The town was founded in 1878 by W.A. Armstrong, who was in the area only to build the Alton Railroad at the behest of big-wig Chicagoans.
The town’s population has declined steadily from a 1920 high of 616 to its current 285, according to census data.
This week, Armstrong saw its population triple, if only for a day, when an estimated 600 cyclists rode through as part of Missouri Life’s Bike Across Missouri tour.
The visitors actually sought out Armstrong and other small places just like it. They came from as far away as Canada to experience a part of Missouri that’s often overlooked: rural, small towns that embody the spirit of the vanishing Midwest. Towns like Armstrong.
The towns along this year’s Big BAM route were carefully chosen by Greg Wood, the owner and co-founder of Missouri Life magazine. He set out last September on a road trip across central Missouri and came to realize the ride’s potential as an economic driver for rural communities. He kept that front of mind during the route-planning process.
Wednesday, the fourth day of Big BAM, began in Marshall, a town of roughly 13,000. Riders camped on the grounds of Missouri Valley College the night before and rode out along the Sante Fe Trail past Salt Fork Creek.
After logging 15 or so miles, the riders crossed the Missouri River and entered Glasgow, a town of just over 1,000 whose sole commercial street runs along a rusted-out riverside shipping station.
The route out of Armstrong continued west on State Highway A, cutting through desolate farmland on the way to Higbee.