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Runyon Tidbits

2003 Part 1

Tidbits on this page were originally published online between April and December 2003

Actress Ginger Rogers purchased the screen rights to Margaret Runyon's novel, The Great Answer, for $100,000. 

The Shotwell-Runyon House; Historic American Buildings Survey,
Nathaniel R. Ewan, Photographer February 23, 1938

The Boericke & Runyon Co. apothecary bottle.

  • In the American Music Sheet File of the Library of Congress, there is a copy of sheet music dated 10 May 1848 and titled Cheer Up,  A Quartette sung by the Runyon Family, Music by A.L. Runyon,  New York, published by Firth Pond & Co., Franklin Square."  The lyrics go:


Never go gloomily, man with a mind

Hope is a better companion than fear

Providence ever being and kind

Gives with a smile what you take with a tear

All will be right, look to the light

Morning is ever the daughter of night

All that was black will be all that is bright

Cheerily, cheerily, then cheer up

Cheerily, cheerily, then cheer up

Many a foe is a friend in disguise

Many a sorrow a blessing most true

Helping the heart to be happy and wise

With love ever precious and joys ever new

Stand in the van, strive like a man,

This is the bravest and cleverest plan,

Trusting in God while you do what you can,

Cheerily, cheerily, then cheer up

Cheerily, cheerily, then cheer up


The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection holds the sheet music to A. L. Runyon's Cheer Up.  


  • Then there was the Reverend Reune Runyon “who was remarkable for the dexterity in administering baptism.”  On 30 June 1786, “a gentleman held his watch in his hand till he had baptized thirty in fifty-eight minutes.” 

Source:  (Historical and Genealogical Miscellany. John E. Stillwell. Vol. III. N.Y.  1914. p.113.)


  • The Catlettsburg Sentinel reported a rather facetious wedding announcement dated 30 August 1876:  “Thursday last, Allen Runyon and Lizzie Church hied to the Gretna Green of this section-- Ironton, where the twain were made one, thus reducing the number of Churches in this place.” 

Source:  (Eastern Kentucky References. E. Jackson and E. Talley.  Cook and McDowell Publications. Owensboro, KY.  1980.  pp 428-429.)


  • Louella Parsons, a famous columnist who wrote about movie stars, stated that actress Ginger Rogers paid $100,000 for the screen rights of Margaret Runyon’s novel, The Great Answer. Miss Rogers bought the book for her own independent company.

Source:  (Newspaper clipping.)


  • Steamboats were in service and docked at Pikeville, KY, in 1845.  One of the steamboats was called “The Mildren Runyon.”

Source:  (An Old Landmark. Minnie E. Ratliff.  Pike County Papers. p. 38.)


  • Sgt. Runion of Co. B, U.S. Army, was killed 25 March 1836 on board the “Etiwan” enroute to Florida.  His first name was not given.

Source:  (Vital Statistics from the National Intelligence. National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Vol. 63,  No. 1. March 1975.  p. 71.)


  • For some reason a Peter Runyon was upset with his wife. The Kentucky Gazette, published on Thursday, 25 December 1806, reported: “ Peter Runyon says he won’t pay the bills of his wife, Nancy Runyon.” 

Source:  (Kentucky Gazette. 1801-1820. Vol. XX.  No. 1104. p.  93)


  • In New Orleans in 1823, a ship’s passenger list included John Runian, 27 years old.

Source:  (Passenger  and Immigration Lists. Filby and Meyer. Index. Vol. 30-2.)


  • Some Runyons moved and did not leave forwarding addresses.  A John Runyon never got his letter, according to the list of letters remaining at Lexington, KY, 11 April 1835.

Source:  (Kentucky Gazette. Vol. 3. p. 119.) 

At the same place, a letter had awaited Reuben Runyon since 30 October 1799.

Source:  (Kentucky Gazette. Vol.  XIII. p.  246.) 

Another list showed that Reubin Runyan had a letter waiting for him at Calhoun's Mill on Elkhorn Creek.  

Source:  (A List of Letters at the Post Office in Lexington. The Kentucky Gazette. 1801-1820. All articles by Karen Maurer Green.Genealogical and Historical Abstract, Baltimore, Gateway Press, 1985.)


