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Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company

Page 345

ELIJAH J. ARMSTRONG, whose valuable property of six hundred and eighty-five acres is the visible evidence of his life of thrift, labor and enterprise, was born July 18, 1841, in Jasper county, Missouri, near the city of Carthage, his parents being Ryal and Allie (Jones) Armstrong. The father was of Scotch-Irish and the mother of Welsh lineage. He was a farmer of Tennessee, from which state he removed to Kentucky, and in 1828 came to Menard county, Illinois, when it was a pioneer district, prior to the winter of the deep snow, memorable in the history of this state. He lived first near Little Grove and afterward near concord church. In April, 1840, he removed to Jasper county, Missouri, where he purchased a farm, becoming the owner of a large tract of land. Later he sold that property with the intention of returning to Illinois, but became ill and died before carrying out this plan. His widow returned to Menard county about 1847, bringing with her eight children. She then purchased a small farm, now owned by henry Shirding and upon this place she reared her family. John, the eldest, was a farmer, but in his later life lived retired in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where his death occurred. He left a widow and seven children. Eliza is the widow of Isaac M. Watkins and lives with her daughter Mrs. Joseph Bailey. Emeline is the third of the family. Bowling G. died in childhood. Nancy Ann became the wife of Henry Ott and they removed to the west. Robert L. married a Miss Jenkins, who died in Texas, while his death occurred near Guthrie, Oklahoma. They had seven children, four boys and three girls. Elijah J. was the seventh of the family. Mary J. became the wife of Nelson R. Watkins, of San Marcial, New Mexico, a miner and prospector. They have three sons and three daughters.

Elijah J. Armstrong pursued a common school education in Menard county and began his business life by working on a farm by the month, receiving from fifteen to eighteen dollars a month for his service. It was his ambition to become a landowner and he first purchased forty acres of swamp land, borrowing the money from William Watkins, better known as "Fiddler Bill Watkins." Mr. Armstrong then began farming in the spring of 1860. On the 20th of September of the same year he was married, thus gaining a companion and helpmate for life's journey. He wedded Susannah Watkins, a daughter of Samuel Watkins, a representative of one of the oldest, best known and most prominent families of this part of the state. The young couple began their domestic life upon a farm and here they continued to live, laboring earnestly together, and as the years passed they prospered. Their first home was a log cabin, with a stick chimney daubed with clay, and clay was placed in the chinks between the logs. There was just one door and four windows and the house was covered with clapboards. Later Mr. Armstrong erected another house, which is still standing north of his present residence. The second dwelling was a frame structure, sixteen by eighteen feet, but it in turn was replaced by a more commodious and modern residence. He has also made other substantial improvements and has added to his original farm from time to time until his landed possessions now aggregate six hundred and eighty-five acres. This is indicative of a life of earnest toil, strong purpose and laudable ambition. In former years he worked early and late and in due course of time his labors were rewarded. He has raised grain and fed cattle and the products of his farm have brought to him a good income.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong were born nine children: Matilda, who died at the age of eighteen months; Samuel, who died when about twenty-one years of age; Mary, who died in infancy; Ryal, who married Martha Skaggs, by whom he has five children, and is a farmer, grain buyer and dealer in implements, living in Oakford; Kitty, who died at the age of fifteen years; John, who died at the age of twenty-two years; George, who is a farmer residing on the old home place and who married Elsie Davis, by whom he has a little daughter; Joseph, who resides upon his father's farm, a half mile east of the old home, and who married Maude Maltby, by whom he has three children; and William C., who married Fannie Boeker and lives upon his father's farm, a half mile east of the homestead.

Mr. Armstrong has always been a Democrat, supporting the men and measures of the party, yet never seeking or desiring office. He belongs to the Cumberland Presbyterian church and his wife was also a member of that church. Her death occurred December 13, 1898, and her remains were interred in Concord cemetery. Many friends as well as her immediate family mourn her loss. Mr. Armstrong has a wide acquaintance in Menard county, where almost his entire life has been passed and his close adherence to the rules which govern industry and strict unswerving integrity have made him not only a successful, but also highly respected business man.

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