Overland Trail Museum celebrates Fourth of July with Family Fun Saturday

  • Youngsters try their hand at a catch a duck game at Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • A “Flags Throughout History” exhibit was one of the highlights of Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021, celebrating Independence Day. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • Overland Trail Museum staff member Zach Pomeroy gives a presentation on the history of the garrison flag, which was raised during a flag raising ceremony to mark the start of at the start of the museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021, celebrating Independence Day. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • A milk jar toss was one of several activities for children at Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • Cassidy and Colleen Wright perform the “National Anthem” at the start of Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021, celebrating Independence Day. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • A Fourth of July photo booth provided fun for the whole family at Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • Children enjoy a game of Plinko at Overland Trail Museum’s “Proud to Be An American” Family Fun Saturday event July 3, 2021, celebrating Independence Day. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

of

Expand

While it wasn’t the traditional Heritage Festival, there was still fun to be had at the Overland Trail Museum as it celebrated Independence Day with its “Proud to be an American” Family Fun Saturday event.

Festivities began with a flag raising ceremony by Boy Scout Troop 36 from Peetz in the courtyard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem sung by Cassidy and Colleen Wright. Museum staff member Zach Pomeroy also shared a brief history about the flag that was raised, the Great Garrison Flag.

“There she stands the third longest flying flag of the United States, with 15 stars and 15 stripes. It was first introduced as the United States flag in the Flag Act of 1794 and signed into existence by George Washington himself,” Pomeroy said, adding that “this is a very well storied flag, this is the flag that flew over Derna, which is now Libya, during the war there and it’s also the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.”

It was early July 1813, when Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry wrote to the commander of the Baltimore defense to ask him for a flag “so large that British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance,” Pomeroy explained. Armistead hired Mary Pickersgill, a professional flag maker, to produce a garrison flag 30 feet by 42 feet and a storm flag 17 feet by 25 feet. The garrison flag was made of 300 yards of British wool bunting, each stripe was two feet wide and each star was two feet in diameter.

Pickersgill with the help of six, possibly seven others, was able to complete the new flag in six days. Both flags were delivered on Aug.19, 1813, at a cost of $574.44.

About a year later, in the early morning of Sept. 13, 1814, five British bomb ships and one rocket ship sailed toward Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor. The first shot was fired by the British a little before 6:30 a.m. An hour later, two of the bomb ships and the rocket ship were delivering constant gunfire to the port and within three hours all ships were engaged with the port returning fire.

The bombs or mortars as they were called all weighed 200 pounds and held 10-15 pounds of gunpowder with a fuse. During the height of the bombardment a mortar went off in or above the port every 45 seconds. A disaster was averted when a bomb broke through the ceiling of the magazine and failed to blow up. The magazine was filled with 200 or more barrels of gunpowder, which was moved along the outer walls to reduce the risk of explosion.

After 25 hours of bombardment, the British failed to break through the defenses and the city of Baltimore could not be taken, so they retreated. There were four casualties and 24 were wounded.

On the morning of Sept. 14, the garrison flag was raised, though it was believed that the storm flag was the one that was flying over the port at the time of the battle. It was this garrison flag that was seen by a Washington lawyer, who was contained on a British ship while trying to negotiate the release of a doctor that was incarcerated.

That lawyer was Francis Scott Key.

Inspired by what he saw, he put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, and after making his way back to land, he polished up what he had written. The four-stanza poem, with the help of Key’s brother-in-law, the commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, was printed for distribution and called “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” It soon spread across the nation and a short time later it was renamed “Star Spangled Banner.”

Key’s poem has been the National Anthem of the United States since 1931.

Following Pomeroy’s presentation, children enjoyed games such as Plinko, milk jar toss, a guessing game coin toss and catch a duck, as well as treats including popcorn and root beer floats. There were also patriotic crafts in the High Plains Education Center and visitors of all ages enjoyed a “Flags Throughout History” exhibit in the Dave Hamil Building.