Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Armstrong History

There is no doubt that the Armstrong family made valuable contributions to the history of Port Byron. They were a spirited family with allot of passion and with that they were sometimes in the center of excitement.

The eldest Abner Armstrong was born about 1782 and was the son of Asahel Armstrong and Elizabeth Nelson of New York City. He married Nancy Curtiss, daughter of Josiah Curtis and Ann Ford of Danbury, CT. Much of what is known about this couple comes from the Genealogy of the Curtiss-Curtis Family of Stratford, CT.

According to the Curtiss genealogy, Asahel and Elizabeth Armstrong lived at Poughkeepsie, and Newburg, NY followed by the City of New York. It says that in 1829 Seth & Sarah Couch of Kingston, NY sold to Abner Armstrong of New York for $4,860.00 land at Port Byron, being 3 parcels near land sold to Peter Roosa, Philip King and Jacobus Cole with one quarter acre being reserved for a cemetery. Abner died in 1841 and is buried at King Cemetery.

Abner & Elizabeth had several children, one of which was Abner A Armstrong (Jr) b. 1806 at Newburgh, NY who married Mary Jane Stevens. Abner Jr. was a major player in the temperance movement at Port Byron. He also erected the coal & grain warehouse on Main Street. Abner Jr. died in 1889 at his home on Nauvoo Road and is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. His sister Hannah Armstrong was a school teacher in Port Byron.

Around 1863 or 1865, Abner Jr. deeded the warehouse to his three sons Nyram, Nelson and Abner who operated the business under the name of Armstrong Brothers. It is likely that the trespass suit with Dr. Hiram Eldridge involved his father, as Abner III would only have been 16 years old in 1859. However, I suspect that the cherry tree lawsuit in 1864 was Abner III who was born in 1843. Much excitement would come to the village with Abner III and his sister.

When the telephone company was first established and raising poles to connect the service, Charles Weston, President of the phone company and Claude Taylor, Superintendent of Construction, had trouble completing the work near the home of Josephine White, wife of James V White and sister of Abner Armstrong III. She attempted to stop the installation of the pole but when unsuccessful, after the hole was dug climbed into it and ordered her hired hand to fill it back in. This proved difficult with Mrs. White standing in the hole, so he helped her out and the work continued.

Her brother Abner then came to her defense with an ax and was prepared to cut down the pole. President Weston then called his attorney Arthur E Blauvelt who came to the scene with a written notice to Mrs. White to not interfere with the phone company’s property and ordered the linemen to string the phone lines. This not being pleasing to Abner, he set after Blauvelt with the ax!

However, Blauvelt used his horsewhip to keep Abner at bay, creating enough distance to leave. That didn’t stop Abner, as he later chopped down the pole anyway and a lawsuit followed. Mrs. White claimed that she was acting under the direction of her attorney from Elmira when her brother chopped down the pole. Surveyors were employed and the pole was not within ten feet of her property line. The line was later completed with no alterations to the route.