The Ladies of Castle Creek’s “World’s Fare”

34 star flagWhile the beneficent ladies of New York City waited until 1864 to stage their extravaganza to raise thousands of dollars for the Sanitary Commission and the care of the wounded, other women were doing their part from early on. In the winter of 1861 when it was becoming apparent the war was going to be long and bloody, a small group of women in the rural hamlet of Adams Settlement or as it is known today as Castle Creek, New York decided to hold a “World’s Fare” to raise money to send supplies to the poor soldiers.

All through the winter the ladies gathered at each others’ homes to stitch together the “world’s largest flag.”  When completed in 1862 the flag measured 18 feet by 20 feet. It had 34 stars as the ladies refused to “capitulate to succession.” The flag was raised at Garret Stoughton’s in the summer of 1862. Whether it was the world’s largest or not, it was certainly a cherished creation. The flag was raised every Decoration (Memorial) Day and Fourth of July until it disappeared in late 1890s.

This story is taken from the diary of eleven year old Lucy Jane Stoughton of Adams Settlement as reprinted in the 1898 special remembrance edition of the Whitney Point Reporter (available at the Broome County Library). But the Adams Settlement Fare was not an unusual event. All over the country women organized to provide the men at war with the things they needed as immortalized in the poem The Days of Sixty-Three by Elizabeth Tighman Brooke.

And matrons grave and sage,
Joined blushing maidens in their prime,
And babes of tender age.
In lordly mansions sat fair girls,
With hands unused to toil,
 And worked and sang right merrily,
Beside the midnight oil.
The school-girl, top, in humble home,
With busy lingers plied
Her shining shaft, while grandame old
Sat knitting by her side.
And little children saved their pence,
Like miser’s gold, and then,
With smiling eyes, they brought them forth
To aid the fighting men.
 So labored they at home; while some
Went forward to the field,
Where the poor wounded soldier lay,  
Waiting his life to yield;
(Excerpt from pp. 38-39)

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