Sal A. Armstrong was born in Somerset, Texas on April 8, 1880. His father, George W. Armstrong, died when Sal was nine year old. His grandfather William "Billy" Armstrong raised Sal and his three brothers on the San Miguel Ranch near Pearsall, Texas.
Billy Armstrong was born in the vicinity of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1823. His parents were George and Theresa Rice Armstrong. William left home at an early age. He went to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where he hunted, trapped, and traded furs and skins on Lake Pippin for winter. He came to Austin, Texas, where he joined the ranger service as a member of Captain Katy's company and served three months. Then he joined Captain Ross's company for six months. In 1884 he married Zaruah Fulcher, a native of Arkansas.
After they were married the Armstrongs moved to Lavaca County, Texas, where Billy farmed and did stock raising. In 1864 Zaruah died, leaving him with five sons and a daughter.: Sam, Tom, George, Bill, Jim, and Theresa.
Bill Armstrong married Nancy Ryan the following year. In 1868 he moved to Bee County, Texas and bought a ranch below Beeville. He came to Frio County, Texas in 1882 and owned the 6,000-acre San Miguel Ranch on the McGill Creek, 12 miles from Pearsall.
Sal A. Armstrong grew up in this household. He married Lillie Cude on August 10, 1898. She was born October 17, 1880 near Seguin, Texas and moved to Frio County, within 15 miles of Pearsall, when she was seven years old. She was the daughter of Willis Franklin and Mary Elizabeth Harrell Cude. Her brothers and sisters, in order of age, were Milvern, Elmer, Lillie Lee, Pink, Alice, Scott, Bessie, Sydney, Roy, Jack, Mamie, and Tim.
The SAl A. Armstrong family. Left to right: Lillian (Little), Sal Alvin, Marie (Huffhines), Jewell (Kincaid), George, Edythe (Rosenberry), Earl, and parents, Lillie Cude and Salt A. Armstrong. (Photo courtesy Dolly Cramer Armstrong)
In 1906 Sal and Lillie arrived in Dimmit County from Pearsall. They had three children then. In 1910 Sal Armstrong helped organize and name the town of Big Wells. In 1912 he was elected commissioner of Dimmit County Precinct No. 3 for two years.
In 1922 Sal was elected commissioner again. He resigned in 1924 when he bought a ranch and moved over the county line to Zavala County. From 1923 to 1939 he was a partner with Charles H. Hoyle, establishing the Hoyle-Armstrong Cattle Company. Hoyle was a resident of St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1930 Sal Armstrong moved to Carrizo Springs and built the house on the Eagle Pass highway that is now owned by the James B. Catletts. Sal served as director of the Citizens State Bank in Carrizo Springs during the 1940's.
Sal A. and Lillie Cude Armstrong had eight children: Earl of Crystal City, Texas; Edythe Armstrong Rosenberry of Wichita FAlls, Texas; George of Uvalde, Texas; Marie Armstrong Huffhines of Wichita Falls; Jewell Armstrong Kinkaid of Uvalde; Sal Alvin on Big Wells, Texas (see separate story); Lillian Lee Armstrong Little of San Antonio, Texas; and Travis, who died in 1920 at the age of four years.
Sal and Lillie were known and loved by all. Sal was an enthusiastic participant of rodeos and ropings, and was instrumental in staging them in Dimmit County. Harry Williams of the San Antonio Light wrote of him in column "Trails," reprinted in the Carrizo Springs Javelin on July 31, 1930. "A rodeo in that country without Sal at or around close to the head of it would be lacking something."
In a similar article reprinted in the Javelin May 1, 1930, Williams said,
A word about this Sal Armstrong. You know how these old cowboys are about nicknaming one another. Well, around 35 or 40 years ago when Sal was just beginning to step out in this world and put on white collars and go to dances, some wag just had a fancy to call him Sam around the ranch and round-up, and the name stuck. Really, he's one of the Great Big Guys of the ranch world of the great Brush County.
He's handsome as any Helen, Maria, or Apollo that ever went into a drug store, for part of it, and then just a regular fellow for the rest of it, and big and able after that.
Sal Armstrong was dedicated to civic improvement. He helped start the rodeo grounds, ballpark, football field, and airport in Dimmit County.
Florence Fenley wrote stories about Sal and LIllie. They were first printed in the Cattleman magazine, then in Fenley's book, Oldtimers of Southwest Texas (Uvalde: Hornby Press, 1957). Fenley brought out Sal's sense of humor and storytelling ability. The following is from her book, quoting Sal's description of courtship of Lillie Cude.
"She had a bunch of brothers." said he, "and I used to buy this Mexican candy at ten cents a pund and bring it out to their place for the boys. I sure had 'em on my side after I fed 'em candy for a while and I had 'em trained to steal the other fellow's candy he brought out and eat it up before he could get to give it to her. That was usually nice chocolate candy. Once I brought a lot of that Mexican candy out to the boys and had it tied up in a flour sack. I didn't know the sack had a hole in the corner and I scattered candy all the way to her home. When I got there, it was nearly all gone, but them boys took the trail and picked up candy all the way to Frio river."
Sal A. Armstrong died on April 16, 1949. LIllie Cude Armstrong died on July 29, 1969. Both are buried in Uvalde.
Sal Alvin Armstrong