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Historic flags to be exhibited in Niles

NILES — Since his eighth-grade history class at Austintown schools, Jonathan Guerrier said he has learned the importance of showing respect for the American flag and now teaches others to have an appreciation as well with a historic collection of flags.

The public will have a chance to see many past American flags as Guerrier, who is president of the Sons of the American Revolution Mahoning Chapter, has provided more than 100 flags for display at the National McKinley Birthplace Museum in Niles. The exhibit opens Tuesday and will be displayed through August.

Guerrier, of Austintown, who spent four hours setting up the flag display, said World War I veteran Samuel Hubbard Scott of Toledo was the one who started the flag collection so it is named for him. Scott joined the SAR in 1948 and was the president of the Anthony Wayne chapter in Toledo.

“He spent all of his years after the war putting together the flag collection,” Guerrier said, noting Scott had no next of kin and the collection was given to the SAR.

Guerrier said the 110 flags in the collection, which is housed in Circleville, is displayed throughout the state.

“We want to get the flags out in front of the public,” he said.

The flags are divided into three categories: Pre-colonial, the American Revolution and state flags.

Guerrier said the oldest flags are the early country flags including those from France, Britain and Spain. The Revolutionary War flags were flown during the war. The state flags include territory flags such as Puerto Rico. There are Civil War flags with the Union and Confederate emblems.

“The biggest surprise to people is getting to see such a variety of flags. The 45 historical flags is just a third of the Revolutionary War flags that there were with the different regiments. There are so many different star designs on the flags. Each one of the flags tells its own story, even the country flags,” Guerrier said.

He said a judge told him the flags represent “the good, the bad and the ugly” and allow people to look back at the past.

“The flags show the sacrifices that people have made and how far as a society we have come from that time,” Guerrier said.

Belinda Weiss, museum director, said she read an article about Guerrier being at an event in Struthers and contacted him about having the flags at the museum. Former President William McKinley was a member of the SAR.

“As soon as I heard of the flag collection, I knew it was something the McKinley Museum should have. It is nice to be able to represent this collection at a presidential museum. The finished exhibit looks like it belongs in a museum,” Weiss said.

Guerrier said SAR involves the male descendant from those who served in the American Revolution, with the organization offering scholarships and hosting essay contests as well as living history re-enactments, community outreach and veterans outreach. The latter involves looking in cemeteries for American Revolutionary War veterans and getting them headstones and also recording data on the markers.

Guerrier said his interest in history began in eighth grade in teacher Ronald Johnson’s class in Austintown.

“When we walked into this class on the first day, and this has always stayed with me, he was holding the American flag and said when we are in the class we will talk about good stuff and bad stuff but I want people to respect the flag because people have fought and died for this. He talked about the pre-colonial time to the Revolutionary War up to the Civil War talking about respect for the flag. That got me interested in the flags,” he said.

Guerrier said he looked up his own family’s ancestry and connection to the Revolutionary War.

“It’s wonderful finding out who you are and to be able to honor your ancestors. My family is all veterans. It is important to not only honor the veterans in this generation but also those of the past,” he said.

Guerrier said some of the flags are over 70 years old.

“These flags tell our story. This is the history of all of us,” he said.

If you go …

The National McKinley Birthplace Museum, 40 N. Main St., Niles, has a new exhibit starting Tuesday featuring over 100 historic flags, on loan from the Mahoning Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or by appointment. Free admission.

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