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Runyon Tidbits


Tidbits  on this page were originally published online between January and December 2004

  • A male descendant of Isaac Runyon (1738 to circa 1821) underwent DNA testing of his Y chromosome.  Isaac is a brick wall to Runyon/Runyan genealogical researchers.  We know quite a bit about his life, including his war record, but we don’t have proof of his parents. 


As with most Runyon/Runyan lines, we presume Isaac descended from Vincent Rongnion of Poitiers, France, and New Jersey.  But we don’t know for certain.


This descendant of Isaac used genetic technological advancements to analyze the Y chromosome that is passed on virtually unchanged from father to son throughout the ages.  Through Y chromosome analysis, we can isolate markers on certain DNA chromosomes.  When compared to other Runyons, we can identify persons who share a common ancestor.  This information doesn’t tell us who that ancestor is.  It just tells us that he existed within a certain time frame.


Since there are no other Runyons or Runyans who have participated in this genetic analysis, it is not possible to compare this DNA with others who have descended from Isaac or from Vincent.  What is surprising is that four men with the surname Hatcher matched this DNA profile in 24 of 25 markers.  Another man named Brank also matched 24 of 25 but he had an ancestor named Hatcher who was abandoned by his father and whose mother died and was raised by his grandfather named Brank. 


What does this mean to this line of Runyon?  It means that he and the Hatchers probably share a common ancestor.  But there is only a 50% probability that the common ancestor lived no longer than 18 generations ago (about 450 years), a 90% probability that he lived no longer than 41 generations ago (about 1,000 years), and a 95% probability that he lived no longer than 52 generations ago (about 1,300 years).


In other words, that common ancestor could have lived 900 years before Vincent Rongnion was born--even before the Norman Conquest. 


This descendant of Isaac Runyon is now extending his DNA Y Chromosome analysis to 37 markers.  That will help future genealogical research narrow the time frame of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA).  But it doesn’t really mean much unless there are other Runyon DNA samples from both Vincent and Isaac descendants to reference such genetic information against.


Therefore, what is needed is for more Runyon descendants who know their lineage comes down from Vincent or Isaac to get their DNA tested.  Many surname projects are being conducted around the world to share genetic information among families, but the Runyon/Runyan line is not yet among them. 


If you are interested in participating, visit or a similar DNA site.  You can search for different surnames who are conducting fascinating studies that show common heritage and diverging bloodlines.  Some of the surnames have their own web sites.  These include the Hatcher, Phipps, Blanchard, and Perkins families.


Several labs perform the test, but many surname projects are going to Family Tree DNA for their analysis because of their support of the surname projects. The Y Chromosome test has to come from a male, but females can participate by sponsoring a closely related male.   We'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.


  • By 1678, much land had been purchased from the Indians in the Piscataway, N.J., area, and settlers were apportioned land by the new township.  Vincent Rongnion (Runyon) had received 120 acres in 1677.   When a history of Piscataway was compiled almost three centuries later in 1850, a map of the township showed that there were more Runyons than any other surname.


A. J. Runyon abides near A. Hagerman

D. Runyon        “         “     E. Runyon

E. J. Runyon        “         “   E. Runyon

J. J. Runyon        “         “   E. Runyon

D. Runyon        “         “     R. D. Runyon

W. Runyon        “         “     A. S. Runyon

A. S.. Runyon        “     “     E. Runyon

J. B. Runyon        “         “     E. Runyon


(Source: History of Piscataway Township 1666-1976.   Walter C. Meuly. Somerville Press.  Somerville, NJ. 1976. inside cover.)


  • Jonathan Runyan, like Vincent Runyon, purchased land on the Raritan River in New Jersey.  A deed dated 16 November 1761 showed that for £800, John Broughton of Raritan, Somerset County, NJ, conveyed 41 acres on the north side of the Raritan River of Somerset County to Jonathan who hailed from Cranberry, Middlesex County, NJ. 

