Biography - William F. Armstrong

WILLIAM F. ARMSTRONG is actively carrying on agriculture on the farm where he resides with his father, a respected resident of Penn Township, Shelby County, this homestead being the birthplace of our subject he is a representative of some of the earliest pioneer families of this state, his paternal grandfather, John Armstrong, having been one of the original pioneers of this county, and is distinguished in its history as the first settler of Penn Township; while the maternal grandparents of our subject, James and Nancy Gerdien, were early pioneers of Rose Township.

Aaron Armstrong, the great-grandfather of William F., was a native of North Carolina, and was a son of a Revolutionary soldier who lost his life in battle. Aaron removed from the State of his nativity to Warren County, Ky., where he resided but a short time, however, prior to his removal in 1809 to the Territory of Illinois. He was one of the first settlers of Madison County locating there in the year that the act was passed establishing Illinois as a territory. There were but few white men living in the whole length and breadth of this now populous and great commonwealth, and as the Indians held full sway and were oftentimes hostile, the whites had to band together and live in forts. The great-grandfather of our subject secured a tract of land five miles south of Edwardsville, built upon it, improved a good farm, which remained his home until his death in 1833. The maiden name of his wife was Mary Landers. She was born in South Carolina and died in Madison County in 1830.

John Armstrong was born in Warren County, Ky., in 1803. He was but a child when his parents came to Illinois, and he was reared amid its wild pioneer scenes and in due time he married a daughter of one of the early settlers, Jane Roach, who was born in Kentucky in 1802, and died in Illinois in 1877. In the fall of 1825 the grandfather of our subject came with others to Shelby County to seek a suitable location on its fertile soil. He selected a claim to a tract of Government land on section 6, township 13, range 3, now included in Penn Township, and at once commenced the erection of a log cabin, which was the first building ever erected in the northern part of Shelby County, and he was the first man to locate in Penn Township, his nearest neighbor for a time being ten miles away. Before completing his cabin he returned to Madison County for his wife and child, and in the fall of the year brought them back in an oxwagon to the scene of their new home in primeval wilds. Where wild animals such as deer, wolves, panthers and wild turkeys roamed at will where there were but few evidences of the approaching civilization. St. Louis, many miles distant, was the nearest town to which the pioneers could convey their produce to exchange for needed supplies. Notwithstanding the many difficulties that he encountered he developed an excellent farm, which he occupied until death deprived him of the companionship of his wife and he then passed his remaining days with his children, dying in 1886 at a ripe old age.

The father of our subject, Beverly Armstrong, was born October 23, 1827, in Clinton County while his mother was there on a visit. He was reared in this county where his parents had established their home, and was educated in its schools, attending the first ever taught in this section of the country. It was held in a log building located in Flat Branch Township. The benches, which were without backs or desks, were made of slabs that were supported by wooden pins, and the building was heated by means of a large open fireplace. In his youthful days the people lived principally off the products of the farm, and were clad in homespun made by the busy hands of the women.

Mr. Armstrong lived with his parents until he was twenty years of age and then entered a tract of Government land in what is now Moweaqua Township. He had married in that year Miss Emeline Virden, a native of this county, and in the log cabin that he built on his claim he and his bride began housekeeping. In 1858 he sold that place and bought the one that he now owns and occupies, that is finely located on section 31, Penn Township, constituting a choice and well-cultivated farm amply supplied with all necessary buildings and good modern machinery. He has been prosperous in the pursuit of his calling, and in the many years that he has been residing in this county he has always shown himself to be a useful citizen who has won an honorable place among the solid men of his community, and has done his share in developing the agriculture of this section of the State.

The subject of this biographical review is the only son of his parents and in their home, which has always been his, he was reared to a stalwart manhood. He received a sound practical training as a farmer and is now managing his father's farm with signal success, thus relieving him in a great measure of the cares and labors that beset him in his early life. He is a shrewd, careful man in his dealings and at the same time displays push and enterprise in carrying on his affairs, so that his interests brings him a goodly income in repayment of his outlay of labor and expense.

The greatest sorrow that Mr. Armstrong has experienced in life was the death of his wife in 1886. Her maiden name was Emma O. Gerry, and she was a native of Indiana. They were wedded November 13, 1878. By her death our subject lost a devoted wife and these four children were left motherless: Tressie, Charles, Birdie and Essa.

Extracted 09 Apr 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 487-488.

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