Black Sheep Sunday: Horse thief or son of a redcoat?

I’m not gonna lie.  I love a little family drama, especially when that drama that has LONG past.  Drama in my current living family?  Not quite as fun.

My Munn branch seems to have quite a little bit of it, including the guy who brought us to this country in the first place and presumably gave generations of Munns their last name.

Family crest for the Munn family of England.

The farthest back we have traced my Munn branch of the family is to a fellow named Thomas Atherton Munn.  What has been assumed and asserted by many is that Atherton was originally the last name of this family and Munn was added to disguise some sketchy life choices.

Story One

My dad says that this is the story that my great grandfather (John Darl Munn, Sr.) swears by:  Thomas Atherton Munn was actually born in England and was being held in a sort of jail.  Supposedly he had stolen a horse or something of the like.  He, along with 60 others, broke out from jail and he somehow escaped to the United States.  He swapped his middle and last name to avoid getting caught.  This is how he became a Munn and was no longer an Atherton.

Story Two:

Thomas Atherton was born in New York/New Jersey, and his father was actually a British Loyalist (redcoat) in the US during the American Revolution.  When his father deserted the British side he change his last name to his wife’s maiden name.

Other rumblings about the family/person of interest:

There was a horse thief in the Atherton family who was hung.  The family was so ashamed that they changed their name to a maiden name.

What do the facts say?

  • Thomas Atherton Munn lived in Bradford County, Pennsylvania in 1820, 1830, and 1840.
  • Thomas Munn was one of the early settlers in Litchfield, Pennsylvania.
  • He married Mary Wolcott and had 13 children.

If there’s anyone out there who has done research to come up with something solid about this horse theif/son of a redcoat, please let me know.   The problem is that multiple books written during or about this time have opposing facts.

For those of you who might be cousins out there, here is how TA Munn is related to me:

He is my 5th great grandfather.

Thomas Atherton > (son) Silas Munn > (son) John Parks Munn > (son) Willard Ord Munn > (son) John Darl Munn Sr. > (daughter) Gene Odelle Munn > (son) John Brown > (me!) Erin Brown

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15 thoughts on “Black Sheep Sunday: Horse thief or son of a redcoat?

  1. Thomas Atherton Munn is my 4th great grandfather. Thomas Atherton > Charles Munn > Charles Munn > Charles Munn > Charles Munn > Charles Munn > (me) Ron Munn.
    I have been trying to solve this story for over 3 decades with no luck! I have heard all of these stories over the years but I cannot prove any of them as being true. If he was an Atherton, then we should be able to find a record of an Atherton giving birth to Thomas but I have not found that yet.
    In 1973 my wife and I found the grave of Thomas Atherton Munn and his wife in Litchfield, PA. We dug it up from face down in the mud in a cemetery that was totally overgrown and in a field that was not visible from the road.
    Just last month I helped a man rediscover the headstone and the cemetery (he had been trying to find the cemetery for years). We will soon have a picture of the headstone posted on the internet.
    I have done a DNA test but we need a lot more Munns to volunteer to get this DNA test so we can solve this mystery!!! My DNA does not match anyone with the name of Atherton in England or the USA!
    Ron Munn

    • Ron, That’s amazing! Thanks so much for responding. When you get the photo of the headstone I would LOVE a link to it so I can share it on this blog. That’s so interesting that you got the DNA test and there’s no match to Athertons. Maybe the whole story is really that…just a story. Hmmmm….

  2. Hey i have been trying too find out about the munn name this was really good too read and interesting av found out the munn name from italy and spain but mostly from england yorkshire and new england in usa some from irland its so confusing too follow up the munn name dotted everywhere lol my munn family that i know of is mostle from zcotland and irland

  3. Just found the gravestone you posted excellent find. My grandfather Thomas Munn went to search for it a couple of years back with no luck. You just made our day

    • Nick, I am so glad that you made this connection to the headstone. I think that I used to email your grandfather a few years ago when he lived in Florida (if I have the right guy).

  4. Hmmm.. I have much to say on the matter…
    If anyone is interested.. contact me about my “documented”
    long line of the family Munn….
    Very interesting stuff…

  5. I would love to hear about your documented Munn line. Please send me any info that you can. Do you have a family tree on the internet? Ron Munn

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