Register of the William Francis Armstrong Papers,

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information

Collection Overview +/-

Title: William Francis Armstrong
Dates: 1857-1922. (inclusive)
Collection Number: Mss B 175
Summary: Business, political and personal papers from Francis Armstrong, William Francis Armstrong, and Orrin Porter Rockwell.
Repository: Utah State Historical Society

Collection Inventory +/-

Box Folder Contents
Box , Folder : Personal documents
Box 1, Folder 1 : Genealogical material
Box 1, Folder 2 : Biographical material
Box 1, Folder 3 : State Board of Corrections
Box 1, Folder 4 : Naturalization papers, 1869; Patriarchal Blessing, 1871; Last Will and Testament, 1899
Box 1, Folder 5 : Notification of Elected Offices
Box 1, Folder 6 : Correspondence
Box 1, Folder 7 : House construction papers, 1893
Box 1, Folder 8 : Miscellaneous envelopes
Box 1, Folder 9 : Handwritten receipts, 1860-1879
Box 1, Folder 10 : Handwritten notes and agreements, 1870-1879
Box 1, Folder 11 : Miscellaneous receipts, 1870-1899
Box 1, Folder 12 : Tax notices and receipts, 1870-1899
Box 1, Folder 13 : Promissory notes, 1880-1899
Box 1, Folder 14 : Stock receipts: Utah Southern Railway
Box 1, Folder 15 : Canadian and Utah Dollars, ca. 1873; Patent Transfer for Beehive, 1876
Box 1, Folder 16 : Summonses and complaints, 1880-1899
Box 1, Folder 17 : Deeds
Box 1, Folder 18 : Mortgages
Box 1, Folder 19 : Purchase agreements
Box 1, Folder 20 : Leases
Box 1, Folder 21 : Land grant and title searches
Box 1, Folder 22 : The Ernest Young Estate and Purchase by William S. Godbe
Box , Folder : Business documents
Box 2, Folder 1 : Armstrong and Bagley Lumber, 1870-1879
Box 2, Folder 2 : Armstrong and Bagley, Timber Removal from Public Lands, 1870-1878
Box 2, Folder 3 : Salt Lake Railway, 1880-1899
Box 2, Folder 4 : Roscoe Ranch and Stock Company, 1890-1899
Box 2, Folder 5 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank, 1890-1899
Box 2, Folder 6 : Blackfoot Cattle Company, 1890-1899
Box 2, Folder 7 : Short Horn Sheep Breeding, 1890-1899
Box 2, Folder 8 : Retail receipts for O. P. Rockwell, 1875-1879
Box 2, Folder 9 : Receipts for services for O. P. Rockwell, 1875-1879
Box 2, Folder 10 : Miscellaneous receipts for O. P. Rockwell, 1875-1879
Box 2, Folder 11 : Government receipts for O. P. Rockwell, 1875-1879
Box 2, Folder 12 : Property documents for O. P. Rockwell
Box 2, Folder 13 : Legal documents for O. P. Rockwell
Box 2, Folder 14 : Promissory notes for O. P. Rockwell, 1875-1879
Box 2, Folder 15 : Stock share purchases for O. P. Rockwell
Box 2, Folder 16 : Distribution of estate
Box 2, Folder 17-19 : Deeds
Box 2, Folder 20 : Miscellaneous hand-drawn plats
Box 2, Folder 21 : Purchase agreements
Box 2, Folder 22 : Mortgages
Box 2, Folder 23 : Mortgage releases and receipts
Box 2, Folder 24 : Leases
Box 2, Folder 25 : Lease correspondence
Box 2, Folder 26 : Correspondence of Clifford J. Goff
Box 3, Folder 1 : Tax notices and receipts
Box 3, Folder 2 : Construction agreements; Property repair and maintenance receipts
Box 3, Folder 3 : Fire insurance policies
Box 3, Folder 4 : Brinton property papers
Box 3, Folder 5 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank customer transactions and receipts
Box 3, Folder 6 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank debtor miscellaneous correspondence
Box 3, Folder 7 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank debtor correspondence (Micaglio)
Box 3, Folder 8 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank debtor relations (John Beck documents)
Box 3, Folder 9 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank bookkeepers' requests for fees
Box 3, Folder 10 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank band examiner correspondence
Box 3, Folder 11 : Utah Commercial and Savings bank licenses
Box 3, Folder 12 : Utah Commercial and Savings bank ledgers
Box 3, Folder 13 : Utah Commercial and Savings bank financial standing
Box 3, Folder 14 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank tax notices and receipts
Box 3, Folder 15 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank property documents
Box 3, Folder 16 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank legal documents
Box 3, Folder 17 : Utah Commercial and Savings Bank disputed payments for legal services
Box 3, Folder 18 : Stock certificates and receipts
Box 3, Folder 19 : Stock correspondence
Box 4, Folder 1 : Armstrong properties
Box 4, Folder 2 : Will of John Ehrngren
Box 4, Folder 3 : Promissory notes
Box 4, Folder 4 : Miscellaneous handwritten receipts and notations
Box 4, Folder 5 : Utah State National Bank statement of accounts
Box 4, Folder 6 : Deseret National Bank statement of account
Box 4, Folder 7 : Canceled checks, 1899-1907
Box 4, Folder 8 : Canceled checks, 1908-1914
Box 4, Folder 9 : Canceled checks, 1915-1922
Box 4, Folder 10 : Standard Furniture Company
Box 4, Folder 11 : Miscellaneous envelopes

