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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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John McIntyre Armstrong

Armstrong ancestry:
Chief Tarhee m. French-Canadian woman

Chief Tarhee was "Grand Sachem" of the Wyandot Nation (Grand Sachem = No. American Indian chief; especially : the chief of a confederation of the Algonquian tribes of the No. Atlantic coast)

daughter Myreerah m. Isaac Zane
daughter Sarah Zane m. Robert Armstrong (adopted Wyandot)
son John M. Armstrong m. Lucy Bigelow
son Russell Bigelow Armstrong m. Rachel Brown
daughter Anna Armstrong m. Charles Youngman
sons: Paul Armstrong Youngman (book's author), Lawrence W. Youngman, and Dr. Robert Armstrong Youngman

ZANESFIELD - The Revolutionary Commission placed a sign in 1930, along road 5 in Zanesfield, at the Sloan Library lawn. The sign reads: Zanesfield, site of three blockhouses, Robert Robitaille Trading Post built in 1793, the English fort by Co. Logan in 1786, and the graves of Isaac Zane and his wife Myeerah, daughter of Chief Tarhee.

Address of Tarhee, Grand Sachem of the Wyandot Nation to the assemblage at the Treaty of Greenville - July 22,1795

Variant spellings of the Wyandot:  Quendat, Wendat, Wyandot, Wyandott, Wyandotte

The Wyandots belong to the Iroquoian Family of North American Indians. They are the descendants of the Tionnontates or Tobacco Nation of the Huron Confederacy.

Ancestors and Descendants - Genealogy of Robert Armstrong and Related Wyandots

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Heritage of the Wyandots and "The Armstrong Story" by Paul Armstrong Youngman, pg. 36-40.  A copy of this book may be found at the Kansas City, Ks Public Library at 625 Minnesota Avenue.  Paul Armstrong Youngman is descended from Robert Armstrong and Sarah Zane, parents of John McIntire Armstrong and Silas Armstrong.  Information received from Lucy B. Armstrong (widow of John M. Armstrong) is incorporated in Mr. Youngman's book.  John McIntire Armstrong built and taught at the first public school in Kansas, July, 1844.

John McIntyre Armstrong was born near Zanesfield, Logan county, Ohio, October 7, 1813.  His father, Robert Armstrong, was taken prisoner by the Delaware Indians, near Pittsburgh, in the seventh year of his age, and, at thirty-five years of age, was married to Sarah, fifth child of Isaac Zane, a native of Wheeling, Virginia, who was also taken prisoner by the Indians when a lad and retained in captivity until he was old enough to marry, when he wedded a beautiful maiden of mixed Wyandotte and French blood.  Robert Armstrong and Sarah Zane were married in January, 1808; and their children were:  Silas, born January, 1809; Hannah, born January, 1810, who died at fourteen years of age; John McIntire; and Catharine L., who married J. L. Dawson, and lives in Bellfontaine, Ohio. 

Robert Armstrong and family removed from Logan county, to three miles south of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Wyandotte county, where he died in 1823, aged fifty.  He was an exhorter among the Methodists, to which denomination his wife also belonged; and when left a widow, continued the family devotions until her death, February 22, 1844, at which time she was sixty-one years old.  Robert Armstrong excelled as a public speaker, and was a ready interpreter for the missionaries and United States agents.  He was one of General Harrison's most reliable scouts during the war of 1812; a small man, but very active and strong; quite pleasant and affable as a companion, and very popular among the soldiers - one of whom gave him tidings of a white woman who had been captured by the Indians, and was then living in Perry county, Ohio, and was supposed to be his (Armstrong's) sister, who had been taken prisoner by the Indians.  On leaving the army, Mr. Armstrong visited Perry county, and the lady, a Mrs. Margaret Spencer of Somerset, proved indeed to be his sister, but neither of them could ever find any tidings of their mother or the other five children; the father had died before Robert was taken captive.

