The Orr Family
An historical and photographic perspective
Story - As told by Margaret Black McMullen
Samuel [Thomas] Orr managed coal mines for a living and he gave his family a comfortable life, however he had a dream of taking his family to a better life in the United States. And was always working towards that goal. He bought a large piece of land in Montana and was at last ready to make the move. Now it was time to let his family know that he was ready to move on. And he gathered them around to break the news to them together.
Margaret [daughter of Thomas Orr and Isabella Adams] had just celebrated her sixteenth birthday [she was 19] when her father called the entire family together to tell them that he had sold their home, and bought tickets to take them to the United States. At that point there was no going back.
She made up her mind to tell her parents that she had met a young man that she was attracted to and that she didn't want to go with them. His name was Thomas John [Samuel] Armstrong. They invited the young man to come talk to them and he did, he told them that he loved Margaret and they wanted to stay together.
[At this point in time Margaret had already given birth to the first Robert Armstrong born April 19, 1893 in Airdrie. Robert died later that year.]
Her father told the young man that he would pay for his passage on a ship to the states, and that he could come later after the paperwork was done, but his daughter was leaving with them and no arguing about it.
After that meeting , they only had two days before they had to board ship. It was about 1893. In Scotland at that time the age of consent to marry was sixteen, with a signed letter from a parent. Margaret knew that her parents would never give her consent under any circumstance. And so they got someone to write a letter in her mother's name giving them permission to get married.
There is a place called Gretna Green. Where people still go to get married even today. It's one of the most romantic places to elope to and a lot of people still do it today. They went there and got married knowing that when they came back to their home town, it would be far too late for her parents to do anything about it. They were leaving on a train early the next morning to board the ship. Her mother was extremely upset, but she could do nothing about it so she had to accept that she was going without her daughter. There was a lot of tears and pain, but it was a fact, and could not be changed.
[We have not been able to find a marriage certificate for Margaret Orr and Samuel Armstrong but on their children's birth certificates it indicates that they were married on Sept 2, 1893, in Blythswood, Glasgow.]
Her father, mother and siblings left to board the ship the next morning. Margaret was left completely alone except for the family she married into , The Armstrong Family. Her new life began that day in 1893 ( may be inaccurate).
[Isabella Adams Orr (46), Elizabeth Orr (16), Jane Orr (13) and Samuel Orr (11) arrived into Ellis Island from Liverpool aboard the Etruria on Dec 11, 1893, with destination Timberline, Montana.]
I was told by Margaret that her parents and siblings kept in touch and kept sending her money over the years to enable her to move to the states to be near them and her father kept his promise to her that he had built a house for each of them including her. So she would not have any problems when she got there. He also was very fortunate in opening his own business and was doing very well.
However, the Armstrong family was starting to increase in size. I will list them to the best of my knowledge. Working from my mother's birthday back and forward. They might be off a little but they seem close.
The Armstrong's Children:
Margaret and Thomas or John Armstrong [Samuel Armstrong].
1895 Robert Armstrong [born Oct 12, 1894 in Airdrie, New Monkland]
1897 Thomas Armstrong [born Jan 19, 1897 in Airdrie, New Monkland]
1899 Samuel Armstrong [born Feb 15, 1899 in Bothwell]
1901 Isobel Armstrong [Isabella, born Jan 31, 1901, in Bothwell]
1903 Peggy ( Margaret) Armstrong [born Feb 13, 1903 in Bothwell]
1906 John Armstrong [born about 1908]
1908 Jean Armstrong [born April 11, 1909 in Glasgow]
1912 Thomas J Armstrong died in the flu epidemic that took the lives of thousands across the entire world. Margaret Orr Armstrong was left a widow at a very young age 1912 - 35 years old.
[Samuel Armstrong (Margaret Orr's husband) died on Nov 19, 1910, in Inveresk and Musselburgh.]
Next came the 1916 -1918 first world war.
In 1914, Robert Armstrong ( age 18 or 19 , not sure), joined the Army and was sent abroad to fight the Germans. During the six years of this war., He was wounded by mustard gas penetrating his lungs and from that time, he was unable to live like he did before. He could not go back to his normal job, so he had to redefine himself and he made a business for himself that enabled him to bring up his family and work at home making furniture and reupholstering furniture. He was very good at it and made a very comfortable life. He brought up four children, Robert, Tom, Barbara and Margaret. Tom died at a young age with a heart attack. The other three never left Airdrie, Scotland as far as I know.
