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History Monday: A prominent man in many ways

By Mike Watson

Matthew A. Armstrong was a mighty man, a son of William B. and Katherine Chapman Armstrong, he was born in 1845 or 1848, likely in or near Creelsboro, Russell County. His father died in 1855, leaving his mother and one sister, Sarah.

Reuben Wells was a merchant at Creelsboro, beginning about 1851, and became quite prosperous and well-known in the counties of Russell, Cumberland and Adair. He was appointed administrator of the estate of W.B. Armstrong in 1855 by the Russell County Court, and as guardian to Matthew and Sarah. In time, Reuben married Katherine and they had three children: Mary Etta, born 1857, married Robert T. Caldwell, of near Gradyville, Adair County, and lived to be 100 years of age. The other two children of Reuben and Katherine Wells were William Asa and Robert L.

Matthew Armstrong grew to be a great man. He was tall, over the average height of the day, and was a good businessman and farmer. He was known for his interest in horses, cattle, and hogs and bought, sold and traded far and wide.

In 1863 he volunteered to fight in the Civil War, enlisting with Company C, 13th Kentucky Cavalry, giving his age as 18 years, as was the regulation, but was more likely only 15, if the birth date on his grave marker is accurate. If he was as tall as generally reported, he could well have passed for age 18 or older. He served through the war and was mustered out in 1865 with his company.

After service, Matthew married Tranquilla, born in 1862, and reared a family. He acquired a good farm on Crocus Creek, near the Adair-Cumberland County line, just above Amandaville, and lived there for many years.

Mr. Matthew Armstrong Dead--Tuesday, the 2nd day of this month, Mr. Matthew Armstrong, who was well-known in Columbia, died at his late home, on Crocus, in Cumberland County, just over the Adair line. The deceased was between sixty-five and seventy years old, and had been a victim of inflammatory rheumatism for many years, but the immediate cause of his death was pneumonia. He was a very tall, well proportioned man, and on a public day was readily recognized, head and shoulders above everybody else. His coffin was made in this town (Columbia), it being 7 feet 6 inches long. He was a Federal soldier during the war, serving in the 13th Kentucky Cavalry. He is survived by a number of children, his wife having died several years ago. He was a good neighbor and his friends will greatly miss him. --Adair County News, 10 March 1909, page 1.

Buried in the Ross Graveyard in Adair County, along the banks of Crocus Creek: Matthew Armstrong, born 23 January 1848, died 2 March 1909; and Tranquilla Armstrong, wife of M.A., born 16 August 1862, died 14 October 1895. In recent years he and wife were removed from this original burial place and reinterred at Columbia.

One small note, picked up by other national newspapers, appeared in the Paducah Evening Sun, 15 March 1909: Matthew Armstrong, 7 feet tall, weight 400 pounds, died at Cloyd's Landing (Ky).

This story was posted on 2021-01-11 09:02:25
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