ARMSTRONG, Francis “Frank”

from History of Utah, Vol.4

by Orson F. Whitney
Francis Armstrong (1839-1899)

Francis Armstrong, mayor of Salt Lake City, commissioner of Salt Lake county, and one of Utah’s most prominent and most prosperous business men, was of English birth, though he came to America when a mere boy. The place of his nativity was Plain Miller, in the county of Northumberland, where the family had resided for seven generations. The date of his birth was October 3, 1839. His parents were William and Mary Kirk Armstrong. The father was a machinist and worked for Stephenson and Harthom, in the machine shops at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he helped to construct the first locomotive made in England.

In the year 1851 the Armstrong family—father, mother and twelve children— emigrated to Canada, settling near Hamilton, Wentworth county, where the father carried on his trade of blacksmithing and was also the owner of a large farm. They were well-to-do people. “Frank” could have had every advantage of education had he remained at home, but at the age of sixteen he was seized with a desire to travel, and realized his desire by proceeding to the State of Missouri, where he remained until he was twenty-one. At home he had worked upon his father’s farm, attending during the winters the village school. Upon reaching Richmond, Missouri, he worked for a Dr. Davis in a flouring mill, and subsequently in a saw mill, continuing in the lumber business with that gentleman until he came to Utah. At Richmond he also formed the aquaintance of David Whitmer, the Book of Mormon witness.

Mr. Armstrong started for Salt Lake City in the spring of 1861, crossing the plains in an independent company commanded by Captain Homer Duncan. This company had left the frontier at Florence before Armstrong and others from Richmond arrived there; but they soon overtook it and traveled in the train to Salt Lake valley, where they arrived about the middle of September. At this time Mr. Armstrong was not yet a Latter-day Saint.

He first went to work hauling wood for a man named Mousley, and was next engaged in President Young’s flouring mill at the mouth of Parley’s canyon. In the spring of 1862 he began working for Feramorz Little at his lumbering mill in Big Cottonwood cauyon. At the expiration of several years he purchased the mill from Mr. Little for twenty-one thousand dollars. He then started in business for himself, forming a partnership with Charles Bagley and conducting a general lumbering business. The firm of Armstrong and Bagley prospered, and the senior partner next purchased an interest in the business of Latimer, Taylor and Romney, manufacturers of doors and sash. Later he engaged in other enterprises, which netted handsome returns. On the 10th of December, 1864, he married Isabella Siddoway, a lady of sterling qualities. They became the parents of eleven children. The family maintained a permanent residence at Salt Lake City.

In 1878 Mr. Armstrong was elected to the city council, and was re-elected in 1880. In 1881 and again in 1885 he was chosen a selectman of Salt Lake county. In 1886 he became mayor of Salt Lake City, and served as such for two terms. On the day of his re-election, February 13, 1888, an attempt was made by certain real estate speculators to jump the city lands on Arsenal Hill and in other parts of the town. Mayor Armstrong and a posse of officers promptly ejected the intruders and effectively vindicated and maintained the rights of the municipality, both with physical force and in the legal proceedings that followed.

After retiring as mayor he was-again county selectman, and at the time of his death was serving as county commissioner. At this time also he was president of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank, the Western Loan and Savings Company, the Utah Power Company and-the Blackfoot Stock Company; was vice-president of the Taylor, Romney, Armstrong Company, a director in the Salt Lake City Railroad Company and the Salt Lake Livery and Transfer Company, and prominently connected with the Utah Sugar Company and numerous other concerns.

Francis Armstrong was emphatically a self-made man. Pushing, energetic and fearless, he made his way in life by sheer force of his native ability, coupled with hard and persistent toil, for which he was peculiarly well fitted, being a man of powerful physique. Aggressive and even combative when need be, he was far from quarrelsome in his disposition. He was generous-hearted and liberal, not only in his views, but with his means, and as a rule was brimming over with jovial good nature. In his death, at scarcely three score years, the community suffered a distinct loss, which it feels to this day. He died at his home in the Eleventh Ward, June 15, 1899.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.