Thursday, September 5, 2013

James David Armstrong - Part II: Living in New Jersey

     The Obituary1 of James David Armstrong states the following;
“On August 20, 1849, Mr. Armstrong landed in New York, whence he proceeded to Trenton, N. J. in which vicinity he remained for several years busy ever as a farmer or laborer, at one time being a trusted employee of old Peter Cooper’s rolling mill ".
     As is sometimes the case not all information in obituaries is completely true.  The date of arrival was a couple months off. In the image below2 the date of arrival is given as Oct 22, 1849.  
     Jas (shortened form of James) and Margaret Armstrong left Belfast with an infant daughter, Sarah.  They made passage on the Bark Warrior and were among 88 passengers on board.  They arrived in New York on Oct 22, 1849.  The Bark WARRIOR, 221 tons, was built in Granville, Nova Scotia, in 1844, and first registered in St. John, New Brunswick. The Bark Warrior made several transatlantic passages usually carrying about 90 passengers and carrying other cargo, sometimes iron.  The voyages took anywhere from 30 to 50 days. 

     The 1850 Census, which was taken about six months after they arrived in Castle Garden, New York shows they lived in Nottingham Township, Mercer County, New Jersey.  In 1856 Nottingham Township ceased existence with parts being merged into Hamilton Township and part into Trenton.  No  occupation is shown for James in 1850 and so they probably lived like most Irish immigrants of that time who typically lived in dirty tenement buildings.  No wonder the family left for the Midwest.  Birthdates and birthplaces listed in later census records indicate that the family moved on to McLean County, Illinois between 1856 and 1859.  This is consistent with his obituary which indicates they came to Illinois in 1858. 
     Who is 'old Peter Cooper'?  Peter Cooper3 was an industrialist who made his fortune in glue but then founded an iron mill in New York in order to make railroad tracks for the burgeoning railroad industry. He actually built the first steam powered locomotive built in America. He moved his mill to Trenton, New Jersey in 1846.   The first iron structural beam was made at that mill in 1854.  These structural iron beams would have been fabricated about the time that James David Armstrong was employed at that mill3.  

1.   “Passing of a Nestor” Pantograph, Bloomington, Illinois March 30, 1906

2.  "United States Famine Irish Passenger Index, 1846-1851," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013), Jas. Armstrong, 1849.

3.   "Peter Cooper - The Robinson Library." 2011. 30 Aug. 2013 <>

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