Skip to main content
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
^ecefteJ JJZt^l^. , '#90
Accession No. (9 7 6 Cla&s No.
Origin of the American Munsons
<t?af(Jeire& anfc i
NIYRON A. NIUNSON
NEW HAVEN :
THE TUTTLE, MOREHOUSE & TAYLOR PRESS
This monograph is issued in the present form by
HON. LOVELAND MUNSON,
CLARENCE M. BUSHNELL, ESQ.,
Buffalo, N. Y.
MR. GEORGE M. CURTIS,
MR. WALTER D. MUNSON,
80 Wall St., New York.
MR. MYRON A. MUNSON,
New Haven, Conn.
Origin of the American Munsons
MYRON A. N1UNSON
THE TUTTLE, MOREHOUSE & TAYLOR PRESS
Errors like straws upon the surf ace flow ;
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
Not a truth has to art or to science been given,
But brows have ached for it.
TRADITIONS CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF
THE AMERICAN MUNSONS.
By MYRON A. MUNSON.
There have come to me about forty family traditions in respect
to the Munson or Munsons who originally immigrated to this
country. We may review the traditions under four heads.
I. Whence did the Family come, and of what nationality were they ?
One tradition speaks of a German origin : Baron von Munson
was sent as an ambassador to England, and subsequently settled
in Devonshire ; a son of this family ran away upon the sea, and
eventually settled in America. This tale appears to be a pure
Two traditions speak of a French origin : one assigns to the
Frenchman an English wife ; the other represents that brothers
emigrate to England and thence to this country. Neither story
appears to have any basis whatever.
Various traditions, some fourteen of them, speak of an English
origin : there were brothers from England, is the saying of six ;
brothers from the North of England, says one ; brothers from
London, says another ; brothers who belonged to the respectable
yeoman class in England, says another ; young men by the name
of Munson from England ; Joseph 8 and brother from England ;
Samuel 5 and, again, Levi 5 from England ; Joseph K. 8 and brother
from England. The testimony of these traditions is of slight
value. A North of England origin and a London origin are
discordant. That Joseph K. fl , and Samuel 5 , and Lieut. Levi 5 , were
natives of England, is discredited by the known fact that they
were born here, as were three or four generations of their ances-
That English-speaking colonists bearing English names were
of English origin, is what would be conjectured or assumed by
persons making conjectures and assumptions : accordingly, unsup-
ported by extra-traditional evidence, these traditions have slight
value as testimony. Doubtless the Munsons are English ; of
course they are English ; why not? The ease with which one
forms this guess, or adopts this assumption, eliminates from the
traditions any valuable significance which they might otherwise
Twelve traditions ascribe to the Family a Welsh origin or
Welsh connection of some sort ; and these traditions are found
among the descendants of at least five of the grandsons of the
Pioneer, namely, Samuel, Thomas, Theophilus, Joseph and Caleb;
the descendants of John and Stephen have not reported them.
Robert M. Hartley, who married Catharine, daughter of Reuben 8 ,
a member of Clan William, states in an autograph that Reuben 8
"was of a respectable family of Welsh descent." Owen E. Case
remembers that his mother, Laura 8 , of Clan Waitstill, said that her
ancestors came from Wales. The writer's grandfather, Daniel 7 , of
Clan Obadiah, testified that his first ancestor in this country was a
Welshman. Rev. Frederick of the same Clan, observes : " My
grandfather [Ephraim 8 ] used to say that we were Welsh." And
again Frederick says : " The earliest known ancestor of the
Munson Family in this country was an immigrant from Wales."
Alfred 7 (of another Clan) who was well acquainted with Ephraim 6 ,
also reported him as saying that our ancestors came over from
Wales. Henry 7 , of Muskingum, Ohio, remarked to me " My
father [Frederick A. e , of Clan Theophilus] used to say he was partly
Welsh." Charles F. 8 , a native of Canada, writes : " The tradition
our brother Jared, of Collingwood, Ont., received from father
[Warren 7 , of Clan Ephraim\ was that brothers named Munson
came from Wales." Charles F. elsewhere informs us that his
mother reported his father as saying that his Family was from
Wales. Several traditions are contrfbuted by Clan Moses, to the
same effect. Thus, Norman E. Miller, of Vermont : " Tradition
says the Munsons were Welsh." Frederic 7 , of New York : " We
Munsons are descended from brothers who came from Wales."
