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Curtis Munger (1820-1891)
Historical Biographies. (Paragraphing has been modified for easy viewing.)
  • Transcribed August 2005.
  • History of the Lake Huron Shore - 1883

    Bay County

    CURTIS MUNGER
    _______

    CURTIS MUNGER was born in Bergen, Genesee Co., N. Y., March 20, 1820. Came to Michigan in 1840, and settled in Oakland County, where he learned the trade of cooper.

    In the Fall of 1846 he, with some others, went to the Thunder Bay Island, Lake Huron, in the coopering and fishing business, catching whitefish for the Eastern market, where he remained until the latter part of November, 1848, when, with his party, he intended to take one of the down steamers from Chicago to Detroit, and return home. Several steamers passed the island, but so far off in the lake that they could not see their signals.

    It was getting very cold, and they had got out of provisions, so the party took turns sitting up nights keeping signal fire to hail any passing vessel to take them off. After waiting eight or ten days without any hope of relief, and to add to their suffering their provisions were all gone.

    The party consisted of Curtis Munger, James Beebe, Edwin Park, and Michael Daily, who yet reside in Bay City, and W. H. Hunter and Joseph Parkerson, who have left the country.

    A heavy snowstorm from the north-east set in, and what to do they did not know; to remain would be folly, as the Winter had commenced, and they were getting hungry, as they had finished their last provisions two days before. A council was held as to what should be done. Joseph Parkerson proposed they should start in their open fish boat to Lower Saginaw, as Bay City was then called, and if they could reach there he knew an old lady by the name of Mrs. McCormick, who lived in the largest house there, with whom he had lived when a boy, and whom he called mother. If they could only reach there she would take good care of them.

    This Mrs. McCormick was the wife of the late James McCormick, one of the first settlers of the Saginaw Valley, who died two years before, in 1846, and was the mother of the late James McCormick, and also W. R. McCormick, who still lives in Bay City.

    They finally made up their minds to start for Lower Saginaw. They put six half-barrels of fish in the boat for ballast then went to the lighthouse and saw the keeper, Capt. Malden, but could get no provisions, as he was nearly out himself. He gave them one good square meal, and they started in their open boat for Lower Saginaw. None of them had ever been over the route before except Michael Daily.

    The storm was blowing a hurricane from the northeast, accompanied with snow. They had to keep bailing their boat to keep her afloat, in which they took turns during the night. After much suffering they reached Point Au Gres. The wind died away, so that they were obliged to take to the oars before reaching the point. A gale sprang up from the south; they landed on the north side in the smooth water; went ashore, cut some cedars, and made a place to lay down to sleep, without anything to eat, tired and worn out.

    In the morning the ice had frozen on the north side of the point, where their boat lay several rods from shore, and the wind blowing a gale from the southwest, so that it was impossible to leave. Towards night, Parkerson said he was going to have some supper. They asked him where he was going to get it. He said: ”I will show you.” He unheaded one of the half-barrels of fish, and took an old hailing dish he had in the boat, which had a hole in the bottom., with the fish in it, and put it on the tire, but in a few seconds the water had all run out, which also extinguished the fire. He tried this several times. “At last he cried out to the boys that supper was ready, but when we tried,” says Mr. Munger, "to eat, we found that it was scarcely warmed through, so we ate it raw. It did not do me much good, for in a few minutes I vomited it all up.”

    On the second day, towards night, the wind changed to the northeast, blowing very hard, increasing every minute. They went for the boat and found her pounding on the rocks, and in a little while she would have gone to pieces. They got her off after a longtime by wading in the water; got her around the point to the south side out of danger. They now got ready to start, as the wind was fair, but the wind increased to such a gale that they were obliged to wait until morning, or until the gale went down. They laid in their boat in their wet clothes until morning. Says Mr Munger: "I never slept a wink, but nearly froze to death.” When the morning came, the wind had somewhat abated; still there was a heavy sea running. They then hoisted sail, and started for the Saginaw River. When they reached the mouth, Michael Daily left them, and started for old Uncle Harvey Williams’, at the mouth of the Kawkawlin River.

    After proceeding up the Saginaw River two miles, they came to a little house on the side of the river, when Mr. Munger asked Parkerson who lived there, when Parkerson replied, “.” They had not gone far before they came to another house, when Munger again asked who lived there, when Parkerson replied, “Trombley.” They soon came to another, where the village of Banks now stands, when Mr. Munger says to Parkerson: “This is a comfortable looking house; I guess we can get something to eat here. Who lives here?” when Parkerson replied: “Trombley.’’ “My Lord,” says Mr. Munger, “is there no one but ‘Trombley’s in this country.”

