John A. Armstrong, M.D.

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JOHN A. ARMSTRONG, A.M., M.D., late of Leechburg, a distinguished physician and surgeon in practice here continuously for nearly forty-six years, had not only become prominent in his profession but also made a name for himself as a good citizen in other activities, especially in his long and honored connection with the Leechburg school board. It is the privilege of few men to win such high esteem among their fellows as he enjoyed, and his death, which occurred July 12, 1912, was regarded as a public loss.

Dr. Armstrong was born Aug. 18, 1838, in Allegheny township, Westmoreland Co., Pa., son of John Armstrong and grandson of Robert Armstrong, the latter a native of the north of Ireland who came to this country and settled in Westmoreland county, Pa., about 1820. He followed farming on land he purchased in Allegheny township, and was also engaged upon the construction of the Pennsylvania canal in his section. He died upon his farm and is buried at Brookland Cemetery in Allegheny township. His wife, Eleanor (McKee), who as also from the North of Ireland, is buried in the same cemetery. They had the following children: John; Alexander; Thomas; David; Jane, who married George Patterson; Margaret, who married John Bole; and Elizabeth, who married William Copeland.

John Armstrong, son of Robert, was born in Ireland in 1796. There he married Sarah Ann Armstrong (not a member of the same family), who was of Scottish descent, and they emigrated to the New World before his father came, crossing the ocean in 1826 and two years later, in 1828, settling in Westmoreland county. There he purchased a farm in Allegheny township which he paid for with his earnings as a contractor for excavations on the old Pennsylvania canal. He was a man of fair education for his day and appreciated the advantages of schools, and gave all his children good opportunities. HE was a strict member of the Reformed Presbyterian church and was bitterly opposed to human servitude, so much so that he would not associate with either of the great political parties of his day because slavery was tolerated in this country and sanctioned in some measure by both. He was very well known in his section. A few years before his death he removed to Leechburg, Armstrong county, where he died in 1872, at the age of seventy-six years. His wife died in 1877 in her seventy-fifth year. Both are buried in the Brookland Cemetery in Allegheny township, Westmoreland county. They had the following children: Eleanor, married Hugh McElry; Adam C. served as a member of the House of Representatives from Kentucky , was principal of an academy in that state and also served as superintendent of schools in Bracken county, Ky. (he was accidentally killed in that state); Robert was a farmer in Westmoreland county, Pa., where he died; David, an artist by profession, died in Westmoreland county in 1909; Elizabeth (deceased) married Hiram Steele; John A. is mentioned below; Sarah A. (deceased) was the wife of James D. Boale; Samuel S. lived on the old homestead; Mary J. married Milton Free, who is deceased; Margaret married William J. Sproull, of Parnassus, Pa., who is deceased.

John A. Armstrong attended public school in his home district, and later was a student in academies at Leechburg and Pittsburgh, Pa. He then entered Washington and Jefferson College at Washington, Pa., from which institution he was graduated in June, 1862, after which he began the study of medicine. In 1863, however, he joined the Union Army as a member of Company K, 54th Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia, and served about three months in that command. On Aug. 29, 1864, he enlisted in Company I, 205th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Heavy Artillery, with which he served to the close of the war, being honorably discharged June 13, 1865, at Vienna, Va.

Returning home he resumed his medical studies, in September 1865, entering Jefferson Medical College, at Philadelphia, where he completed the course, graduating in 1867. In May of that year he opened an office at Leechburg, where he built up a large practice during his long career. He supplemented his early preparation by further study, having taken a full course at one of the leading Philadelphia hospitals after his graduation from medical college. His literary education was unusually thorough, and he had the honor of receiving the A.M. degree from his alma mater. Dr. Armstrong showed his progressive disposition in his connection with various important local enterprises. At one time he was interested in the steel mill at Leechburg, and he was one of the pioneers in the natural gas business, being one of the owners that sunk the first well in this section when gas was used in the manufacture of steel at Leechburg. For twenty-five years he was a member of the borough school board and throughout that period served as secretary of that body, his services being highly appreciated. In 1900 the Doctor took a vacation abroad, making a three months' trip, during which he visited the home of his ancestors in Ireland and attended the Paris exposition.

The Doctor's lovable personality was feelingly delineated by his local colleague, Dr. Hunter (whose death has occurred since Dr. Armstrong's), who wrote of him: "He was a graduate of the Washington and Jefferson Literary College, at Washington, Pa., then graduated from the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia. We practiced here as physicians nearly forty-six years and while never partners our relations were more like those of brothers. We would leave our patients to each other during an absence or when it was impossible for one to visit patients. We never had a difference. He was an excellent physician and surgeon, honorable and upright in every way, and greatly deserved the esteem in which he was held by all. He was a prominent and active worker in the Presbyterian Church and taught the men's Bible class in that church for years. Dr. Armstrong had the analytical mind and was careful in his judgment in all matters."

Of Doctors Armstrong and Hunter it was said: "The medical profession points to those noble men as the highest and best examples of medical men and brothers, for they were not only the most admirable type of the family physician, friend and adviser, but Christian gentlemen and brother physicians in all that implies. Both are now dead, but their lives and work will never be forgotten.:

On April 2, 1868, Dr. Armstrong married Amanda Catherine McKallip, daughter of Henry K. and Mary (Keely) McKallip, of Leechburg, and they had four children: May Blanche married H.W. Beale and resided at Leechburg after his death until her marriage on Jan. 28, 1914, to George A. Walker, insurance solicitor of Pittsburgh; Ann Orr is the wife of Lewis Hicks, a prominent business man of Pittsburgh, Pa.,; Grace Irwin is the wife of Ned M. Austin of Canton, Ohio; Eleannora Caldwell is the wife of John W. Marshall of Leechburg.

Dr. Armstrong was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Leechburg, served as elder for several years, and was also a teacher in the Sunday school. In politics he was a Republican.

Mrs. Armstrong's parents had the following children: Labannah S., a general merchant, of Pittsburgh, Pa., ; Amanda C., Mrs. Armstrong; Rev. John K., a Presbyterian minister; Johanna J., wife of Robert Pinkerton, a farmer in Armstrong county, Pa.; James A., a merchant of Leechburg; Mary H., wife of H.M. Caldwell, a merchant of New Kensington, Pa.; and Henry F., deceased, who left a wife and two children.

 

Source: Page 497-498, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed August 1999 by Beth Caporali for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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