This is an biography written by William Bracken Armstrong, who was the son of Alexander Armstrong and Martha Richey Armstrong who came with his parents to Warren County, IL, in the 1835’s. William married Olive Terpening sister to my 3rd great-grandfather John Peck Terpening. This biography is very well written and I didn’t change the spellings of some words on account of that was the way William wrote it back then. Tells of his life before coming to the United States. I found it very interesting and hope you will, too. If you are related or a descended from this line of Terpening/Armstrong’s be sure to let me know via .
Source: From Jane Erdman at the 2003 Terpening/Armstrong Reunion on August 31. A direct descendant.
William B. Armstrong, the subject of this sketch, was born December 27, 1839 in the County of Termanagh Ireland (Innishmore Island, Parish of Clenish Rectory of Dereveland.) His parents were Alexander Armstrong (Scotch born) and Martha Richey in Town Slige County Tyrone, Ireland. The farm on which young Armstrong was born was named Isleview and contained 76 acres upon which the elder Armstrong held a lease for 99 years. Here they raised a family of 8 children--5 boys and 3 girls. This home was named Isleview from the fact that it was on the shores of Lough Erin, and had a commanding view of the island nestled on its bosom. The largest and most noted being Killagoan about 100 rods distant from Isleview. At one time in its history it had been the home of some of the Grandees of their time, but during my memory it was uninhabitated. The tumble down walls of its former castle and monuments in memory of its former were cut in sandstone, but time had so defaced t5hem they were not really decipherable. Most of the Island had grown up to hazel (not as we know it in America) as it takes on the form of small trees.
This Isle is used principally as pasture land where they get the cattle to it by swimming them across the narrowest part of the Channel, and is said to be the Home of the Farries, and by a smaller creation named Banshies that when visible had on regulation uniforms, never without red cap and necktie. These stories were told so often around the fireside when neighbors visited each other and were told so often that both hearer and teller go so they firmly believed in this folklore with a horrible ghost to end up with. We kids were so scared we wouldn't venture out of doors after dark, so you see we believed in them , too.
The improvements on this farm consisted of a long stone building 1 story 5 bed rooms, parlor, hall or receiving room, dairy, store room and large kitchen and dining room. Oh, every nook and corner is as plain to me as it was 65 years ago with the old wide mouthed fireplace which always in the Holiday times did its duty faithfully in roasting turkey or goose as the family decided upon. This roasting was done in front of a God turf or peat fire by having a long steel rod called a spit, thrust though the fowl. It has a crank on one end which someone of the family took hold of, gently turning the occupant over until it was cooked to a turn. In this fireplace which took in the entire end of the kitchen and was all of 5 feet wide and open for at least 6 feet, space in chimney was used as a smoke house where the summer supply of meat and fish were nicely, cured.
On the West end of the dwelling was the fuel or turf house where the winter supplies were kept - then came the store room for apples, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, etc. with each in its place. Next was the implement house, then calf barn and mow, the cow stable with 10 stalls, and back of these was a wall separating them from the house. This wall was a growth of wall flowers which were in constant bloom, during the entire summer. Then came an alley with horse barn with 4 stalls and cow barn with 6 stalls, Father always kept 4 horses and 14 to 16 milk cows - butter making the chief industry there. Next west was the stockyard called Hoggard and across the road south was the barn where the oats were thrailed cut - being carried in a stack at a time while dry. The threashing gave employment to the 3 hired men during the wet weather, also 2 hired women.
The farm proper was divided into 14 fields, each field having its own name. The cows were turned into a fresh field each day.
We had what was called the National School system. The patrons did not have any voice in selecting the instructors. I went to the dame teacher until I was 13 when I could solve problems he couldn't touch. A word in regard to the school house. As I see it now, it was a building about 16 feet wide by 26 feet long with an aisle down the center with benches on either side, a fireplace in the rear. and the teacher's desk on a raised platform at left in the corner. The walls were built wit h such material as the Israelites made brick during the first days of their captivity in Egypt (clay with straw mixed in ) 8 inches thick and 10 feet high upon which rafters were placed covered with a very rough sod placed smoothly There on, then a covering of rye or wheat and straw, fastened to the sod with small willows sharpened at teach end. In the years 49 and 50 was erected a new school building more than 4 times as large as the old one, consisting of 2 rooms, one each for boys and girls, the later being taught by the old man's daughter, a much better educator than her father. I will leave my school days for awhile and speak of other experiences.
Was remarkably fond of fishing (and really haven't gotten over it yet). Used to rise early in the morning, get down to the lake shore and catch me some minnows, then go out in the skiff. We used those little fish for bait out in the deeper water, go back next morning to see what luck. Occasionally got a nice one and remember once bringing home a 12 pounder. O high I did step. But fishing sometimes has its drawbacks as well as its pleasures. Remember going down one morning in a hurry barefooted and pants rolled up, undid the line from the pole and was going hippty hop when the hook end of the line dropped out of my hand fastening itself in the calf of my leg. Refusing to let go, I went up to a neighbor's and found the mother and 2 daughters at home. They insisted upon removing the hook with a knife. They got me up on the table and with a rusty shoe knife went to work. But oh my, as the rusty knife grated along the hook --- never had fainted, but certainly nearly did then. They took me off the table after that and had them stop removing hook . They wound it up and I started for home. Was going to school in that condition when Mother noticed my gait was somewhat unusual and she again to inquire the reason. After some evasive answers I had to own up and take to the operating table again, this time Mother, armed with a razor, and the hook and a smart piece of the boy were separated. Have been through the surgeons hands since then but that so knife caps all.