The family of Frederick T. 7 report that his father Thomas 6 used
to say that his ancestry came over from Wales. And Mrs. Mary
E. Henderson, of Ohio, also states that her first American ancestor
emigrated from Wales.
Now as no one would dream of ascribing to a family of English
speech and name, any connection with Wales, traditions affirming
such a connection, converging from five of the seven great groups
of Munsons, are most significant, and indicate incontestably that
our ancestry had some connection with the little land whose lead-
ing products are slate and consonants. Doubtless, however, we
are of English nationality, a branch of the ancient Lincolnshire
family, the connection with Wales being merely residential. Yet,
our Pioneer may have married in Wales.
II. What was the number of Munsons who immigrated?
Angeline 8 Munson reported the family tradition that all our
Munsons sprang originally from eight brothers living in or near
New Haven, Conn. This view is probably a genuine inheritance,
and essentially authentic as far as it goes, but extending only to the
grandsons of the Pioneer ; there were eight of these who lived to
maturity and had families. Mrs. Mary E. Henderson has the
tradition that her great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather 9
emigrated with seven sons, from whom sprang all the Munsons in
this country. This also appears to be a genuine inheritance, and
in main features correct, though it does not reach the beginning.
These seven sons are the grandsons of the Pioneer, those seven
which became heads of the great branches of the Family. (One
of the eight families mentioned a moment ago became extinct
presently.) The same tradition comes from another part of the
same Clan, except that the father of the seven sons is denominated
doctor. This title may have been misappropriated to the Pioneer
in consequence of the overshadowing preeminence of old Doctor
Eneas 6 Munson.
Two traditions speak of three Munsons as having emigrated,
and ten speak of three Munson brothers. On examining these
twelve traditions, one is impressed with the idea that they are
devoid of validity. Two of them settle the three emigrants in
"Connecticut," and seven settle them in a dozen places, no two
agreeing. For some occult reason, the conjectural number of
migrating brothers is quite commonly three. There is interesting
peculiarity in a tradition furnished by Ezra 8 , of Illinois : Three
young men by the name of Munson came from England in the
seventeenth century ; one died ; two married and raised large
families ; one family was composed of girls, the other of boys ;
the latter were the ancestors of the people named Munson. Our
researches find nothing in support of this story.
Seven traditions mention two brothers as migrating ; but in
two cases, the Munsons migrating are of the sixth generation,
in another of the fourth, in another of the third ; and no one of
the seven appears to be of any consequence. One of them,
probably two of them, were invented to account 4or the New
Haven and the Wallingford divisions of the Family, which origi-
nated, as we know, in the second and third generations. Four
traditions speak of one immigrant as the source of our Family :
while this view is supported by investigation, the traditions are
invalid, as one of them goes only to the second generation, one to
the third, one to the fourth, and the other to the fifth.
Tradition, therefore, sheds no light on the question How many
Munsons originally immigrated ? Research discovers among the
primitive colonists only one man named Munson. It should be
obgerved, however, that as early as 1644, the marriage of a
woman, Anne Munson, occurred at Springfield, Mass.
III. What was the period of the first Munson migration ?
We have already touched this question incidentally. Four
writers 'mention their own ancestry as immigrating, without
indicating whether the persons named were understood to be the
ancestors of us all ; but two of these migrations were in the sixth
generation, viz., Joseph K. fl and the brothers David 6 and Isaac 8 ,
and two were in the fifth, viz., Samuel 5 and Lieut. Levi. 5 Of the
general traditions, one carries the migration back to the Landing
of the Pilgrims or soon after that event, another to "the first
expedition after the Mayflower," and a third to a date soon after
the Pilgrims landed. We disbelieve immediately that these are
primitive traditions ; they are traditionary conjectures, mediaeval
imaginings, or they may be modern guesses.
