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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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ARMSTRONG, ROBERT HENRY, liquor vendor, grocer, business manager, and sportsman; b. Saint John, 18 Mar 1860, s/o James Armstrong and Catherine Henry, immigrants from Ireland; m. 1st, 1889, Annie Russell, sister of Thomas Russell, and 2nd, 1893, her sister Minnie Clara Russell; d. Newcastle, 18 Jun 1931.

After working as a youth on the staff of the Saint John Globe, Robert H. Armstrong settled in Newcastle. For many years he was a licensed liquor vendor, and it was he, in 1895, who filed the accusations which led to the downfall of the temperance-minded police magistrate Samuel U. McCulley. Before he resigned as a vendor in 1907 he had become quite well-to-do. He was the owner of race horses and of a fashionable summer home at Burnt Church, and he and the members of his family did a great deal of travelling to the United States and elsewhere.

From an early date, Armstrong was one of the Miramichi's most active sport fisherman and big game hunters. His name was among the first to be entered in the guest book which Michael Adams kept at his salmon-fishing camp on the Northwest in the 1880s, and he was frequently on the caribou plains at Bartibog during the fall hunting season. In July 1891 he was in charge of a party of United States sportsmen who came to fish at Camp Adams. In 1893 he supervised the construction of "Camp Crawford" on the Northwest for the New York lawyer and sportsman William Crawford. In the years that followed he was "the head and front" of the emerging sports hunting and fishing industry. He was the contact person used by many of the sportsmen, and he helped ensure that New Brunswick exhibits were included in some of the earlier sportsmen's shows held in Boston and other cities. An appointment as a "special warden" gave him authority to issue licenses personally to sportsmen whom he attracted to the province.

In 1899 Armstrong was elected to membership in the Miramichi Fish & Game Club, which had been formed that year by William Crawford and nine other Americans. In 1900 he was engaged as club manager, and the members soon came to depend on "big, good-natured Bob Armstrong, not only for their supplies and favorite liquor but for his advice and the harmony he maintained in camp." In 1908, when a branch of the New Brunswick Fish, Forest, and Game Protective Association was formed at Newcastle, he was elected as branch president.

In 1913 Armstrong started a grocery business in Newcastle with William Ferguson as partner. Ferguson dropped out the next year, but Armstrong continued to own a grocery store until his retirement in 1924. The store enabled him to take contracts to supply food and other essentials to the Fish & Game Club and such organizations as the 132nd Battalion, before it went overseas, and the garrison which was based at the Wireless Station in Newcastle during World War I.

As elsewhere noted, Armstrong was an amateur photographer, who introduced Ole Larsen to Ernest Hutchison's lumbering operations, and may thus be deserving of a share of credit for the invaluable woods photographs from the late 1890s which are contained in the Larsen Collection. He was also a keen observer of community and political happenings. To quote the Union Advocate, "he sometimes had strong views on public matters and was not afraid to express them." He was elected to a seat on the Newcastle Town Council in 1900 and served two one-year terms.

Armstrong's first wife, Annie Russell, died soon after their marriage. He and his second wife, Minnie C. Russell, had two daughters, one of whom was Cannie Armstrong, the wife of Dr J. Alexander M. Bell.


[b] census [m] World 6 Nov 1889, 2 Dec 1893 [d] Advocate 24 Jun 1931 / Advance 30 Aug 1888, 16 Jul 1891, 3 Aug 1893, 29 Aug 1895ff, 20 May 1897, 3 Jun 1897, 8 Dec 1898, 19 Apr 1900; Advocate 16 May 1900, 13 Jun 1900, 22 Aug 1900, 19 Sep 1900, 17 Oct 1900, 30 Jan 1901, 2 Oct 1901, 2 Sep 1903, 6 Jul 1904, 29 May 1907, 24 Dec 1909, 27 Aug 1913, 28 Oct 1914, 19 May 1915, 26 Jun 1916, 22 Jan 1924, 13 May 1924, 1 Jul 1931; Leader 8 May 1908; Weeks