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

The biographies of Francis and William Armstrong cannot be constructed solely from the varied and random business and property documents that constitute this collection. A good biographical sketch of Francis is to be found in the appendix of Edward Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City (1886) but it does not cover the last fourteen years of his life. Other sources such as the Latter-day Saints Biographical Encyclopedia and the Biographical Encyclopedia add to those later years, yet paraphrase Tullidge's summary, adding or subtracting details according to the emphasis of their perspective.

Francis Armstrong was born on 3 October 1839 in Northumberland, England, into a family of skilled mechanics. In fact, his father helped build the first locomotive used in England. When Francis was eleven years old, his family emigrated to Hamilton, Canada, where his father farmed and ran a smithy. He must have gone to school while helping in the family work, because he was literate.

When he was about eighteen, some say sixteen, he left his family's farm and blacksmith shop for the United States. He found work in Richmond, Missouri, in a flour and lumber mill. This experience helped him when he arrived in Utah a few years later. Many of Richmond's citizens belonged to a Mormon splinter group, the Church of Christ, led by David Whitmer. After difficulties in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith changed the name of the Church of Christ to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Whitmer split from the organization, taking his followers and preserving the original name. Whitmer still affirmed the Book of Mormon to be a true revelation, but considered Joseph Smith to be a fallen prophet and rejected some of his teachings, including the doctrine of polygamy. Francis Armstrong lived among Whitmer's disciples for four years before coming to Utah and he was undoubtedly affected by their ideas. Despite Armstrong's later prominence in the Mormon community, he did not practice plural marriage, a fact that allowed him to play a historic role in defense of the Church years later.

Francis Armstrong may never have come to Utah had Missouri, and especially Richmond, not been torn apart by the Civil War. A few months after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Armstrong arrived in Salt Lake City. The relative calm brotherhood and industry which he found in the valley must have given the lie to at least some of the horror stories he had heard in Richmond. Further, he immediately associated with prominent leaders of the LDS Church, and in a "short time," his biographers say, he became a Mormon.

He worked at Brigham Young's flour mill at the foot of Parley's Canyon, then at Feramorz Little's Lumber Mill in Big Cottonwood Canyon. After working at Little's Mill for several years, he purchased it and the Mountain Dell area. That, and a couple of land purchases in 1868, launched Armstrong on a successful business career.

In 1864 he married fifteen-year-old Isabella Siddoway, an outstanding woman in her own right. After her mother died in Pennsylvania, Isabella had walked across the continent in a handcart company when she was ten, acting as a mother to her younger brothers. She seems to have been an independent thinker who remained alert until her death in 1930.

Francis Armstrong, although a businessman and an intellectual, helped to build the cooperative United Order of Zion. But there seems to have been mutual respect and good relations between himself and the advocates of private enterprise such as William S. Godbe, who had broken with the Mormon Church, as well as liberal church intellectuals such as H. W. Naisbitt, the purchaser for ZCMI.