(Source: Biographical and Genealogical Notes from the Volumes of the New Jersey Archives. William Nelson. New Jersey Historical Society. Newark, NJ. 1916.)


  • Dody McCoy, who researches Runyon, McCoy and Varney lines, brings our attention to the West Virginia State Archives web site.  Genealogy researchers can go to this page and search for the names of 4,000 Union soldiers who did not claim one of the more than 26,000 medals authorized by West Virginia to be minted in their honor.  A search on the site showed the following names:


Runnion, Jacob; M; 1st Reg Cav Vols

Runnion, James; D; 1st Reg Cav Vols

Runyan, George; G; 5th Reg Inf Vols

Runyan, James; G; 1st Reg Inf Vols.


  • The “Strays” book of Barren County, Kentucky on 10 April 1830 lists:  Barrfoot Runyon, 3 mi S of Edmonton.  There is no mention of what animal Barrfoot found, whether a cow or a horse, but researchers might be interested in the location. A Stray Book was maintained by the clerk of the county to keep track of lost livestock that someone might report.  

(Source:  Traces. Quarterly Publication of the South Central Kentucky Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. Vol. 13, Issue 4.  Winter 1935. Glasgow, KY. p. 108.)


  • A tragic explosion on 27 December 1934 killed 17 Powellton miners riding in four wooden coaches on Armstrong Creek in Fayette County, West Virginia.  Another 46 miners were injured.  The train belonged to the Elkhorn-Piney Company.  The explosion blew off the train’s boiler and demolished the first coach.  One of the dead miners was S. L. Runyon, then 55 years old. 

(Source:  Horrible Engine Explosion on Armstrong Creek. Historical Notes on Fayette County, West Virginia. Shirley Donnelly. Privately Printed. 1959. p. 167.)


  • Just after the American Revolution, Joseph Capnerhurst came from England to the new United States.  He shortened his name to Capner and in 1796 he married Christiana Runyon. 


Capner bought the Mine Farm in Flemington, NJ, and became well known for raising a breed of sheep developed in England by the father of animal husbandry, Robert Bakewell.  The sheep, known as Bakewell sheep or Leicester sheep, were smuggled into America from England by a man named Beans.  We also note from this tidbit that Austin Gray Runyon was the first person to have been buried in the Flemington Presbyterian Cemetery in the town of the same name. 

(Source: Traditions of Our Ancestors.  D. H. Moreau. Hunterdon Republican.  1869-1870. p. 67.)


  • Tom Runyan, a great contributor to the Runyon Tidbits, sent a copy of the marriage certificate for Vincent Rongnion and Anne Boutcher of Hartford, England, who are generally recognized as the progenitors of the Runyon/Runyan/Runion/Runnion family in the United States.  It is this marriage document that ties Vincent back to what many believe to be his birthplace in Poitiers, France.  The document, which Tom received from Mary K. Smith, is signed by Philip Carteret (1639-82), the first colonial governor of New Jersey, and dated 31 June 1668.


Whereas I have received information of a Mutuall Intent and Agreement betweene Vincent Rongnion of Poitiers in France and Anne Boutcher, the daughter of John Boutcher of Hartford in England to Solemnise Marriage together, for which they have requested my Lycence, And here appearing no Lawful impediment for the obstruction thereof—are to Require you or Eyther of you to Joyne the said Vincent Rongnion and Anne Boutcher in Matrimony and then to pronounce Man and Wife and to make record thereof according to the Laws in that behalfe promised for the doing Whereof this shall be to you or Eyther of you a Sufficient Warrant given by my hand and seal of the province the 31st day of June, 1668 and in the sixth year of the Reigne of our Sovr’n Lord Charles the Second of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith.


Ph Carteret


The “you” or “Eyther of you” addressed in the document appear to be the justices of the peace or ministers within New Jersey.  The couple was married by Jas. Bollen on 17 July 1668.


