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Full text of "Traditions concerning the origin of the American Munsons"

LIBRARY 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. 

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Accession No. (9 7 6 Cla&s No. 



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TRADITIONS 



CONCERNING THE 



Origin of the American Munsons 



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BY 



NIYRON A. NIUNSON 



NEW HAVEN : 

THE TUTTLE, MOREHOUSE & TAYLOR PRESS 
1897 



This monograph is issued in the present form by 

HON. LOVELAND MUNSON, 

Manchester, Vt. 

CLARENCE M. BUSHNELL, ESQ., 

Buffalo, N. Y. 

MR. GEORGE M. CURTIS, 

Meriden, Conn. 

MR. WALTER D. MUNSON, 

80 Wall St., New York. 

MR. MYRON A. MUNSON, 

New Haven, Conn. 



TRADITIONS 



CONCERNING THE 



Origin of the American Munsons 



BY 



MYRON A. N1UNSON 




NEW HAVEN: 

THE TUTTLE, MOREHOUSE & TAYLOR PRESS 
1897 



Errors like straws upon the surf ace flow ; 

He who would search for pearls must dive below. 

DRYDEN. 

Not a truth has to art or to science been given, 
But brows have ached for it. 

BARON LYTTON. 



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 
fiction. 

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- 
tors. 

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 
have. 

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 



3 

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, 



4 

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 





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