    They proceeded on up the river, and soon came to the house of Mother McCormick’s, as Parkerson called her. This house is still standing, and is now called the Center House, on the corner of Twenty-fourth and Water Streets. Mr. Munger says: “When we landed I was in my stocking feet, as my feet were so swollen by exposure that I could not get on my boots; so I say that when I first came to Bay City I was in my stocking feet; this was December 1, 1848. We were hospitably received by Mrs. McCormick, who did everything in her power to alleviate our sufferings, and whose kindness I shall never forget “

    While here, Edwin Park and Mr. Munger took a contract for making fish barrels during the Winter after their return from Detroit, where they had to go to get their returns for their fish, which they had shipped from Thunder Bay Island. So they left Mrs. McCormick, and started for Detroit on foot.

    They crossed the Saginaw River on the ice at the elbow, and started up the bank of the river over the prairie, the snow and water two feet deep most of the way to Zilwaukee, where they stayed all night. Mr. Munger says: ”This was the hardest day’s work I ever did; I never was so tired in all my life. The next day we started for Flint early, as there was not much of a road between Flint and Saginaw at this time. We met but one person this day between Flint and Saginaw, which was the mail carrier, with an Indian pony, with the mail strapped on his back. I called the attention of my comrade, Edwin Park, to see how nicely that pony would walk a log to keep out of the mud. We arrived that night at Flint.

    The next day we reached Pontiac, and the next day Detroit.” After settling his business in Detroit, he returned with Edwin Park to Lower Saginaw, and made it his home with Mrs. McCormick, and went at his contract with Edwin Park, making fish barrels, he continued working at the cooperage business for about two years.

    In the year 1850, Mr. Munger went into the grocery business on Water Street, between First and Second, under the name of Park & Munger, up to 1854, when Mr. Munger’s brother came on, joined the firm, when they enlarged their business, and went into a general stock of dry goods, groceries, etc., under the name of Munger & Co.

    In 1861 Mr. Edwin Park retired from the firm, and went into the hotel business. Their business became so large that they were obliged to build a more commodious building. They joined James Shearer in building the Shearer Block, corner of Water and Centre Streets, and moved into their new location in 1866, and commenced the exclusive business of dry goods.

    This building in. a few years became too small for their increasing business. They He then commenced the erection of the Munger Block, on the corner of Saginaw and Centre Streets, with double stores for extensive dry goods, into which they removed in 1878. In 1874 they sold out to Messrs. Cooke & Co., and retired from active business, since which time Mr. Curtis Munger, with his brother, has devoted his time to taking charge of his large real estate.

    Mr. Munger has held many public offices in Bay City. He was the first president of the village council for two consecutive years. Was for two terms elected county treasurer of Bay County, and many other offices of public trust, all of which he has filled with the entire confidence of the public.

    There are few men that are more identified with the growth and prosperity of Bay City than Curtis Munger, and who are so invariably respected.

    Added August, 2014.

    Michigan Historical Collection, Vol. 18 - 1911
    By W. R. Mc Cormick.

    CURTIS MUNGER

    Curtis Munger died Febraury 5, 1891, on his farm at Clio, Genesse County, Michigag, aged 71 years. No man in the Saginaw Valley was more respected than Curtis Munger. He was one of the men who built Bay City. He came to Michigan in 1840, and to Bay City in 1848. He was the leading merchant for many years; he first kept a small store on Water street in connection with Edwin Park, afterwards built a large brick store near the corner of Water and Center avenue; this becoming too small he with his brother Algeron S. Munger, built the large brick block corner Saginaw and Center avenue, where he kept a large store for many years, when his health failed and he move to his little farm near Clio, Genesse County, Michiigan. No man in Bay City had more friends than Curtis Munger; he was honest and straight in all his dealings with his fellow man. He was for many years county treasurer of Bay County and his accounts were always straight. Annexed you will find a description of how he came to Bay City, which I wrote in my note book some years ago.

    The following is an interesting descripton of a very disagreeable and dangerous trip made by the late Curtis Munger:

    In the fall of 1846 he, with some others sent to Thunder Bay Island, Lake Huron, where they started in the fish business, catching white fish for the eastern market. They remained there until the later part of November, 1948, when, with his party, he intended to take one of the down steamers for Detroit and return home. Several steamers passed the island, but so far off in the lake that they could not see their signals. It was getting very cold and the part had got out of provisions so they took turns sitting up nights to keep a signal fire and hail any passing vessel to take them off. To added to their ssuffering their provisions were all gone so aftger waiting for some days they held a council.

    The party was compose of Curis Munger, James Beebe, Edwin Park and Michael Daily, who yet reside in Bay City, and W. H. Hunter and Joseph Parkerson, who have left the country. To add to their discomforts a heavy snow storm set in and what to do they did not know; to remain would be folly, as the winter had commenced. They were also getting hungry. Joseph Parkerson proposed that they should start in their open fish boat for Lower Saginaw, as Bay City was then called, and if they could reach there they would be sure to find shelter.

