Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Special Exhibit until March 23rd on William Munroe, Concord, Massachusetts Furniture Maker

An eight-day clock made by Daniel Munroe and Company
with a case marked "WM", William Munroe's mark

Early Lexington, Massachusetts was known as Cambridge Farms, and also as Scotland because one of the early settlers was William Munroe.  He was a Scots prisoner of war, sold into servitude on the docks of Charlestown in 1651.  By 1657 he was free, and had removed to what is now Lexington.  His grandsons fought in the Battle of Lexington in 1775, and several were killed.   Two of my 5th great uncles, Robert Munroe (1712 - 1775) and Jonas Parker (1722 - 1775) (he was married to my 5th great grandfather's little sister, Lucy Munroe) were some of the Munroe kin killed on the 19th of April 1775. 

Jedediah Munroe (1721 - 1775), who was killed in the Battle, was a first cousin to my Munroe great uncles who died in the same battle.   His grandsons went into the clock making business together in Concord, Massachusetts. One of the three brothers, William Munroe (1778 – 1861) was a cabinetmaker, and he built the cases for the clockworks.  William was also a fine furniture maker.  During the War of 1812 his furniture business dropped off, but he learned that people were paying a premium for pencils.  Most pencils at that time were made in England, but during the war there was a shortage of them.  So William went into the pencil making business which made him a rich man.  He made the first wooden graphite lead pencils in the United States.

A display of account books and documents from William Munroe

Although he was famous for his pencil business, among collectors he is well known for his fine furniture. Any Munroe furniture that comes up at auction commands very high prices, and is highly sought after by antique dealers. His brief time as a cabinetmaker produced many wonderful pieces of furniture.   Recently many of his side boards, chests and clock cases were gathered for an exhibit at the Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts.   You can see this exhibit through 23 March 2014.  They have some of his famous pencils on exhibit, too!

This is a miniature piece of furniture completed by William Munroe
toward the end of his apprenticeship as a demonstration 
of his ability as a cabinetmaker.  

At the Concord Free Public Library until January 31, 2014 is a special exhibit on the William Munroe family, too.  Before going, check the website or call them at 978-381-3300 to check the hours of the exhibit.  At this exhibit we saw lots of family photos and documents, a family tree, Munroe artifacts donated to the book and art collections at the Concord Free Public Library and more Munroe pencils on exhibit!

The Munroe Genealogy:

Generation 1 :  William Munroe, born about 1625 near Inverness, Scotland; died 27 January 1718 in Lexington, Massachusetts; married in 1672 to Mary Ball as his second wife (three wives), daughter of John Ball and Elizabeth Pierce.  She was born 1651 and died August 1692 in Lexington.  William Munroe and his first wife,  Martha George, are my 7th great grandparents.

Generation 2 : Daniel Munroe, born 12 August 1673 in Lexington, died 1 February 1733 in Lexington; married about 1716 to Dority Mooers, daughter of Jonathan Mooers and Constance Langthorne.  She was born 6 November 1688 in Newbury, Massachusetts, and she was the sister of my 6th great grandmother, Sarah Mooers, the wife of George Munroe (actually three Mooers sisters married three Munroe brothers!). 

Generation  3: Jedediah Munroe, born 20 May 1721 in Lexington,  died 19 April 1775 at the Battle of Lexington; married September 1744 in Lexington to Abigail Loring, daughter of Joseph Loring and Lydia Fiske.  She was born before 7 January 1722 in Lexington, died 30 November 1711 in Lexington.

Generation 4 : Daniel Munroe, born 23 September 1744 in Lexington, died 23 July 1827 in Roxbury, Massachusetts; married on 15 September 1774 in Roxbury to Abigail Parker.  She was born 30 January 1753 in Roxbury and died 1 May 1744 in Barnstable, Massachusetts.

Generation  5:  William Munroe, born 15 December 1778 in Roxbury, Massachusetts; died 6 March 1861; married to Martha (Patty) Stone, daughter of Captain John Stone and Martha Greenough. Nine children, including William Munroe (1806 – 1877) founder of the Concord Free Public Library.

For the truly curious:

Sketch of William Munroe, Pencil Maker, at Wikipedia

There is a special exhibit on the Munroe Family of Lexington and Concord at the Concord Free Public Library until January 31, 2014.

The Concord Museum exhibit on William Munroe’s furniture runs through March 23, 2014, and you can learn more about this special exhibition at this link:

The Four Centuries of Massachusetts Funtinture Exhibition and Events website page on William Munroe, Cabinetmaker of Concord:

YouTube video of the collection “Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture” a collaboration between 11 museums and institutions   (William Munroe is mentioned in this video)

The William Munroe family papers are at the Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Massachusetts, Vault A45, Munroe, Unit 6- 2 containers (1.5 linear feet), the Munroe family photograph collection is Vault A45, Munroe Unit 5

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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo