Suspect #1: James Armstrong

James Armstrong. In the right place at the right time. The 1800 census, NYS tax records and an Administrator’s bond put him in Onondaga County from 1800-1803, the right time to have been a father to William. (Apparently a different man than the one who married Dorothy Vail and died before 1800.)

Onondaga’s Centennial (1896) says in its section on the Town of Salina:

“Meanwhile settlement began to reach out to other points in the town. John Danforth began making salt in 1794 at Liverpool, and was soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong, and Charles Morgan.”

Under the heading “LIVERPOOL,” Clayton’s History of Onondaga County has:

John Danforth was the first settler in 1794, and commenced the manufacture of salt. He as soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong and Charles Morgan.

This information may have originated from Onondaga, or, Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times (1849), which says:

“Jonathan Danforth was the first settler at Liverpool, in 1794 and commenced the manufacture of salt. He was soon followed by Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon, James Armstrong and Charles Morgan.”

An index for the two volumes of “Clark’s Onondaga” is apparently for the 1849 volume, above. All of the above men are listed at 2:148. The original source of the above information is not yet known.

An 1803 rent roll lists James Armstrong as a lessee for some part of 1803; the list is transcribed in A History and Description of the Manufacture and Mining of Salt in New York State, by Charles J. Werner (Huntington, N.Y. : by the author, 1917), p. 29. There are 57 leases listed (some people have multiple leases). Listed among them are Patrick Riley, William Mitchell and P. M’Cabe (see Known Associates, below).

James Armstrong is enumerated in the town of Onondaga, Onondaga County, New York in the 1800 census (Ancestry.com subscription required), next door to William Conner and Patrick Riley. (Patrick Riley is also mentioned in Onondaga’s Centennial.) One man (apparently, although mark is hard to see) and one woman were enumerated, both between the ages of 26 and 44 (born between 1755 and 1774).

New York State tax records for the Town of Onondaga show James Armstrong in Onondaga County from 1800-1803 (Ancestry.com subscription required):

  • 1800: $30 in personal property, no real estate
  • 1801: $30 in personal property, no real estate, listed as James “Armsrong”
  • 1802: $150 in personal property, no real estate
  • 1803: $80[?] in personal property, no real estate

Known Associates
There is some information about the other men who came to Liverpool with or at the same time as James Armstrong. Onondaga’s Centennial mentions Patrick Riley, Joseph Gordon and Charles Morgan. Pioneer Irish of Onondaga has a section on Patrick Riley and his heroism during an outbreak of disease among the salt makers. (No mention is made of James Armstrong in the book, but it is possible he was also Irish, or of Irish descent.) Liverpool was known as “Little Ireland” before taking its present name.

There is a transcription of “Administrator’s Bonds, 1794-1804”, p. 58 in Onondaga Tree Talks, p. 17. It says:

“GORDON, Joseph, of Onondaga, deceased. Bond $500 filed December 18, 1802, by Wm. Mitchell, Patrick McCabe, adms., William Cannon (or Carmon) and James Armstrong, all of Onondaga.”

Joseph Gordon is probably the same one mentioned in Onondaga’s Centennial as one of the salt manufacturers. William Cannon (or Carmon) may have been difficult to read; it may be William Conner, who was living next door to James Armstrong in 1800.

John Danforth and Patrick McCabe are listed in Salina in 1810, but James Armstrong is not, and the rest have not been found there either.