    The party finally made up their minds to start for Lower Saginaw and loading their boat with six barrels of fish they set sail. On their way from the island they saw Capt. Madden the light-house keeper, but could get no provisions from him, as he was nearly out himself. None of the party had ever been over the route before except Michael Daily. Soon after thet left, a heavy snow storm came up from the northwest and the party were compelled to keep sailing the boat to keep her afloat. After much suffering they reached Point Au Gres in the evening. In the morning the ice had frozen on the north side of the point, where their boat lay several rods from shore, and the wind was blowing a gale from the southwest so that is was impossible to leave. Towards night one of the party built a fire in the bailing tin and partially cooked some of the fish from one of the barrels. The fish was scarcely warmed through, but despite this face they all age some. Mr. Munger said however, the his made him so sick that he vomited it all up.

    On the second day the wind changed to the northwest, blowing a gale all day. It continued to blow so hard that the men were compelled to stay in the boat all night. They laid down in the bottom of the boat with their we clothes, but were nearly frozen by morning. On the morning of the third day they hoisted sail and started for the Saginaw River.

    After proceeding up the river about tow miles they come to a little house. When they were passing it Mr. Munger asked Parkerson who house it was. Parkers replied, "Trombley's." The soon came to another, where the First ward of West Bay City now is, when Mr. Munger says to Parkerson "This is a comforable looking house. I guess we can get something to eat here. Who lives here?" When Parkerson replied "Trombley." "My Lord" says Mr. Munger, "is there no one but Trombleys in this country?"

    The party then proceeded up the river soon arriving at the house of a friend of Mr. Parkerson where they remained for some days to rest up after their perilous voyage from Thunder Bay Island. They were terribly used up by the voyage. In regard to their arrival Mr. Munger said: "When we landed I was in my stocking feet, as my feet were so swollen by exposure that I could not get on my boots. So I say that when I first came to Bay City I was in my stocking feet. The was December 1, 1848."

    After making a trip to Detroit to get the money for their fish, Mr. Munger went into partnership with Edwin Park maufacturing staves. Ths was Mr. Munger's first business enterprise in the Saginaw Valley.

    Additional Notes.

      Genealogy: Children of Jesse and Rebecca Munger:

    • Alanson - was early settler in Genesee Co., Mich., where is supposedly died.
    • Horace - born about 1814, Bergen, N.Y.
    • Huldah - none
    • Olive – none
    • Curtis – born 1820, Bergen, N.Y., died Feb. 5, 1891, Clio, Genesee Co., Mich.; married Juliet Warner. No children.
    • Algernon S. - born Mar. 1, 1822, Bergen, N.Y.; died April 26, 1899, Munger, Bay Co., Mich.

      1851 - Michigan Marriages: Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

    • On Nov. 23, 1851, Curtis Munger, born 1819, married Juliette Warner, born 1822.

      1870 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

    • Munger, Curtis - b. 1820, New York - retired merchant & real estate owner.
    • Juliet, wife - b. 1823, New York
    • Warner, Melony, sister-in-law - b. 1840, Mich.
      Note: 1880 Census same.
    Related Pages/Notes

    Notes:
    Elected first village president of Bay City on May 2, 1959. Other elected officials were Charles C. Atwood - Recorder and John P. Cottrell - Treasurer.
    Member of the Trinity Church of Bay City. Many of his friends mention in article were also members of this church.
    In 1891, Curtis was residing in Clio with feeble health.
    Mother McCormick referenced in article, is Ellen McCormick. She died in 1862.
    Related Pages:
    Munger, Algernon S. bro
    Munger, Merritt Twp.
    Park, Edwin
    1847 Residents of Bay Co.
    Trinity Episcopal Church
    People Referenced
    Beebe, James
    Daily, Michael
    Hunter, W.H.
    Maldin, Capt.
    McCormick, James
    McCormick, Ellen Mrs.
    McCormick, W.R.
    Munger, Algernon (bro)
    Munger, Alanson (bro)
    Munger, Curtis (subject)
    Munger, Horace (bro)
    Munger, Hulda (sis)
    Munger, Jesse (father)
    Munger, Olive (sis)
    Munger, Rebecca (mother)
    Park, Edwin
    Parkerson, Joseph
    Shearer, James
    Trombley,
    Warner, Juliet (wife)
    Warner, Melony (s-inlaw)
    Williams, Harvey
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay County, MI
    Bergen, Genesee Co., NY
    Center House
    Chicago, IL
    Clio, Genesee, MI
    Cooper
    Detroit, MI
    Flint, MI
    Kawkawlin River
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    Munger block
    Munger & Co.
    Oakland Co., MI
    Park & Munger grocers
    Point Au Gres, MI
    Pontiac, MI
    Saginaw River
    Saginaw Valley
    Shearer block
    Thunder Bay Island, MI
    Zilwaukee, MI
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.