  • Reuben Runyon's wife, Mary Trayne Greenwood of New Hampshire, established in Frankfort, KY, in 1844 a famous girl’s school called Greenwood Seminary.

Source:  (Forks of Elkhorn Church. Ermina J. Arnell.   Baltimore. Genealogical Publishing Company.1980. p. 158.)


  • In Runyontown, NJ, said to be opposite Blackwell’s Mills, the houses show the Dutch influence with the angled oculi (circular or oval windows) in the front doors.

Source:  (Millstone Valley. Elizabeth Menzier.  New Brunswick,  N.J.,  Rutger’s University Press, 1969,  p. 134-5.)


  •  Almost half a century ago, a Mr. R. Runyon, the executive vice-president of the American Cancer Society, in a letter to columnist, David Lawrence, expressed his opinion that scientific evidence proved that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer.  He was quite adamant.  However, the columnist pointed out that some scientists cannot determine a cause-and-effect relationship.

Source:  ("Science is Divided on Interpretation.” The Herald Dispatch.  Huntington, W. Va.  Monday,  15 April 1957. p. 6.)


  • In 1941, Elva Runyon received a Master’s degree in Virginia.  Her thesis was titled, "Madam Russel, Methodist Saint."

Source:  (The Virginia Magazine, Vol. 79,  January 1971,  No.1,  p. 108)


  • Dallas, Texas, has a Runyon Street.  It also has an elementary school named after John W. Runyon at 10750 Cradle Rock, 75217.  The school has many outstanding programs and is a year-round education pilot school.


  • Supposedly one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets is Runyon Canyon Park. The canyon has quite a history.  First it was called No Man’s Canyon. In 1867, the federal government gave the area to “Greek George” Caralombo.  There, the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez was captured. Its name was changed when Carmon Runyon bought it.  Then John McCormack purchased the property and he built his estate, San Patricio, on it.  In 1942, George W. Hartford II bought the land to sub-divide, but the neighbors fought the development.  The land was sold to Jules Berman but he could not develop it either. In 1963, the city acquired it and it is now a park. 

Source:  ("Uncovering a History as Wild as the Canyon Itself,.” The Los Angeles Times. Nov.  8, 1995. p. E1.)


  • Listed in the Historical American Buildings Survey at the Library of Congress is the Shotwell- Runyon house at Happy Valley Lane, Metuchen vicinity, Middlesex County, NJ.  Built circa 1750 by  Benjamin Shotwell, he left the home to his daughter, Nancy Thornal, who sold it to John Runyon in 1801.  Since then several generations of Runyons have occupied the house including : John, Ephraim M., Isaac S., Herbert R. and Gilbert.  The house has 1.5 stories with a stone foundation and frame construction, brick-filled, with shingles and siding.  It has two brick chimneys. The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection has several drawings and photos of the Shotwell-Runyon House.


  • On 05 April 1785, in New Jersey, a letter from John Runyon was read in a Congressional session (as listed in Committee Book No. 190).  He requests appointment as a surveyor in one of the new states. (No. 78, XIX, folio 487). He states he would like to be an "early adventurer with his family in the new state." Perhaps this is the John Runyon who left New Jersey.


  • Lewis Runyon sued John Davis in Pike County, Kentucky.  No date was given, but Runyon claimed Davis “beat, stoned, and set his dogs on him.”  Davis claimed self-defense. 

Source:  (Pike County Circuit Court Lawsuits No.  2174. Robert M. Baker. Pike County Historical Society.)


  •  "Peaches from the ranch of Solomon Runyon on the Old River in this county have made their appearance in the San Francisco market.  They are of the early Tollotson variety and 68 baskets of them sold for $620." 

Source:  ("100 Years Ago,"  Sacramento Bee, 6 July 1965.)


  • Another Californian, Lucia Runyon, made the news when she was named honorary marshal of the nation's Christmas Festival Toyland Parade on Dec. 3, 1960.  Lucia taught 40 years at Dunsmuir, Suisun, Oakland and Sanger, CA, schools.  She also taught one year in Yokohama, Japan.  In addition, she was an avid genealogist who collected material on her family. 