Thomas Armstrong is the Enigma, (age 17-18 unsure). He also went into the 1916-1918 war and he was wounded and ended up with bullets in his body which they had to get out at all cost. They operated on him and got all the bullets out but one. They tried for hours but it kept moving, finally they decided to leave it. But they told him that sooner or later the bullet would hit a vital organ and at that time it would kill him. In the meantime, he married , had two children( girls) and then decided he would like to go to Montana to meet his mother's family. He was given the last money his mother had received and he made arrangements to go to Montana. When he arrived with his family, he was given a great welcome. He moved into the home made for his mother and a job was waiting for him. Everything went well for about a year. Then my family got news there had been altercations between Thomas and his grandfather.
Thomas had decided that he wanted to leave Montana and move on. When he told his grandfather this [His grandfather Thomas Orr died in 1897], there was some kind of confrontation between them, they both said things that they regretted. This caused a rift in the relationship that never got repaired. The family in Montana never heard from him again.
He moved to Canada with his family and was not heard from again. No one knew what had become of him for maybe a year or two. Then Tom's wife who came from the same town as him wrote to her mother that the bullet in Tom's body had at last moved up in his body and hit his heart causing death instantly. This must have happened between 1923 to 1925 because I was not born until 1925. There was no further communication from his family after that.
[Samuel Armstrong died on Dec 19, 1933, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada]
The remaining children of Margaret's family stayed in contact for the rest of their lives.
Six of Margaret's children stayed very close with each other for the rest of their lives, even though they went away, and they always managed to keep in touch with each other.
Robert - Was the oldest and have described his life after the army.
Samuel - Married Maggie [Margaret McGugan on March 21, 1919, in Airdrie]. They had four children, Samuel , Thomas, Margaret and Mary. They never left Scotland. Mary was born with complications and could never walk and talked with great difficulty . We all loved her very much because she was so sweet. She died in her teens.
John - Married Nellie [married Helen Margaret Linning on Aug 25, 1928]. They had four children. Samuel, Thomas, Maisie and Margaret. They stayed in Scotland till the children married. Then he decided to go to South Africa ( Liberia) to manage diamond mines. His two son's were already married with each having two children. The oldest daughter was also married and had two children but she did not want to go with them. She decided to stay in Airdrie and she promised to look after her parents home. Her name was Maize, then there was the youngest Margaret who was a teenager. She had already met the man she was going to marry in her own home town but he turned out to be the assayer for the same mines in Liberia and so they married later in Africa. Then tragedy happened when his son, Tom, was about 32 or 33years old in 1973. He was sleeping on his sofa at home and Agnes had taken the kids so that he could rest since he had worked all night. ( Both John son's) were overseers in the mine s he managed. There were two young Liberians who decided there were diamonds in Tom's home. They heard from someone that he had brought them up from the mine when his shift was over that morning, so they decided to break in and find them. However , they did not know the diamonds were safely locked away in the Assayer's office in a large safe. They could have never known because Tom and Samuel had an agreement that if they brought up diamonds they were passed immediately to his sister and taken straight to her husband and locked away until they were graded and costed. No one ever thought Margaret who had small children was ever in possession of diamonds. However, they broke into Tom's house and he was sleeping . One of them tripped over something and Tom was startled out of his sleep. One of them was holding a gun, so he sprang up , his words were ," What the hell?" and the answer was, "Aw, you're a dead man boss" and they shot him, he lived for some time after the shooting and was able to identify the two young men at that time they were taken out and shot to death . It seems that when they could find no diamonds, they stole a small radio. What a price to pay on all sides for a radio.
This was the end for his family. They all were broken hearted by such a brutal crime. The family changed their lives completely. Tom's father and mother went home to Scotland, lived for a short while then died. Some say he was a broken man.
Samuel , Tom's brother and wife Dona, took his family to Canada to Red Deer, Alberta, bought a house and settled down for some years, saw his children grow up, went up one Saturday morning to check his roof for winter, slipped and fell off the roof was killed in his mid- forties.
Margaret and husband Campbell came to Ontario. She became a real estate agent , she did very well. Husband found a job in Ontario as a gemologist, had a comfortable life for some years but Margaret died in her fifties.
Maize lived beside her mother for years till Nellie died. Do not know what happened after.
The rest of the Armstrongs were the three daughters. Margaret had:
Isabella Armstrong is an open book, married name Black [married Thomas Black on July 21, 1922, in New Monkland]
Jean Armstrong married name King [married George Hunter King Dec 27, 1929, in New Monkland]
Peggy Armstrong married name Patterson [married William Paterson Dec 31, 1926, in Airdrie]
I think you will be able to get plenty of information about their lives and photographs to go with the knowledge from your mother. And I have no very old photos, if there was any. I never got them. I don't know who did (sorry). There are still some Armstrongs out there but your mother knows as much as I do about them.
(This is an account of my family on the Armstrong side as told by my great aunt Margo, who is eighty-three. She lives in Canada with my aunt Isobel and cousin Tammy. - Pat Rouse, May 2012)