John McIntire Armstrong attended the Mission school near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, until he was sixteen years of age, with occasional intermissions of work upon his mother's farm.  He then worked very hard for three years, and did very much toward making the fine homestead known in that section as the "Armstrong Farm."  During this time he borrowed books from the Mission library and steadily pursued his studies; one of these volumes, "Dick's Philosophy," led him to decide upon securing a thorough education.  He accordingly sold land he had inherited from his father, and entered Norwalk Seminary, Huron county, where he remained from the autumn of 1833 to the spring of 1836, and was distinguished for his proficiency in natural science.  In June, 1835, he won the second oratorical prize, and would doubtless have received the first, but his paper on "Causation," though well written and delivered, was considered skeptical.  He was always a lover of science and contributed articles upon his scientific subjects to the "Ohio State Journal," the "Western Christian Advocate" and "The Ladies' Repository."  (1841 Article - CALORIC AS AN AGENT by J. M. ARMSTRONG)

May, 1836, he entered the law office of Judge Stewart, father-in-law of Hon John Sherman, at Mansfield, Ohio, and pursued his studies so diligently that notwithstanding some interruptions - being necessarily recalled to the farm, he was admitted to the bar in Cincinnati, April, 1839.  [Annotation:  John Sherman was a member of the same family as William Tecumseh Sherman.]

February, 20, 1838, Mr. Armstrong married Miss Lucy Bigelow, of Mansfield, whose father was a missionary to the Wyandottes in 1827-8, and was afterward their presiding elder for four years, during which time he had formed a very high opinion of young Armstrong.

As soon as Mr. Armstrong was admitted to the bar, he located for practice at Bucyrus, in his native State, and was nominated for prosecuting attorney of Crawford county, upon the Whig ticket, but was honorably defeated, the county being strongly Democratic.  During all these years, he had retained his connection with the Wyandottes, and as his practice was very much interrupted by his visits to Upper Sandusky, to attend the frequent councils of that nation consequent upon the persistent attempt of the US government to purchase their lands on the Sandusky river, he returned to the Nation for the purpose of aiding that part of the people who were opposed to removing to the Indian Territory, and resumed farming in April, 1840.  Summenduwat, a leader of the party opposed to removal, was murdered late in the fall of that year and his loss so weakened the party that, when Colonel John Johnson came to the Nation, in the winter of 1841-2, with more favorable terms than were before offered them, he succeeded in inducing a very small majority to vote in favor of selling the lands.  [Annotation:  Orville Street in Kansas City, Kansas was originally Summundowat Street.]   Mr. Armstrong labored assiduously to secure for the Wyandottes the real value of their lands, and, by delaying the treaty, did obtain $6,500 more annuity than those selling the lands had been willing to accept for them.  In the summer of 1843, he removed with the Nation to the West, and there being no US land on which they could settle, most of the people encamped upon a strip of ground lying between the west line of Missouri and the Kansas river, where Kansas City, Kansas, now stands, and which had been reserved by the Government when the Shawnee treaty was made.  Mr. Armstrong and some other members of the Nation took up their residence at Westport, where they remained for four months.  During this time, the Wyandottes had bought lands of the Delawares, lying between the Missouri and Kansas rivers, and, extending from their confluence, so as to include thirty-nine sections of land, upon which Mr. Armstrong built his cabin, near Jersey creek, about half a mile from the Missouri river, and moved into it December 10, 1843.  This was the first house occupied on the site of Wyandotte, and was the first to entertain guests.  Mr. Armstrong had been appointed US Interpreter the preceding fall, and each alternate Tuesday night the US agent to the Wyandottes lodged there; each alternate Sunday evening, also, the missionary was entertained, previous to the Sabbath services which he conducted - and this hospitable habit Mr. Armstrong continued as long as he lived.  In the summer of 1844, he received a two days visit from the celebrated naturalist, Dr. Drake, being still deeply interested in scientific subjects.  In July, of this year, he opened the first school ever taught in Wyandotte, which he continued for one year at that time, and for several winters thereafter.  In December, 1845, he was sent by the Wyandotte Nation to Washington City, and, while there, procured the location of a postoffice at Kansas City, Missouri, and the appointment of Colonel Chick, father of the well-known Messrs. Chick, as postmaster.  Of this transaction he writes his wife January 7, 1846:  "This is all my own doings; I do not know whether Colonel Chick will accept of the office or not.  As I was requested to name some one, I took the liberty of naming him."  The business which called him to Washington detained him there until July, but he succeeded in getting his Nation's claim through Congress, though against great opposition.

