By Marty Curtin LeBenne and Sallie Cotter Andrews
Catherine Armstrong was born on June 15, 1843, in Kansas, six weeks before the Wyandot people arrived there from Ohio on board two steamboats named the Nodaway and the Republic. She was the daughter of Silas Armstrong and Zelinda Hunter (the daughter of James Bigtree). On June 2, 1843, George I. Clark, Silas Armstrong and their families had arrived in the “Town of Kansas” to prepare the way for the Wyandot emigrants that would arrive on July 28 and 31. Silas had opened a trading store in a rented building in Westport. Catherine’s father, Silas – the son of Robert Armstrong and Sarah Zane Armstrong, was a tribal leader.
Catherine’s family history is quite notable. Her grandfather, Robert Armstrong, was captured by the Wyandots in 1783 as a small boy near Pittsburgh, PA, and taken to Ohio and adopted into the Big Turtle Clan of the Wyandot. He was named “O-no-ran-do-roh” and he became a good hunter and interpreter. During the War of 1812, Robert was a courier for William Henry Harrison. When he was grown, Robert had the opportunity to find his biological parents. He found that his father was dead and that his mother was an invalid. The shock of his visit to see his mother was so great for her that she never recovered and died while Robert was with her. Robert returned home to the Wyandots. He married Ska-men-dah-teh and had a son, George. They separated, and in 1808 he married Sarah Zane, the daughter of Isaac Zane and Myeerah (Myeerah was previously married to Chief Tarhe). Robert and Sarah Armstrong lived at Solomontown, Zanesfield and Upper Sandusky. Robert and Sarah had a son in 1810 whom they named Silas. Robert died on April 20, 1825 in Upper Sandusky.
Catherine’s father, Silas (born 1810), was a man of enterprise and capable of managing large affairs. He was the energetic manager of the removal of the Wyandots to the West. He was a merchant, sawmill owner and operator, land speculator and farmer; and successful in all these pursuits. His home in Kansas was near the intersection of Fifth Street and Minnesota Avenue. Silas (born 1810) married Sarah Preston in 1832. In 1842, Sarah died following the birth of a son also named Silas.
With a new baby boy to care for, Silas (born 1810) married Zelinda M. Hunter and they had a daughter, Catherine, born in 1843. Silas (born 1810) died in Kansas in 1865, and is buried in the Huron Indian Cemetery in Kansas City. His funeral was attended by many white people and a thousand Indians who, it was reported, were all crying at the same time. Zelinda died in 1883 and is buried in the Huron Indian Cemetery in Kansas City. Silas (born 1842 and son of Sarah) died on January 10, 1907, and is buried in the Wyandotte Cemetery in Wyandotte, OK.
Catherine Armstrong, Silas and Zelinda’s daughter, married Mark A. Shaffenburg of Colorado. They had a daughter, Florence, and a son, Harry. Harry (born 1870) died in 1896 and is buried at the Huron Indian Cemetery in Kansas City. Catherine’s burial place is unknown at this time.