Jonathon Munger

Pioneer Luck

By Marcia Rouse, Education Coordinator

The Curator, March 2010

When we think about the pioneers, we tend to think of them as “larger than life” heroes with great strength of character.  They were brave, determined, “... rugged, independent, self-reliant and hard-working.”

 These admirable qualities were clearly essential to the pioneers’ ability to carve out homes in the untamed wilderness.  However, I think that another factor contributed to the pioneers’ success in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles such as harsh winter weather, wild animals, and hostile Indians:  That factor was simple good luck.

 While there are many stories illustrating the pioneers’ strength of character, stories about their good luck appear to be relatively rare.  This is unfortunate, because such rare stories make our celebrated pioneers seem more relatable and human.

 Fortunately, several such humanizing stories were recorded about one of Washington Township’s pioneers, Jonathon Munger.  Munger was a Revolutionary War veteran who survived the War apparently unscathed.    Around 1799 Munger moved here with his family and other “intrepid members of the Munger clan,” including his brother, Edmund Munger.

 The Munger party’s long journey here from New England was not uneventful.  In fact, their trip was plagued by mishaps, some of them potentially fatal.  For example, at one point while they were travelling by river a mattress with a baby on it was thrown into the water.  Luckily, “[t]he boat was not injured and the baby was saved.”  Also, one day Jonathon himself fell off a wagon and was run over by its wheels.  Yet -- in typical Munger fashion -- he survived this misadventure and completed the journey, seemingly none the worse for wear.

 When he arrived in the Township area, Jonathon Munger settled with his family on over 200 acres of land.

 In his new home, Jonathon’s luck continued to hold.  On one occasion not long after the Mungers settled here some of the children told their father that “… they had seen a ‘monster black cat’ run up a tree.  Without waiting for his gun, … [Jonathon] …  promptly climbed the tree, and, with a good stout club, invited the ‘black cat’ down so forcibly that he quickly accepted the invitation and descended to the ground rather more hurriedly than gracefully, where he was hospitably received by the family dog and the children.  In relating the incident afterward, Mr Munger was free to admit that he would have been in some danger had Mrs Bruin made her appearance on the battlefield; but, as he was unacquainted with bear habits at that time, he always wound up his story by characteristically saying, ‘High, la me; them that knows nothin’ fears nothin’… “

 On another occasion Munger heard something outside the house one night, and – ever the man of action – he “... fired his rifle in the direction of the sound and returned the gun to its place.  By the next day, he had forgotten all about the circumstance … until noon, when he discovered the hogs eagerly devouring the carcass of a deer, which his random shot had killed.”

 Finally, Jonathon Munger’s obviously well-deserved reputation for good luck is perhaps best summed up in the following characterization:  “This was the man who, it is said, has been known to climb a tree, transfer a swarm of bees to a sack and return stingless to the ground.”

 Sources:  “A Sense of Place,” Historical Society Publication; “The History of Montgomery County, Ohio,” W.H. Beers & Co