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Thursday, May 7, 2009
BITS & PIECES OF KIRKWOOD HISTORY
The following article is transcribed exactly
as it originally appeared in the St. Louis County Watchman.
Luther Armstrong, 88, Had Occupied the Same House - There for 81 Years.
From the oldest house in Kirkwood, to the oldest church of Kirkwood, was taken yesterday
the body of Kirkwood’s oldest citizen, Luther Armstrong, 88 years old, retired florist, who died
Wednesday of the infirmities of age in the house he had occupied 81 years. He will be buried this
afternoon, with services in Rock Hill Presbyterian Church, which his father helped to build in 1845, and interment in Oak Hill Cemetery. Mr. Armstrong was 7 years old when his father,
Clinton Armstrong, came from Rogersville, Ky., with his wife and 9 children, in a wagon
train. They bought the 8-room house at what is now 700 Collins Road, and the surrounding
farm for $15 an acre. The house, built of huge logs and framed with wide boards nailed upright,
was erected in 1808 by Mrs. Jane Yeats. There was one other house in the Kirkwood district, the
Bodley home, three miles away, but it has been replaced. Today the Armstrong homestead has dwindled to 12 acres and the house stands back from
the road hidden in a grove of large, old shade trees. A telephone, a radio and a phonograph can
be found within, but coal oil lamps and stoves are used and water is carried 50 yards from a well
dug by Clinton Armstrong. Luther Armstrong’s widow, Emma, and a daughter, Miss Julia Armstrong, now occupy the house. In the front yard is the stump of a broad ailanthus
tree which tradition says sprung from a stick which Clinton Armstrong had whittled for a cane
in Tennessee and thrust into the ground on his arrival in St. Louis County. Armstrong brought
several slaves with him when he migrated and freed them in 1847. Luther, the tenth of 13 children, was sent to Amherst College and served in the Union Army through the Civil War.
After the war, young Armstrong returned to Kirkwood and became a florist. He built hothouses
near the residence and later opened a floral shop at Spring Avenue and Olive Street, in St.
Louis, which he abandoned 20 years ago because of failing health. He refused to permit electric
lights or plumbing in the house and employed several servants to do the housework in the old
manner. Two sons grew to manhood and departed. One son, L. H. Armstrong, now lives in Berkeley, Cal., and the other, H. H. Armstrong, in Hartford, Conn.
In the house are found broad stone fireplaces with high mantels. There is an old inlaid cherrywood chest of drawers which Mrs. Clinton Armstrong received as a wedding gift in 1816. A
bookcase of the same period is still in use. The building is in good repair and evidently has many
years of usefulness before it. Outside it is painted white, with a sloping shingled roof, and two massive stone chimneys, one at each end, are thickly grown with ivy.
St. Louis County Watchman, St. Louis
County, 12 February 1926, page 5. Submitted by
Special Collections, St. Louis County Library.
Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis County
Wonder what Collins Avenue is now and if this house still stands. Anyone wanting a research project, this could be a fun one! Let me know & I can give you some hints on where to start. LVC