I finished my education the County School and was sent to a private school in the Town of Tisnaskea where I spent one year learning more in 6 months than I had done in 6 years. There was no killing time in Giles McMahon's School and never having been away from home, I was a stranger to every scholar in school. He was the master there, if finding one of his pupils playing pranks during school hours, whatever he might have in his hand, book or slate, it went right after the idler. he played me quite a compliment about like this: Armstrong, when you first came here, I thought you the best boy I ever had in school, but I'll be hanged if you ain't as big a devil as any, about this time Father got America on his mind. His reason for it was the boy older than I was a terrible sufferer of asthma. The doctor advised a sea voyage as the only hope he also had a brother who had resided in America a number of years who wrote glowing terms of this country and its opportunities. He decided to sell his lease, stock household stuff and what other plunder he had, and like Abraham, left all and started for this new country he had heard so much about. So, having made all necessary arrangements, even to our hard bread (oat meal) baked before in the old fire place, we started the latter part of October 1855; for London Derry, "Irelands Walled City".
So many do not know much of the history of Emerald Isle. Once governed by four kings each ruling over a Province Ulster in North - Munster in the South - Lunster in the East - Connaught in the West. Poor old Ireland been so divided and torn up religiously or rather lack of religion. Am in hopes that the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may get hold of hearts of men and they may realize that wonderful Gospel Story of the Son shall make them free, and they shall be free indeed. Well, arriving , London-Derry and no suitable vessel being found went on steamer down the Irish Channel to Liverpool. Had a very stormy trip experiencing a sever storm, and the whole family being terribly sea sick. Next day, arriving in Liverpool, England where we remained a week. It took most of that time to get over the effects of the Irish Channel trip. Finally succeeded in finding a vessel which thought would be all right for an ocean trip a large sailing ship name Ontario which proved to very slow sailor, taking 6 weeks to make the trip. Landed in New York, I think, December 15, where we remained 10 days, then taking the railroad for Abington, Knox Co., Illinois.
After a somewhat tedious trip, the latter part to be made in wagons, we arrived once more among relatives at which place re rented a 120 acre farm for the next year. After that went north into Warren Co., IL, where we finally settled near Tylerville, at which I with most of the other children were converted and united with the M.E. Church. Here also I met her, Olive Terpening, who afterwards became my wife and who is still the partner of my joys and sorrows. Here also Father, Mother 3 Brothers and 2 sisters await the Arch angel and the trump of God.
From here also I went out at my Country's call on August 09, 1862, with many others, many neighboring boys forming Co. B 102nd Regiment under Col. McHurtry, Company under Cat. Atchison. Time 3 or during the war. Went into Camp at Knoxville, Ill. where we remained about 2 weeks, going from there to Peoria, Ill. where we put in about a month drilling without arms. We received arms at New Albany, Ind.. in the morning and started to Old Kentuck in afternoon. Next day started after John Morgan’s" force who we kept from crossing the Ohio River and kept right after him, Catching him[ with his rear guard where we had a slight skirmish. He and Command going on to Versailes capturing several regiments of Union troops. On our march from Louisville, we went out loaded like pack mules. Before the second night, not many knapsacks were to be found. Almost everything had to be abandoned, overcoats, blankets, trinkets from home etc.
At this point, our Chaplain and Colonel left us with no return ticket. The regiment went into the hills of east Tenn, and from there to Gallatin where we went into winter quarters, building Port Thomas and garrisoning the same for a time. During the Battle of Stone River could hear the cannon roar quite plain. In the spring of 1863, we moved to Laverne where part of the Regiment was mounted doing guard duty along the LN &C Railroad. Co. B being sent to Smyrna H & K Companies to Stewart Creek, Companies F & G at stream down the road. The remainder stayed at Laverne where we remained till a short time before Sherman started for Atlanta. Our 1st brigade 3rd division 20 AC camping at the foot of Lookout Mountain until the movement commenced which brought us in touch with the Rebel Army at Rocky face and Pesacca where our Company lost a number of men. From here was sent to the hospital at Ringold and from there to Chattanooga from which place was furloughed home from where returned to Ringold again to rejoin my Regiment which had cut loose from Atlanta for the Sea. General Thomas with his Command being left behind to take care of Hood and his force, General Thomas fighting and falling back collecting the small forces doing guard duty along the RR until he reached Nashville. Thomas being reinforced by AJ Smith Corpse during the holidays of 64 & 65 gave battle driving Hood's forces from their position and pursuing them across the Tenn. River where they made a stand at Decatur. Our detachment was commanded by General Ben Harrison, afterward President. This was the last fight we were in. We went from here to Nashville, Tenn. going down the river from this point to Louisville, up the Ohio to Parkersburg where we took the RR for Alexandria, taking a transport from here to Hilton Head, NC, where we started on foot for Goldsboro, NC, where we found Sherman's Army almost ready to start for Raleigh, NC ; were we arrived to find time to hear the glorious fact that Lee with his whole army had surrendered unconditionally to Grant.
From Raleigh we went to Petersburg - this distance made barefoot as couldn't get shoes large enough as the eastern army were smaller men- through the historic street of Richmond, then on to Washington and took part in the grand review of that city and on to Chicago where we were mustered out June 15, 1865, then back to the starting point to praise God the remainder of my life for his saving grace and keeping power.
W. B. Armstrong
Corporal Co. B - 102 Illinois