In 1877 Armstrong sought and won election to the school board, in 1878 to the city council and in 1880 he was re-elected to that office. That term was interrupted in 1881 when he was elected selectman for the county court. In 1886 he won the mayoralty of Salt Lake City.

During the intense government campaign against the Church and its leadership in the 1880s, Armstrong was probably one of the few Mormons who could have held office without intimidation. The polygamous leaders of the Church, both spiritual and temporal, were being hunted down and incarcerated and their lands confiscated or put up for sale.

Armstrong, himself did not parctice polygamy and therefore was able to help those who did. He extended aid to both John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, the spiritual heirs of Joseph Smith and the successive leaders of the Church. He put up $10,000 towards a $45,000 bond for George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, after he was arrested for co-habitation.

Polygamy was used as the cover for the attack on Church property and its exclusive cooperative management. In 1887, the Church was compelled by the Edmunds-Tucker Act to divest itself of property and enterprise in order to permit private capital development. Armstrong assumed a vital role at that moment in assuming control of Church lands, as well as such businesses as the Salt Lake Railroad Company, before the federally appointed receivers could seize the assets. In 1888, Armstrong led campaigns against the land jumpers on Capitol Hill and Liberty Park in a manner reminiscent of the old Nauvoo Legion and Porter Rockwell, whose various personal and business papers were in Armstrong's possession. Finally, Armstrong as Mayor built an alliance with the Gentile merchants by organizing the first secular Chamber of Commerce in 1887. All of those efforts were valuable in staving off the government's attack and in moderating its effect on Church functions.

The biography of William F. Armstrong is more prosaic than that of his father. In the first place, William Armstrong avoided the involvement of public life that his father had relished. Also, the younger Armstrong's generation was somewhat more secular in its outlook than the pioneer generation. Consequently, the William F. Armstrong Collection reveals more about daily business activities in early twentieth century Utah than the dramatic issues with which Francis Armstrongs' generation had wrestled.

In 1891, when William was twenty years old, the Mormon Church called him to serve a mission in Australia. Upon his return in 1894, he married Edith Moyle, sister of the Apostle and famous Democrat, James H. Moyle. In his earlier years, James Moyle was a lawyer for the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank and various pieces of his work and correspondence are in the files. In 1899, when the William F. Armstrong Collection begins, Francis had just died at age fifty-nine and William, who was previously a subordinate officer of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank, had just become its president.

Administering his family's property holdings and directing the activities of the bank occupied most of William's middle years. The bank seems to have over-extended itself and it ran into difficulty with the bank examiner in 1905 and later with the Utah Secretary of State. The dialogue between the two ran on for several years and led to the liquidation of the bank in 1918.

As he wound up the affairs of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank, William devoted most of his time to the Standard Furniture Company which he had organized in 1908 and was president of until his death. Some of that company's papers are in the files, as are the receipts of the Western Savings and Loan, which he also helped to administer in his later years.

William Armstrong died on 6 April 1940, ten years after his mother and seventeen years before his wife Edith. During the final years, both lived at 140 "B" Street in Salt Lake City. Armstrong was seventy years old at the time of his demise, but except for references to his travel and vacation experiences, nothing is documented about his life after 1922. His obituary was lengthy and warm, commending him both for his business contributions and his service as a High Priest in the LDS Church.

1839Born 3 October in Northumberland, England to William and Mary (Kirk) Armstrong1851Moved to Hamilton, Canada, with family; worked on the farm and in father's blacksmith shop1857Arrived in Richmond, Missouri, learned how to mill; met David Whitmer and other members of the Church of Christ1861Forced by the Civil War to come to Utah, arrived in Salt Lake City in September1864Married fifteen-year-old Isabella Siddoway on 10 December1868Bought Mountain Dell and Lumber Mill from Feramorz Little1869Started Armstrong and Bagley Lumber Company1872Bought Heber C. Kimball's flour mill1878Elected to Salt Lake City commission1878Death of Orrin Porter Rockwell1886Elected Mayor of Salt Lake City1887Organized first Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce involving both Gentile and Mormon merchants1899Died in Salt Lake City1871Born 19 March 1871 in Salt Lake City1891Left University of Deseret for LDS mission Australia1894Married Edith Moyle1899Became president of Utah Commercial and Savings Bank1905Received first notice from bank examiner1908Organized Standard Furniture Company1918Liquidated Utah Commercial and Savings Bank1940Died 16 April at his residence at 140 "B" Street

Content Description +/-

The W. F. Armstrong Collection consists of the property documents and business papers of Francis Armstrong, Porter Rockwell and William Francis Armstrong. The Francis Armstrong papers, organized chronologically within their divisions -- personal, property, financial, and business -- show to one extent or another his relationship with the prominent men of Utah's passage from the largely cooperative economy of the pioneer period to the individual ownership of business enterprise and secular statehood. Francis Armstrong was born in England and the collections contains his naturalization papers dated 1869. There is also his handwritten Patriarchal Blessing dated 1871. The handwritten notes for loans or exchanges using cattle, lumber, grain, and flour may typify the commercial and personal relationships of the period.

In 1869, Armstrong purchased the lumber mill near Big Cottonwood Canyon from Feramorz Little, and the collection contains that deed and early business papers. Of interest are several pieces of correspondence with the Land Office documenting the use of public lands for the private logging of some 250,000 board feet of lumber out of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Also of interest is a request by H. W. Naisbitt, chief purchasing agent for ZCMI and contributor to numerous periodicals, for fencing lumber. It is written on paper with ZCMI letterhead and dated 1874. Included in the Salt Lake Railroad file is the purchase of a patent for streetcar parts from the San Francisco Transit Company, suggesting a kinship with the famous cable cars.

The property documents of Francis Armstrong involve several prominent persons of the period such as Joseph Young, Daniel Wells, Jesse Fox, William Jennings and John T. Caine. Further, they show relationship with the Union Pacific Railway, Utah Southern Railway and Territorial and Federal government land offices. Also of note is Armstrong's engineering of property sales to William S. Godbe after Godbe's break with the Church.

As a leading person in the economic affairs of the Salt Lake Valley Francis Armstrong took interest in its government. His papers include his notification of election to the schoolboard and city council, but not to the office of Mayor, although other papers acknowledge his role in that office.

How Francis Armstrong came to know or hold some of the papers of Orrin Porter Rockwell is not clear. One possible explanation is that the promissory notes, receipts, and land documents came to Armstrong's Utah Commercial and Savings Bank during the settlement of Rockwell's estate. Another reason may be Armstrong's possible role as silent broker for church lands during the forced dispersal. One part of the Rockwell papers is a deed to his wife, and another, a handwritten proposal for the distribution of his estate.

The documents and fragments of Francis Armstrong and Porter Rockwell, though devoid of diaries or extensive personal correspondence, provide excellent source material for the study of Utah social history. Francis Armstrong's death in 1899 marks the approximate end of one business, social, and civic attitude, characterized by the pioneer Mormon concept of building a community of God on earth and individuals viewing themselves as stewards of His Kingdom's wealth. The similar documents of property, business and banking belonging to the providence of William Armstrong between the years 1899 and 1922 indicate concern with private stewardship and personal gain and reflect the relative inconsequence of society and religion in the pursuit of business.

If the Francis Armstrong section of the papers will be helpful in the study of property relationships in early Utah, the W. F. Armstrong section provides essential insight into the business practices of the early 20th century. Although the center of the last section is the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank and its papers, the documents relating to leases, lease correspondence, and rent collection show how 19th century property owners affected the business community in early 20th century Salt Lake City.

By far the most interesting section of the papers is that pertaining to banking practice. In 1907 the bank examiner became aware of executive overdrafts and unsecured loans, as well as, other forms of unsecured collateral. There ensues, over a six year period, correspondence between the bank examiner and the Secretary of State with the board of directors of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank regarding these problems. The outcome of that inquiry led to the closing of the Utah bank in 1919. Most of the bank's property, financial, and stock documents can be viewed from the perspective of the examination correspondence and the subsequent liquidation of assets.

Collection Use +/-

Restrictions on Access:

Restrictions on Use

Administrative Information +/-



Armstrong, William Francis, 1871-1940




Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008


4 boxes (3.5 linear ft.)

Language of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written in Englishin Latin script

EAD Creation Date: