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Armstrong family papers


Identifier: 1995-20-0

Scope and Contents

The papers of the Armstrong family of Washington, Conn., centering on James Armstrong (1754-1816). His wife Miriam Mallory Armstrong (1756-1851) was the daughter of Caleb Mallory and Jane Weller Mallory. On Feb. 3, 1780, a little more than four months before Miriam married Armstrong, her parents and three of their grandchildren were murdered in their home by Barnett Davenport, a crime considered to be the first incidence of multiple murder in the United States. A small group of papers regarding David Porter and his activities primarily in New York State from 1827 to 1831 are also included in the collection. His connection to the Armstrong family has not been established. The papers consist of accounts, bills, correspondence, deeds, estate records, orders, promissory notes, receipts, writs, and other documents, including records relating to the estate of Caleb Mallory. None of the papers in the collection mention the crime. Most of the papers consist of records that document Armstrong's various business activities; among them, the purchase of 100 clocks from Levi G. and Edward Porter of Waterbury in 1809. Receipts from 1809-1811 indicate that Armstrong had an interest in Western Reserve bonds. He owned a farm in Vermont. Armstrong's brother Thomas (1758-1816) was involved in his business ventures. There are business records documenting a variety of financial arrangements between Armstrong and his son Orrin Mallory Armstrong. James Armstrong also served as an assistant assessor. Armstrong died just a few days after Thomas in May, 1816. For a short time James's accounts were maintained by someone, perhaps Orrin. After that, the business papers relate to the activities of Miriam Mallory Armstrong and their daughter Bestey Armstrong (1799-1853). It appears that Betsey Armstrong was married to John F. Bunnell of Woodbury and they had at least three children: Sarah Jane Bunnell, James Armstrong Bunnell, and Noble Orrin Bunnell. The name "Betsey Bunnell" appears on none of the records, however; they all say "Betsey Armstrong." She may have died of breast cancer; in a 1852 letter, she writes to Dr. Claudius Ovaitt of Amherst, Mass., seeking treatment and in Feb. 1853 she writes from Amherst about her condition to her two sons. Sometime later in 1853 she died. Some of the papers relate to Henry Cramer, who was the second husband of James Armstrong's sister Olive Armstrong. Her first marriage was to Samuel Carr, but in 1792, he signed a bond found in the papers with a number of conditions, including that he would no longer have anything to do with her and would provide child support. Also in the papers are documents relating to various members of the Foster family of Southeast, or South East, N.Y. James Armstrong's daughter Sarah (1795-1836) married Tilly Foster (1793-1842). As mentioned above, the collection contains records relating to the estate of Caleb Mallory (also spelled Mallery). After killing Mallory, his wife, and a granddaughter, Barnett Davenport set fire to Mallory's house, in which two other grandchildren died. Davenport was captured shortly thereafter, confessed, was tried, and hung in Litchfield on May 8, 1780. The inventories apparently reflect the arson as there is a general absence of furniture and other household items. Mr. and Mrs. Mallory's daughter Miriam was not home at the time the crimes were committed and married James Armstrong in June, 1780. The collection also contains four folders of papers from the time period 1827-1831 related to David Porter. He lived in or near Penn Yan, N.Y., and appears to have been a traveling peddlar. Documents in the collection indicate that he was in the Washington, Conn., area in the early 1830s. His middle name was probably Bunnil, suggesting that he is possibly related to John F. Bunnell. No specific relationship has been established between him and members of the Armstrong family.


  • created: 1757-1855
  • Other: Date acquired: 04/10/1995


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


0.63 Linear Feet

1 document box and 1 1/2 document box other_unmapped

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The papers are arranged in two series: 1. Armstrong family papers 2. David B. Porter papers

Source of Acquisition

Michael Zinman

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

multi-part note content

Other Descriptive Information

This collection was processed with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Armstrong family papers
Leith Johnson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Litchfield Historical Society Repository

7 South Street
P.O. Box 385
Litchfield CT 06759
860-567-3565 (Fax)