He was the church interpreter for the Nation during a period of ten years; was licenses to exhort in 1844, and held religious services among the Delawares, Kickapoos, and Shawnees, as well as among his own people; he was also a teacher in the Sabbath school and its superintendent; he was a leader in the temperance cause; signed every temperance pledge he ever saw; was a member of the Order of Sons of Temperance in Kansas City, Missouri, and delivered the address before the lodges of Kansas City and Westport, at their union celebration, Christmas, 1850.  He remarked a few months before his death that he had never taken a dram of whiskey, sworn an oath nor played a card in his life.  When in Washington, he belonged to the lodge of United Brothers of Temperance in that city.

When only ten years old, he united with the Methodist Episcopal church, and remained a consistent member while he lived.  He saw no necessity for the division of the denomination, as planned in 1844 and consummated in 1845; and adhered to the old organization, although greatly persecuted and his life threatened on that account.  When informed that he would be dismissed from his office of US Interpreter if he adhered to the Methodist Episcopal church, he replied:  "The office of the President of the United States would not tempt me to go contrary to the dictates of my conscience."  Though firm, he was not rash or violent, but moderate and peaceful - emphatically, the Christian gentleman.

In the summer of 1851, it was decided to adopt a new constitution and revise the laws of the Wyandotte Nation.  A constitutional convention was elected, consisting of thirteen men, with Mr. Armstrong as secretary.  He drafted every article of the constitution and submitted it to the members for their approval; as they accepted each article it was submitted to a national council, consisting of every voter in the Nation, for ratification.  The work of the secretary was most acceptable, and the whole was unanimously ratified.  It provided for a legislative council and a head chief's council; Mr. Armstrong was elected secretary of the legislative council, and codified the laws for the Wyandotte Nation.  This same summer, he taught the uneducated Wyandottes music from the blackboard, and they were sufficiently proficient to read the natural scale, when the season became sickly and he was obliged to discontinue his instructions; for the same reason, a course of lectures on natural science, which he was delivering in the Wyandotte language, was interrupted.  He was litigating Indian claims against the United States at this time, and expecting to spend the next winter in Washington, intended to bring back with him the necessary apparatus for teaching natural philosophy, chemistry and astronomy, upon which he meditated giving lectures in the Wyandotte language, but death intervened, and his useful labors were prevented.

On account of his legal knowledge, and also because he was an Indian, many of the other Indians and Indian nations had employed him to prosecute their claims against the United States.  After teaching the Wyandotte National School, in Wyandotte, during the winter months of 1851-2, he started for Washington City, March 24, to prosecute his claims, was taken with chills and fever while upon the Ohio river, but, obtaining medicine in Cincinnati, broke up his chills.  Not feeling well and having some business in Mansfield, Ohio, he concluded to remain over the Sabbath and rest.  On the Sabbath morning he was taken with a severe chill, while visiting at a friend's house; his mother-in-law, with whom he was stopping, feeling no alarm on account of his absence, as he had so many friends in the city.  Upon his return to her dwelling, on Monday afternoon, she immediately summoned her physician, who sent a young man he had just taken into partnership, who pronounced it a case of typhoid lung fever and bled his patient quite freely; other physicians were called, but could give him no aid, and on the next Sunday night he passed away.  During these last hours, referring to the persecutions he had endured on account of the split in the Methodist church, he said to his mother-in-law:  "The Lord has been with me through all my troubles and will take me to rest."

John M. Armstrong was one of nature's gentlemen.  To his natural sensibility and nice perceptions of honor, he added the graces of genuine Christian character.  Generous in his disposition, intellectual in his tastes, philanthropic in his life, he dedicated himself to a science, in which many have engaged for solely mercenary ends, but which awakened all the generosity of his being, enlisted all the talents and experience of his educational manhood, and to which he devoted himself with a singleness of aim, a fidelity of service and a display of administrative ability that have scarcely had a parallel in the history of Indian affairs in America.  He could have no nobler epitaph than this, which all his life declared:  "He was the Indian's friend."

Brother of John McIntire Armstrong:  Silas Armstrong

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 23-Apr-2014

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