The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

Leslie Strawn writes: "You may find this poetry by early settler Elsie Strawn Armstrong, sister to Col. John Strawn interesting. I would like to know if any Armstrongs are still in the area, that might have the omitted poetry.   I, Leslie Howard Strawn, am Elsie Strawn Armstrong’s 1st Cousin, five generations removed. I came into the possession of the following work in the year 2000 as a result of the following e-mail:

Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2000 7:23 PM

Subject: Elsie Strawn Armstrong


I have in possession a notebook, which contains a collection of poetry and life experiences written by Elsie Strawn Armstrong. You may already have a copy of it. I thought you might be interested having it.

It is a most interesting collection put together by Marshall N. Armstrong, Ottawa, Illinois, March 5th, 1903. This one was prepared for John H Armstrong.  Please let me know if you are interested in it.  I am not a relative. My husband salvaged it from the trash at a flea market in our area. It is in very good condition. I really hate for anyone’s family history and writings to be destroyed.


Name and address followed.

Of course, I emailed a “Yes, I would like it’, back to the sender and it was sent to me US mail.  I have found on the Internet, some words of her sons and nephews regarding the early settlement of Illinois. Following Elsie’s work, I will include those with this document."

Leslie Howard Strawn, November 2006.

Note: If anyone has any knowledge to the existance of the omitted poems, please email me.

Foreword Index Omitted Poems

The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

My grandmother, ELSIE STRAWN ARMSTRONG, was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, November 24, 1789, and died May 31, 1871. She was married to Joseph Armstrong, May 19, 1808; to them was born nine boys. The first twenty-one years of her life was spent with her parents where she was born. At the age of twenty-one she removed with her husband and first-born to Licking County, Ohio, where she and her husband reared a large family and endured the privations incident to a pioneer life in the wilderness, until April 15, 1831, when she set out for Illinois with her children, horses, cattle, household effects and chattel property, and in due time arrived at her brother, John Strawn’s house at Lacon, Illinois, and a few months later settled in Deer Park, Southwest of Ottawa. Here she labored until she saw her sons all married and settled in their own homes, when she removed to Ottawa where she remained a few years looking after tenant houses until 1861, when she removed to the home of her son George W. Armstrong in Brookfield, and there remained until 1867 after which she removed to her new home at Morris, Illinois, and there she died having passed through a long and eventful life.

She was never idle and when she was blind, so that she could not see to read or write she was ever busy sewing or knitting.

She composed the following collection of poems from time to time during this busy life and many of them in her old age, while she lived at my father’s home. I remember when my grandmother’s bell rang, some of us grandchildren would be requested to attend her at once, and perhaps thread forty or fifty needles and place them in a pin cushion ready for her use, and meantime she would sew and make poetry. And I remember with what delight she would turn a couplet or stanza and when done to her satisfactions, she would repeat it a few times to fix it in her memory, and once fixed, she never forgot it, and even to the last, if she were given the first line or subject, she could repeat the poem from beginning to end.

This copy of her poems was typewritten by my faithful and painstaking stenographer, Miss Mary L. Beckel, in her spare moments saved from writing of briefs, arguments and pleadings in law and equity, the writing of letters and other duties incident to the duties of a stenographer in a law office.

And this volume is respectfully presented to my beloved cousin, John H. Armstrong.

--Marshal N. Armstrong

Ottawa, Illinois, March 5, 1903

(To the First Lines of the Poems Contained in this Volume)

Poems Omitted  or Missing From the Book

In pain and anguish (omitted) Dear Aunt, O come and visit me (omitted)
I should be very thankful (omitted) Dear Libbie, do stay with me (omitted)
It is raining and it’s wet (omitted) I have a little pet (omitted)
Last night when I retired (omitted) When weary, on my restless bed (omitted)
Dear niece, you will excuse me (omitted) I will not go abroad for pleasure (omitted)
On Saturday night at parting (omitted) O, may the Lord protect him (omitted)
Now where are those pleasant sons (omitted) There is a fine young gentleman (omitted)
There is a good physician (omitted) I did hope to share his care (omitted)
‘Tis not that loss of life’s assurance (omitted) When first I saw this Doctor (omitted)
If I could only tell him (omitted) I wish that I could only show (omitted)
I have a noble set of nephews (omitted) This world, my dear Libbie (omitted)
Open, open lovely breast (omitted) Both day and night I’m here alone (omitted)
I must go and cook my dinner (omitted) About the first of March (omitted)
Accept these lines which (omitted) The evils of the day (omitted)
Assist me now, ye Muses (omitted) Ye wise, instruct me to endure (omitted)
It must be owned, in vain we guard (omitted) Thou Lamb of God! Whose spotless soul (omitted)
Both day and night (omitted) A well appearing gentleman (omitted)
My head aches bad this morning (omitted) I think I have a chill fever (omitted)
We part in body, not in mind (omitted) Dear Maggie, well you know (omitted)
The old year is gone and the New Year’s come in (omitted) Missing from Book

My grandfather came from England 124

Don’t you think when you’re at home 127

What though my sons neglect me 128

I lately had a visit 129

And there I met a teacher 131

My dear little grandchildren 133

My little friends, when I was young 139

I had a little dog, and his name was Rover 141

One evening by my fireside 143

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