsy, their eighth child and a fourth-generation American, was born on
January 1, 1752.

Betsy went to a Friends (Quaker) public school. 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. 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 her job that Betsy fell in
love with another apprentice, John Ross, who was the son of an Episcopal assistant rector at Christ Church.

Quakers frowned on inter-denominational marriages. The penalty for such unions was severe -- the guilty
party being "read out" of the Quaker meeting house. Getting "read out" meant being cut off emotionally and
economically from both family and meeting house. One's entire history and community would be instantly
dissolved. 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. Her wedding caused an irrevocable split from
her family. [It is an interesting parallel to note that on their wedding certificate is the name of New Jersey's
Governor, William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's son. Three years later William would have an irrevocable split
with his father because he was a Loyalist against the cause of the Revolution.]

Less than two years after their nuptials, the couple started their own upholstery business. Their decision was
a bold one as competition was tough and they could not count on Betsy's Quaker circle for business. As she was
"read out" of the Quaker community, on Sundays one could now find Betsy at Christ Church sitting in pew 12
with her husband. Some Sundays would find George Washington, America's new commander in chief, sitting in
an adjacent pew.

War Comes to Philadelphia

In January 1776, a disaffected British agitator living in Philadelphia for only a short while published a
pamphlet that would have a profound impact on the Colonials. Tom Paine ("These are the times that try men's
souls") wrote Common Sense which would swell rebellious hearts and sell 120,000 copies in three months;
500,000 copies before war's end.

However, the city was fractured in its loyalties. Many still felt themselves citizens of Britain. Others were
ardent revolutionaries heeding a call to arms.

Betsy and John Ross keenly felt the impact of the war. Fabrics needed for business were becoming hard to
come by. 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. Though his young wife tried to nurse him
back to health he died on the 21st and was buried in Christ Church cemetery.

In June of 1776, Betsy tells us about her fateful meeting with the Committee of Three: George Washington,
George Ross, and Robert Morris which led to the sewing of the first flag. See more about this on the Betsy Ross
and the American Flag page.

After becoming widowed, Betsy returned to the Quaker fold, in a way. Quakers are pacifists and forbidden
from bearing arms. This led to a schism in their ranks. When Free, or Fighting Quakers -- who supported the
war effort -- banded together, Betsy joined them. (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 would be married again in June 1777, this time to sea captain Joseph Ashburn in a ceremony performed
at Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia.

During the winter of 1777, Betsy's home was forcibly shared with British soldiers whose army occupied
Philadelphia. Meanwhile the Continental Army was suffering that most historic winter at Valley Forge.

Betsy and Joseph had two daughters (Zillah, who died in her youth, and Elizabeth). On a trip to the West Indies
to procure war supplies for the Revolutionary cause, Captain Ashburn was captured by the British and sent to
Old Mill Prison in England where he died in March 1782, several months after the surrender of Cornwallis at
Yorktown, Virginia, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.

After the War

Betsy learned of her husband's death from her old friend, John Claypoole, another sailor imprisoned at the
brutal Old Mill. In May of 1783, Betsy was married for the third time, the ceremony performed at Christ
Church. Her new husband was none other than old friend John Claypoole. Betsy convinced her new husband to
abandon the life of the sea and find landlubbing employment. Claypoole initially worked in her upholstery
business and then at the U.S. Customs House in Philadelphia. The couple had five daughters (Clarissa Sidney,
Susannah, Rachel, Jane, and Harriet, who died at nine months).

After the birth of their second daughter, the family moved to bigger quarters on Second Street in what was
then Philadelphia's Mercantile District. Claypoole passed on in 1817 after years of ill health and Betsy never
remarried. 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 the then-remote
suburb of Abington, PA, to the north of Philadelphia.

In 1834, there were only two free Quakers still attending the Meeting House. It was agreed by Betsy and
Samuel 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 January 30, 1836, at the age of 84.


Misc. Notes

Have you ever thought about how the American flag was made. Well, in this essay I will tell you who and three
other important things that the maker of this peace symbol did. Her name was Betsy Ross, she was the seamstress
and designer of the first American flag. How cool is that? As for her early life, Betsy was born in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania as Elizabeth Griscom. She had a big family. Betsy was the eighth child of seventeen, born to Samuel
and Rebecca. Her family was Quakers, a religious group that believed in living in a simple, peaceful way.

Her first achievement was attending school. Most people did not attend school. In school she learned reading,
writing, arithmetic, geography, and history. During her school hours they would preform a four-hour task each day.
Betsy used this time to sew. She enjoyed creating quilts and sampler with complicated designs. Her needlework was
the most beautiful in Philadelphia and she won many prizes for it.

Her second achievement was setting up a small business with her spouse John Ross. They were married in 1773.
They worked long hours to make their business succeed. In 1776 John died, Betsy took over his upholstery business.

In that same year according to tradition, General George Washington, financier Robert Morris and colonel George
Ross, her husband's late uncle, calle on Ross and ask her to design and make the flag. George Washington did this
because he wanted the colonies to have a symbol of thier independence. This is the most important thin she ever

After her first spouse she married two more times. With these spouses she had five children. Clarissa, Susannah,
Rachel, Jane, and Harriet, who died as a baby. Betsy died in 1836. Her children kept this story alive so people would
know how important their mother really was. So if anyone ever asks you who made the American flag you can
proudly say Elizabeth Griscom Ross.

Wallner, Alexandra. Betsy Ross.
1st Ed. United States of America:
Wallner, Alexandra, 1994

Microsoft (R) Encarta (R) '96 Encyclopedia.
1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.
(C) Funk & Wagnalls Corporation

Young, Joesph. The First Amercan flag.
1st Ed. Chicago, Ill.: John L. Elliot, 1995

Last Modified 14 Mar 2000

Created 17 Aug 2001 by Reunion for Macintosh

Contents * Index * Surnames * Contact