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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



A genuine love of plants and a pronounced ability in their propagation, as well as an intuitive perception of artistic effects, admirably qualified Mr. Armstrong for his chosen occupation of landscape gardener. The striking success of his efforts as evidenced in grounds which he laid out in different parts of the United States proves that he possesses natural qualifications for the work. Such is his ability and such his judgment of the ensemble that, with the first study of grounds and environments, he is prepared to render a prompt and correct opinion as to the location of drives and walks, the planting of shrubbery and trees, and the choice of flowers for the attainment of the most beautiful and picturesque results. As the architect of buildings must study the relation of his proposed structure to its environment, so the architect of landscape effects must use the nicest discrimination, the keenest judgment of harmony in colors and the most sagacious faculties of observation in order that the grounds and gardens may form an appropriate setting for their environment ; and such has been the aim of Mr. Armstrong in all of his responsible tasks contributory to the beautifying of our country.

Of English parentage and ancestry, Mr. Armstrong was born in Cumberland, in the north of England, June 23, 1860, and received a public school and academic education. Immediately after his graduation from Evans Academy in 1876 he was apprenticed to the nursery business with Little & Balltayne, one of the largest firms of the kind in Cumberland. Under capable oversight he learned every detail in regard to plant life and the culture of flowers, so that when he completed his trade and left the nursery in 1882 it was with a full preparation for successful activities. As a journeyman nurseryman he was employed at Edinburgh, Scotland, until March of 1884, when he crossed the ocean to America and settled temporarily in Boston. For a few months he was employed in laying out grounds and caring for the gardens owned by C. Johnston, a wealthy merchant of that city. During July of the same year he went to Newport, R. I., where he became superintendent of the grounds and gardens surrounding the magnificent mansion of August Belmont. Upon resigning from that position in September of 1886 he went to New York City and secured an excellent position as manager of the plant department with the J. M. Hodgson Floral Company on Fifth avenue, where he continued until 1891.

Coming from the east to California in 1891, Mr. Armstrong engaged with Timothy Hopkins, the florist of Menlo Park, as superintendent and manager. For five years he filled the position with recognized ability and when he left it was to go to Fernwood as superintendent of the W. J. Dingee estate. Remaining at that place until 1901, he then went to Santa Barbara and laid out grounds for the residence of numerous millionaires, including I. G. Waterman, T. C. Underhill, James Murphy, E. C. Driver and John Davidson. In 1904, as manager for the Abbott Kinney Company, he was engaged to draw the plans for the beach town of Venice. During 1906 he had the contract for laying out the Athletic grounds at Hollywood and the Arroyo Seco at Pasadena. After a number of years of successful activity in Southern California he moved to Oakland during 1910 and was given charge of planting and developing the holdings of the Oakland Water Company near Piedmont, Alameda county. During May of 1911 he came to Sacramento, where he officiated as landscape gardener at the capitol grounds from May 15 to August 15 and since the latter date he has acted as general manager of the Eastlawn cemetery and conservatories.

The marriage of Mr. Armstrong occurred in Cumberland, England, in June of 1882, just before his removal to Scotland and united him with Miss Martha Heward. They became the parents of five children. One of the daughters, Lillian, is Mrs. Owens, of Chester, England, and the other, Mrs. Amy White, is living in Los Angeles. The eldest son, John, a capable young man, is chief clerk in the East- lawn conservatory store at Sacramento. Thomas is an electrician with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company at Sacramento. The youngest, Heward, is a student in the schools of Cumberland, England. Since becoming a citizen of the United States Mr. Armstrong has voted with the Republican party. Fraternally he was made a Mason in Doylestown Lodge No. 245, Doylestown, Pa., is a member of Corinthian Chapter No. 51, Santa Barbara; Los Angeles Commandery No. 9, K. T., and a member of Aahmes Temple, N. M. S., Oakland. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011