One mixed tradition locates the migration in the fifth genera-
tion. Three or four others locate it in the fourth generation,
making Obadiah 4 , Daniel 4 , and Caleb*, respectively, the source of
the Family. Three traditions locate the coming-over in the third
generation ; of course the third generation is not the first, as
they supposed. Two or three others locate the removal of the
Family in the second generation apparently, one of them dating
it about the time of the Wallingford settlement ; while this period
is early, it is too late.
No genuine tradition concerning the time of the migration
goes back far enough ; each goes back as far as its memory can
reach, but never to the beginning.
IV. Where, according to the traditions, did the Family first settle ?
Two brothers in Connecticut ; three brothers in Connecticut,
according to two traditions ; one pioneer near the mouth of
Connecticut River ; eight brothers settled in or near New Haven ;
of three brothers, one settled in Connecticut, one went south, and
one to Canada ; of three brothers, one settled in Massachusetts,
one in Rhode Island, and one in Connecticut ; of three brothers,
two settled in New Haven, and the other went to New Hampshire;
of three brothers, one settled in New Haven, one on Long Island,
and the third in Vermont ; of three Munsons, one settled in
Boston, one in New Haven, and one on Long Island ; of three
brothers, one settled in Wallingford, one in Massachussetts, and
one in Rhode Island ; of two brothers, one settled in New Haven,
and the other in Wallingford, according to two distinct traditions.
Some of these traditional settlements appear to be recklessly
fictitious ; some of them relate to descendants of the original
settler ; if any are genuine and authentic, research has hitherto
failed to discover and verify the fact. There is no real evidence
that in the earliest time any male Munson settled in Wallingford,
or Boston, or Massachusetts, or Vermont, or Canada, or Rhode
Island, or the South.
Twenty-seven years after Thomas Munson appears in Hart-
ford, Richard Munson is found in Portsmouth, New Hampshire ;
it has been, and is, my firm belief that the Munson name came to
that settlement by a separate migration.
As to Long Island, one John Munson was dwelling in Brook-
Haven, March i, i7 ia / 18 ; before May 20, 1715, he had removed to
Derby, Conn. His wife was Hannah. Their son John, born April
24, 1690, married Elizabeth.* This second John removed to New
Concord, in the County of Albany, and Province of New York,
where he was living Dec. 25, 1770. I can give no account of the
origin of John Munson of Brook-Haven, Long Island.
The mention of Massachusetts a moment ago may be qualified
in this way : It is probable that our Pioneer, Thomas Munson,
sojourned for an uncertain time in some old Massachusetts-Bay
settlement before migrating to the Connecticut River.
Perhaps in the future more light upon some of these traditional
settlements may break forth from some quarter. I do not feel
sanguine in respect to any unless it be that of Long Island.
* Hannah, daughter of John and Elizabeth, was born March 7, 1721 and mar-
ried Stephen Pierson ; Daniel, a son of Job.n and Elizabeth, died at Fort Edward
Aug. 2, 1756.
We have completed our survey of the traditions collected in
regard to the origin of our Family. Its chief value as a whole
resides in its illustration of the untrustworthiness of ancient
traditions. Its one independent contribution to knowledge is the
affirmation that our ancestry had some significant connection with
Wales ; we count this a very valuable item. Its mention of
Family settlements, though having a random look, hints at possi-
bilities which it would be better not to dismiss slightingly ; one or
another suggestion may afford a clue to some lost event of Family
history which would enlighten and gratify us exceedingly.
The Munson Record, . TWO volumes, royal 8vo, pp. 1267
The Life, Character and Public Services of Captain Thomas
Munson > . pp. 46
Proceedings of the First Munson Reunion, Aug. 1887, . pp. 88
Proceedings of the Second Munson Reunion, Aug. 1896, . pp. 43
V - ^