William Armstrong was born in the town of Lisburn on 23 December 1782 and he was the son of James Armstrong (1760-1795). He emigrated from Ulster to America in 1792 with his parents, who settled in Virginia. William Armstrong was first employed as a merchant’s clerk and then an assistant in the Clerk’s office in the county of Hampshire. He studied law with Colonel Charles McGill in Winchester and began to practise law, settling permanently in Hampshire. In 1813 he was appointed by President Madison as tax collector for the 6th District of Virginia and then about 1818 he was elected as a Democrat to the Virginia House of Delegates and continued to be elected for several successive sessions. Armstrong was a member of the Board of Public Works in 1822 and 1823 and from 1820 to 1852 he was a justice of the peace. He was also a member of the United States Congress for four terms from 1825 to 1833.
He had been brought up as a Presbyterian and was always associated with that denomination but around the year 1850 he experienced an evangelical conversion and thereafter made ‘a public confession of faith in Christ’. For many years William Armstrong ran a tavern or hotel in Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia), until he retired in 1862. His first wife was Elizabeth McCarty and they had six children. William and Elizabeth were together for 42 years and then after her death he married his cousin Jane Armstrong, who survived him. William Armstrong died at New Creek Station, West Virginia, on 10 May 1865 and at his funeral the minister referred to his Scotch-Irish parentage and said, ‘It is no small compliment to Mr Armstrong to say, that he was among his peers with the best of these worthy descendants of a noble Scotch-Irish ancestry, and in full sympathy with their lofty principles.’ He was buried in Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney and his place and date of birth are recorded on his gravestone.
[James H Leps, A Funeral Discourse on the occasion of the death of Hon William Armstrong: Baltimore, 1865]