Source:  (Sanger Herald. 1 December 1960.)


  • Sad news came out of Williamson, WV, on 4 September 1962 with the death of Amos Runyon, co-author with Robert Runyon of Runyon Genealogy.  Amos had an interesting career, being admitted to the bar in Louisville, KY, in 1915, but choosing instead to be an educator.  He was a teacher in Pike County, Kentucky, for 30 years and served as assistant county superintendent.  He also was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1943 and served as a state legislator until 1954.

Source:  (Louisville Courier Journal. 04 September 1962.)


  •  Although he is a professor of French, Randolph Paul Runyon, PhD, also has written a critically acclaimed history of slavery, the underground railroad and heroine Delia Webster of Kentucky.  His book, Delia Webster and the Underground Railroad, joins his other works including The Braided Dream about poet Robert Penn Warren.  Runyon, a Maysville, KY, native, has taught in Miami (Ohio) University's department of French and Italian since 1977.  His book is available through


  • Joseph Runyon of Frederick County, Maryland, on 7 December 1764, bound his "about" 10-year-old daughter Mary to Thomas and Eleanor Bowles of the same county until she turned 16. He received £20.  The contract between Joseph and the Bowles was an indenture, but that didn’t mean that Mary was an indentured servant. The Random House Dictonary of the English Language defines indenture as "a deed or agreement executed in two or more copies with edges correspondingly indented as a means of identification." In reality, Mary was an "apprentice" who received from the Bowles "sufficient meat, drink, washing and lodging" and was taught "to read, write and sew" as well given "a gown of petticoat and hoop and her shoes and stockings & two caps and handkerchiefs."  Some speculate that Mary was the sister of Isaac Runyon who may have been the son of Joseph.


  • Kentucky’s Pearl Runyon had an illustrious career as a public servant in the 1950s and ‘60s. She was a resident of Pike County and represented Pikeville as an at-large alternate to the 1952 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Undated newspaper clippings show that about 1960 she was an unsuccessful candidate for Kentucky’s state treasurer.  Following her loss, the Kentucky governor appointed her head of the state’s securities division within its banking department. She was apparently a good administrator. A later article commended the securities division for being a state government agency that was paying its own way.


  • Right before New Year’s Day in 1992, Perry Runyan of San Antonio thought he was just an average expectant father. But at 6:15 a.m. 29 December 1991, he also had to deliver the child. When Perry’s wife, Rebecca, couldn’t make it to the hospital to meet their physician, Perry called EMS and received instructions on how to deliver his second daughter, Melanie Elayne. He performed his new role so efficiently that he had cut the baby’s umbilical cord just when EMS arrived to help out.

Source:  (San Antonio Express News. 2 January 1991. p. 9A.)


  • Caswell-Runyan of Huntington, Ind., was the nation’s first manufacturer of cedar chests. The company in 1907 began commercial production of this furniture piece that had previously been built by hand all across America. The company was so efficient for the times that some persons thought it would hold a worldwide monopoly on cedar chest production. Today, it is still among the best known cedar chest companies in the United States.  Caswell-Runyan closed in May 1956 . The plant later was destroyed by fire in 1962.


  • In 1861, Union forces needed additional means of supporting its troops on the Virginia Shore while defending Washington, D.C. One of the solutions was to build a fort along the bottomland of the Potomac River. Construction began 24 May 1861, and was completed in seven weeks. The new defense post was called Fort Runyon in honor of Brigadier General Theodore Runyon whose New Jersey Brigade helped build the fort. Fort Runyon had a short life. Subsequent construction of nearby forts relegated Fort Runyon to supply depot status and later to a livestock corral. Today, nothing remains of the fort although its location is known.


  • A recent eBay auction item offered a hand-blown druggist bottle embossed with the words "Boericke & Runyon/Company."  A search of the Internet reveals a New Zealand website (no longer active) on Mr. Boericke that also sheds this light on Mr. Runyon:  "In  about 1890, William Boericke formed a partnership with E. W. Runyon, in San Francisco, and formed the company of Boericke and Runyon.  Edward Wheelock Runyon was born in Chicago in 1851. He was a postmaster to the Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. He went to California in 1887, met William Boericke, and returned to the east coast to get a degree from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1893. He was the president of Boericke and Runyon in New York City from 1908 until his death at age 86 on December 17, 1937." 


  • Aunt Esther Runyon returned to her Catlettsburg, KY, roots on Oct. 8, 1939.  She was 85 years old at the time and was interviewed by the Ashland Daily about her memories of the area when she was a young wife 60 years earlier.  Her account is rich in names of the area that may have some importance to Runyon and Runyan genealogy researchers.  The following is a verbatim account of what the paper ran about her (including typographical errors) and is taken from a scrapbook compiled by Robert Runyon of Brownsville, TX, co-author of Runyon Genealogy:


We interviewed “Aunt Esther” yesterday at the home of her niece, Mrs. Julia Oblinger of Oakland avenue.  She was there between visits to her two Boyd county nephews Harold Runyon of Catlttsburg, and Walter Runyon of the Cannonsburg Pike.  The weight of 85 years rests lightly on her shoulders and has failed to dim the sparkle in her eyes or the almost mischevious smile that plays around the corners of her mouth.


Aunt Esther, a bride of but a few years, came to Catlettsburg from her native Big Creek, Pike county, Ky., just 61 years ago this month.  She lived here but two years before returning to Pike county but during that short time she wrote the details of many of Calettsburg’s early historical events in her indelible memory.  Upon their arrival in Hampton City, Aunt Esther’s husband, Lewis Runyon, immediately began to build the first hotel in that section of town. (Note:  Lewis Runyon, born 30 January 1849, Pond Creek, Pike County, Ky., and died 12 September 1906 at Welch W. Va., was the son of Mitchell Runyon and Margaret "Peggy" Taylor.)  It stood on the site now occupied by the Catlettsburg stockyards.  The same building, a two-story frame known as the Ward property and recently damaged by fire, still stands a few hundred yards from its original site.  Time and fire have never erased the name L. Runyon, which was proudly painted across the front of the hotel by its owner.                                  


Hampton City and the present central section of Catlettsburg were separate communities at that time.  Aunt Esther recalls her neighbors of 1878 as Green Puckett and Andy Moore.  Over on the river bank quite a distance from the Runyon hotel were the homes of Frank Mott, Flem Justice, Noah Foster and Alex Smiley.  The town physicians were Mrs. Barnett, Smiley and Kincaid.  The only residents of what is now Oakland avenue were Coon Waits, Charlie Hampton, Charles Steen and Lemuel Hite.  Ellis Craft, whose brother was involved in one of Boyd county’s famous criminal trials, taught school at that time in Hampton City.  Noah Foster conducted preaching services in the school house which stood on the site now occupied by the Missionary Baptist Church.


Aunt Esther made daily trips down the board walk that is now Louisa street to the Adams spring which was the hotel’s source of water supply.  In  1879 she watched the first train cross the old C. & O. bridge that spanned the Big Sandy several blocks east of the present bridge.  Until the C. & O. entered Catlettsburg over this bridge, the old narrow gauge Chatterol line to White House, Ky., was the town’s only railroad line.  The original C. & O. bridge over Big Sandy was an engineering feat of that period.  The construction crew many of whom boarded at the Runyon hotel, stripped trees of their branches and used a derrick and hammer to drive them into the ground for piling.


During the Civil War, Aunt Esther cowered in a corner of her home on Big Creek as a detachment of Confederate soldiers (she calls them Democrats) raided the home while her father was bedfast.  They satisfied themselves by taking his new homespun suit, his boots, and bed-clothing.


In 1931 Aunt Esther had the unusual honor of having two postmasters in her immediate family.  Her daughter, at the time postmistress in Pikeville, Ky., was united in marriage to Guy Hamilton, who was postmaster at Virgie, Ky.  Mr. And Mrs. Hamilton now live in Winchester, Ky.  Aunt Esther had made her home with them for the past few years.  She returned to Kentucky just recently from Garden City, Long Island, N.Y., where she visited with her granddaughter, Mrs. Murray Taylor, and her great-granddaughter, Jane Lee Taylor.  Just to look at Aunt Esther would convince anyone that she was thoroughly capable of making the trip unaccompanied…which she did.







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