Elwood Armstrong, M. D.A man's real worth to the community in which he lives is not a matter of the accumulation of wealth, the ownership of broad acres, or the controlling of commercial enterprises; except he use a part of that wealth, his personal influence and a portion of his time toward the upbuilding of his town, city or county, and by advice and example encourage his fellow citizens to fruitful labor and prosperity, and to live honorable lives filled with kindness and helpful deeds. A publication of this nature exercises its most important function when it takes cognizance of the life and labors of those citizens who have been of material value in the development and advancement of the commonwealth, who have been leaders and teachers and who have been instrumental in advancing to a high standard the civil, social and religious life of their home districts, numbered among which is he whose name initiates this article. Dr. Armstrong has attained a prominent place among the physicians and surgeons of Kansas, has realized a large and substantial success in the commercial world, and is, within the limits of his activities, one of the most useful citizens in his section of the State, and deserving of distinctive recognition in this publication.
Elwood Armstrong was born at Morris, Grundy county, Illinois, February 12, 1854. He is the son of the Hon. Perry A. Armstrong, a distinguished lawyer, an authority on Indian languages and customs, author and geologist. He was born in Pennsylvania, where he married Miss Mary Borbidge, and located for the practice of law in Morris, Ill., when that section of the State was in its first stages of settlement. There he developed into the leading attorney of his section of the State, and one of the great lawyers of Illinois. He was a power in political affairs, an intimate friend of both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, and although they were the respective leaders of the two great parties of their day, they were frequently fellow guests at the Armstrong mansion. One of the most highly prized mementos of his mother, possessed by Dr. Armstrong, is a portrait, done in oil, of Mr. Douglas, painted from personal sittings, made by "the little giant" to Mrs. Armstrong, who was an artist of reputation. In the state house at Springfield is displayed the Armstrong collection of geological specimens and Indian relics, which were gathered by the father of our subject and presented to the State of Illinois. This collection is considered one of the most complete and valuable in America. Perry Armstrong was a recognized authority on Indian languages and customs, and an author of several works, one of the most notable dealing with the Black Hawk war. To him the State of Illinois is indebted for the statue of Shabonna, erected through his efforts, in memory of the great chief who was familiarly called "the white man's friend," owing to his saving a number of the settlers from being massacred in a night attack by the Indians. His warning of the threatened danger was given only through great personal danger to himself and necessitated a long and fatiguing night ride. Previous to one of the reunions of the old settlers of his section of Illinois, Mr. Armstrong came to Kansas and induced a number of Pottawatomies, then on their reservation, to accompany him to their old home, where they took part in the reunion, the expense of this trip being borne from his private funds.
Elwood Armstrong passed the years of his boyhood surrounded by an atmosphere of culture and in intercourse with the foremost minds of his native State. He received his early educational discipline in the schools of his home town, and was graduated from its high school. Of an independent nature and with all ambitious, he elected to earn the money necessary to complete his education, and during the summer months he found employment as a farm hand, and in the winter taught school. With his earnings he defrayed his expenses during a course in the Morris Normal Institute, from which he graduated and later entered Rush Medical College at Chicago, where he remained during the winter and spring, and then passed an examination before the State board and was admitted to practiceone of the first to pass this board after its establishment. The expense incurred in his study of medicine was met from funds earned as a tutor and assistant teacher in some of the classes. Shortly after obtaining his degree, he located for practice at Northville, La Salle county, Illinois, remaining there until 1878, when he determined to seek the wider opportunity offering in the West, and came to Kansas, locating at Glen Elder, journeying from Beloit, then the terminus of the Central Branch railroad, by stage. A diphtheria epidemic was raging in Glen Elder at the time of his arrival, and his services were in constant demand. He was uniformly successful with the cases entrusted to his care, and established himself in a short time. He had a cash capital of $5 when he reached his destination, but although he was kept continually on the go visiting the families of the settlers, who lived in sod and log houses, money was a scarce commodity, and horses even more so. In fact, he was compelled to make most of his calls on foot and covered mile after mile in this manner through inability to hire or borrow an animal. During his residence in Northville he had married and shortly after locating in Glen Elder he was joined by Mrs. Armstrong. Their residence was built of rough boards, fourteen by sixteen feet in size, and here they lived until 1881, when they were persuaded, by some old friends from Illinois, who had located at Greenleaf, Washington county, to remove to that point, which has since been his home.
During the thirty-two years in which Dr. Armstrong has been a practitioner in Washington county, he has enjoyed a large and lucrative practice, and has attained recognition from his colleagues in the profession as one of the most able and successful men in medical practice in the State. He has kept abreast of the advance in medicine and surgery, is a close student and vigorous writer, and has contributed a number of valuable papers, which have been read at the meetings of various medical societies. In 1895 he was given the degree of Doctor of Medicine by the University Medical College of Kansas City, Mo. In 1883 he was appointed local surgeon of the Missouri-Pacific Railway Company, and, in 1912, resident surgeon. He is a member of the International Medical Congress, the last meeting of which was held in London, and which he attended, on conclusion of which he visited the medical centers of the continent and England. He is also a member of the American Association of Railway Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the Southwestern Medical Association and the Kansas State and the Washington County Medical Societies. While his practice has made large demands upon his time, Dr. Armstrong has found opportunity to take an active part in the commercial life of his section, and it is probable that his activities in this field have been of greater value in the development of Greenleaf than those of any other of its citizens. During the early years of his residence in the town, he established a drug store, which he conducted for some twenty years, and in 1890 he organized the Greenleaf Telephone Company, of which he owns a half interest. He was also the organizer of the Stocton and the Blue Rapids Telephone companies, but has disposed of his interests in these properties. He was, at one time, known as one of the extensive property owners in his section of the State, but has in recent years disposed of a large portion of his realty holdings, and has made investments which require but little personal supervision. His political affiliations are with the Republican party. He served for ten years as coroner of Washington county, for twenty-three years as treasurer of the city of Greenleaf, and for several years has been an influential member of its school board. This little city has the distinction of having the best planned, best built, and best equipped school building in the State of Kansas. The health of the student is guarded by an automatic system of heating and ventilation, sanitation has been given special attention, while its furnishings have been selected with a view to comfort and convenience. This edifice was built from plans drawn from ideas of Dr. Armstrong, and he contributed to its kindergarten equipment from his personal funds. To his energy, progressiveness and insistence that the best to be had was none too good, is due the completion of this model school building. Dr. Armstrong is a member of the Masonic fraternity, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Modern Woodmen of America. On March 8, 1876, Dr. Armstrong married, at Northfield, Ill., Miss Martha J. Gransden, daughter of Thomas and Eliza (Powell) Gransden. Her father was a native of England, whose family genealogy has been traced back to the Sixteenth century, and her mother was a native of Massachusetts, of English ancestry, and descended from early settlers of America. Thomas Gransden was a successful farmer and stock raiser of La Salle county, Illinois, a citizen of influence, and who possessed the respect and esteem of his community. Mrs. Armstrong was born on her father's farm in La Salle county, acquired her education in the schools of Northville. She is an accomplished musician, both vocal and instrumental, possesses many lovable characteristics, and is popular in the social circles of her section in which she is a leader. The Armstrong residence is known for its gracious hospitality.
Dr. and Mrs. Armstrong are the parents of three children: Thomas Burton, the owner of a retail lumber yard at Burr Oak, Kan.; Fred Lester, a jeweler, of Salina, Kan., and Harold Elwood, manager of the Greenleaf Telephone Company.Pages 403-407 from a supplemental volume of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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