Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate, Act 7: An Introduction -- Tracking the Lives of the Armstrongs

Our first snowfall came to Bozeman last week. That means the family history blogging season opens early this year. So here we go. 

A. The Western Drift.

We have not previously stated the obvious, but note it here. The life journeys documented on this blog are infused with the history of our country. In ways small and occasionally large, our fore mothers and fathers made that history. They sought adventure and opportunity and explored new horizons. For several generations their movements were drawn toward the setting sun. 

The period of the late 19th through the early 20th century was marked by westward expansion and development. Explorers, adventurers and trappers came first, followed by settlers. The settlers ranched and farmed. They built homes from sod, stones, wood and clay, and labored ceaselessly, performing all the tasks required to form and serve nascent, rural settlements. The early settlement waves were followed by tradesman, skilled professionals and artisans, teachers and merchants. Communities (without the benefit of Harvard Law educated community organizers) formed churches, established social and fraternal clubs, supported new businesses and set up agricultural cooperatives, and created governments. New lands were continuously opened up to farming, ranching, logging and mining. People and the companies they formed bought land, sold land and developed it.

There were gold rushes and land rushes. Coast to coast communication came first via the Pony Express, and then the telegraph, and by mail again when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met in Promontory Point Utah to form a transcontinental link. Other transcontinental railroad lines linked up north and south, along with regional trunk lines and local spurs, crisscrossing the West. The internal combustion engine begat the development of cars and trucks, which pushed the development of roads. Trails and paths became roads, dirt roads were hardened with gravel, and gravel roads were paved with macadam. Settlements became towns and towns became cities. Retail, then commercial, and finally, industrial centers were founded and grown. 

One by one, territories west of the Mississippi organized and then entered the Union as sovereign states, as they were populated by legions of settlers and their families. 

On July 13, 1865, Horace Greely of the New York Tribune famously editorialized "Go West young man, go West and grow up with the country." My paternal grandparents' generation heeded Greely's advice, giving us grist for many of the stories, including the present, on this blog. Today we set up our next post, about my great uncle Lyndon Armstrong, who pushed west again and again and again and again and again -- further than the rest.

B. The Armstrongs.

First, we need a transition. We had been writing about Fosters. Where does an Armstrong fit in you might ask? Because of my paternal grandmother's ancestry we are as much Armstrong as we are Foster. But I knew essentially nothing of the Armstrongs before beginning this research and blogging enterprise a couple of years back. Stay with us and join in the process of discovery. There is a wealth of material to review and report.

Grandma Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster ("Lizzie") had two brothers and six sisters. Lizzie Armstrong was born in 1869 in Nashville, Minnesota. Her parents haled originally from New York, then moved to Wisconsin and from there on to Minnesota. At age 13 in 1883, her parents moved west again to Bathgate, North Dakota, where they carted Lizzie along with five of her siblings. 

Here is the Armstrong family Bathgate lineup reported in the 1885 North Dakota territorial census. Grandma Lizzie is L. E. Armstrong in the listing below. Her parents are J. A. (John Adams, namesake of my uncle Adams) and L. V. (Laura Valeres). 

Armstrong, J. A.53MerchantNYHamilton Tp02-001-02Pembina
Armstrong, L. V.55NYHamilton Tp02-001-03Pembina
Armstrong, O. V.27TeacherWIHamilton Tp02-001-04Pembina
Armstrong, E. M.17MNHamilton Tp02-001-05Pembina
Armstrong, L. E.15MNHamilton Tp02-001-06Pembina
Armstrong, A. C.13MNHamilton Tp02-001-07Pembina
Armstrong, L. K.26DruggistWIHamilton Tp02-001-11Pembina

At the time Lizzie was in her second year in North Dakota. In those early days, the town of Bathgate was located within Hamilton Township. Bathgate township, where the town of Bathgate is now located, was later carved out from the northern section of the original Hamilton Township. 

Lizzie's sister Florence (namesake of my aunt Florence Foster King) is not included in the above list because she had met and married R. D. (Robert) Hoskins in Bathgate in 1884. Bob Hoskins was a big man in a small town -- a lawyer educated back east and editor of the Bathgate Sentinel, the town's weekly newspaper. Here are Bob's (R. D.) and Florence's (F. M.) entries in the 1885 census. 

Hoskins, R. D.25EditorCTHamilton Tp02-003-19Pembina
Hoskins, F. M.19MNHamilton Tp02-003-20Pembina

Lizzie Armstrong married my grandfather, Isaac J. Foster, in 1890. Ike had moved west with his father, stepmother and three brothers and a half sister (a fourth brother stayed behind with an uncle), from Ontario, Canada in the 1870s. Isaac's dad and the boys homesteaded claims in what became Bathgate, North Dakota. They were town founders. Here are the Foster listings from the 1885 census.

Foster, Wm.50FarmerIrelandHamilton Tp02-002-23Pembina
Foster, N.50CanadaHamilton Tp02-002-24Pembina
Foster, G.20FarmerCanadaHamilton Tp02-002-25Pembina
Foster, Wm.16FarmerCanadaHamilton Tp02-002-26Pembina
Foster, Robb14FarmerCanadaHamilton Tp02-002-27Pembina
Foster, Lilly9CanadaHamilton Tp02-002-28Pembina
Foster, Isaac23LaborerCanadaHamilton Tp02-006-37Pembina

At the time of Lizzie's death in 1934 the obituary published in the Cavalier Chronicle listed her living siblings: 
She is survived by two brothers, R. O. Armstrong of Minneapolis and L. K. Armstrong of Spokane, Wash., and five sisters, Mrs. C. F. Livermore and Arie Armstrong of Minneapolis, Mrs. R. D. Hoskins of Bismarck N. D., Mrs. E. C. Mounton and Mrs. F. G. Wassgatt of Winnebago, Minn.
Lavinda headstone, Nashville, MN.
Lavinda E. Armstrong Miracle predeceased Lizzie in 1913. With the great age differences from myself, none of these aunts and uncles were personally known to me. Lizzie's obituary noted fondly that "[s]everal months ago a reunion of the six sisters was arranged at the summer home of Mrs. Hoskins at Detroit Lakes, Minn., where they spent a happy week together."

To this point, my family history research had focused on paternal grandfather's Isaac J. Foster family tree, starting, of course, with his incredible resume as farmer and rancher, real estate and insurance man, civic leader, and county sheriff. We reported in depth as well, on his brother, George S. Foster, lawyer, banker, landlord and city of Chicago alderman.

C. The Hoskins.

Hoskins-Meyer, purveyors of flowers and stationery
 in Bismarck,North Dakota. Also home to KFYR
radio. The Bismarck Tribune, November 27, 1928
As we planned for the winter blogging season, I decided to expand the agenda and balance the search by digging into the background of my grandmother's siblings. But, where to start among the eight? Most convenient would have been great aunt Florence Hoskins (nee Armstrong), late of Bismarck, North Dakota. Her betrothed was first clerk of the North Dakota Supreme Court when it was granted statehood in 1889. He also served the federal district court as a deputy clerk. There was actually a shortage of lawyers back then. 

Not satisfied with subsisting off government emoluments, the Hoskins opened a stationery store and flower shop that operated in Bismarck for more than a century, taking advantage of the family's retail background. You mention the Hoskins to old timers in Bismarck today, they know the Hoskins. 

Robert and Florence Hoskins' daughter, Etta Hoskins Meyer, and son in law, Phillip J. Meyer, founded and for decades owned KFYR, the 5,000 watt clear channel radio station known as the Voice of the Northern Plains, as well as the the local NBC television affiliate. 
KFYR was founded in 1925 by Phillip J. Meyer and his wife, Etta Hoskins Meyer. It is Bismarck's oldest radio station. For many years, it was an NBC radio affiliate. In December 1953 it spawned a television station (KFYR-TV, western North Dakota's NBC television affiliate, and its three semi-satellites) and in 1966, KFYR-FM at 92.9 (now KYYY) began operation. At one time, the roster also included AM radio stations in Billings and Great Falls, MT. The station group was known as "The Meyer Broadcasting Company" and remained under the ownership of the Meyer family until 1998.

TitleKFYR radio stationBismarckN.D.
Date of Original1927
DescriptionThe building and transmitters for the KFYR radio station sit on the corner of 4th Street and Broadway Avenue in Bismarck. Also visible are Finney's Drug Store, and the Hoskins-Meyer shop on the ground floor of the building.  My aunt Bina worked for a time at the Finney pharmacy.
As an offshoot of research into Isaac and Lizzie, we have already accumulated numerous clippings from the Bismarck Tribune and other source material on the business, government service and society doings of the Hoskins. It would be easy to gather more. As my sole personal link to the Armstrongs, I had known Bob Hoskins who was grandson of Bob and Florence. But I wanted to rev up for the winter writing season with a fresh line of research. In depth Hoskins clan postings will wait for another day. When we get to that point we have tons more to post and say. 

Our next post will introduce a different and at least equally fascinating Armstrong, one Lyndon King Armstrong, of Mukawango, Wisconsin; Nashville, Minnesota; Bathgate, North Dakota; The Black Hills, South Dakota; Butte, Montana; and Spokane, Washington. We will publish soon.  

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