The 48-star flag is worn and stained, and is missing a few stars.
But a retired couple from Fort Collins were to determined to help Old Glory complete a return journey to Idaho Springs that started 95 years ago when the United States entered World War I.
The flag, which belonged to a local veteran, will eventually be featured with a World War I uniform in an exhibit at the Idaho Springs Heritage Museum.
Terrie and Bill Cornell donated the flag to the museum on April 25, the same month America entered the war in 1917.
The flag has an inscription that reads: “Frank S. Gilmore, Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County, Colorado.”
Gilmore, a World War I veteran, was born in Idaho Springs and was a longtime friend of Terrie Cornell’s family when she was growing up in Missouri and Kansas.
Cornell said she wrote to the Idaho Springs Historical Society and asked to see if it would be interested in receiving the flag.
A piece of World War I history
Don Allan, vice president of the Idaho Springs Historical Society, said the organization regularly receives items of historic significance from the public.
“Over the years, people … are bringing (items) to us, and it is not going to get thrown away,” Allan said. “… These are things that can be put out for display. It ain’t just going to get stuck in a safe somewhere, and years later, someone won’t say, ‘I wonder what this was for?’ “
The flag is a rare memento from a war not well represented in Idaho Springs. The town boasts memorials and markers for veterans from World War II through Operation Desert Storm.
Heritage museum curator Marjorie “Chee Chee” Bell said Idaho Springs was still very active mining-wise when the U.S. entered World War I.
“There was a lot of mining going on, and there were people who went in the service from here,” Bell said.
Bell said she believes there was local support for the war effort and those who went off to fight across the sea.
“There were servicemen from here. … Several of them got hit with mustard gas and were pretty much disabled most of the time because of that,” Bell said.
But public remembrance for the Great War in the city doesn’t seem to exist, with the exception of local American Legion Post 98, named in honor of Ralph Wilkins, an infantryman who was the first resident to die in the war.
Idaho Springs connection
Gilmore, born in 1896, was the son of two Norwegian parents who moved to Idaho Springs just before he was born. His father worked in a stamp mill and was later its foreman.
Gilmore became a private in the Army on Sept. 18, 1917, the same month Wilkins was killed in battle.
Gilmore died in 1984. His story surfaced again recently when Cornell and her sister cleaned their parents’ house, and the flag bearing Gilmore’s name and his hometown was discovered.
How and why their family ended up with the flag is a mystery but being the former curator for the White Sands Missile Range Museum in New Mexico, Cornell was hesitant to have the flag retired in an official ceremony where it simply would be burned.
Cornell said she had a sense that she was taking part in the end journey for the flag by sending it home.
“(But) I didn’t feel that sense initially. I just wanted to get it to the right home because his name is on it, and obviously he cared to write that on there,” Cornell said. “He and my dad were very good friends. They were just two peas in a pod.”