So we know that Vincent was from Poitiers and that his surname sounded like Rongnion, although there is no name spelled exactly like that in the Poitiers region.


  • As we’ve discussed in past Runyon Tidbits, evidence exists that other geographic areas may have been the origin of different branches of Runyon/Runyan families now in the United States.  Laura Runyan of New Mexico, who read some recent installments of Runyon Tidbits, wrote with an interesting tale of her own:


“My father has always said that HIS father claimed Irish ancestry.  The only other family I know named Runyan makes the same claim.


”I studied in Galway, Ireland during the summers of 2001 and 2002.  There, in the most famous bookstore in Galway, I found a very thick book listing all Irish surnames the editors had ever encountered in Irish records.  In it I found the surnames Runnion, Runion, Runnian, and Runian, located primarily in Leitrim (traditionally Ireland's poorest county) and another county I can't recall.  The entry said that the name derived from names O'Roonion and O'Roonian, later shortened by dropping the O'.  The editors went on to say that the more common name to derive from those was Rooney, and that eventually Runnion and Runnian, etc. completely disappeared.


”A site I have found online ( claims that Rooney's oldest Gaelic origin is O'Ruandaidh, and that later Rooney was synonymous …with Rowney in County Down and Roohan and Runian in County Donegal.


”Your website says that while most genealogists THINK that Runyan and Runyon (and Runnion, Runnian, etc.) derived from the French Huguenot name Roignon, your genealogist couldn't find undeniable records confirming that (an admission I found admirably cautious).  Of course, many French Huguenots fled to Ireland; but that was--as I'm sure you know--long after O'Ruandaigh would have evolved into O'Roonian or Runian.


”Also, when I was in Galway, a professor at the university who is fluent in Irish (Irish Gaelic) told me that -ion and -ian are common endings of Gaelic words and names.  So, perhaps an Irish origin of the name Runyan (etc.) warrants closer inspection.”


Thanks for the thoughts, Laura.


  • In the September 2004 Tidbits, Laura Runyon provided an intriguing case for placing the Runyon surname’s origins in Ireland.  In putting that piece together, we erroneously wrote that she found her origins in County Ulster.  Laura reminds us that Ulster is not a county, but rather a region.  The actual location of these surnames is in Couinty Leitrim.  We have made the correction in the archives that contain her summary.  Thanks for correcting our error, Laura.


  • And, now, we’ve located another tantalizing lead.  At a site called Le dictionnaire des noms, we find short descriptions of French surnames including Rognon.  A rough translation of the copy states that this surname came from Doubs (pronounced doo), a region in the southeast of France bordering Switzerland.  It further reports that the name derives from a geological term meaning rocky land or talus, which is a sloping mass of rocks at the base of a cliff. 


The description also states that Rognon is the name of a hamlet or town in Doubs.  Another web site states that the hamlet of Rognon has 45 residents, is named after an illustrious family of the same name and was founded in 1166.  It is part of the ancient estate of Montmartin.  Betançourt, which is the major population center in Doubs, is 500 kms from Poitiers—more than 300 miles—as the crow flies.


  • All Runyon-Runyan researchers have discovered there are many ways to spell this surname.  Most researchers agree that the surname originated in France, yet there are claims that Runyons and Runyans came to America from other countries, including Germany and England.  The Roots Research Bureau, Ltd., of New York, cites a Mathewe and Agnes Runyome living in London in 1567. Ireland also has some variations of the surname.  The same research bureau found a French Huguenot church on Golblac Lane in Dublin, Ireland, where in 1704 Claude and Rachel Rognon had a child baptized.  The church in the same year also mentions a Rachel Rougnon or Rongnon.  In 1706, the French church showed that Guillaume “Rougnont,” son of Claude and Rachel Rognon, was baptized.   And in 1708 or 1709, its records show that Estienne Rougnon, another son of Claude and Rachel, had been baptized.  In 1712, Claude Rougnon appears in the records of the French church in Peter Street, Dublin.


Perhaps someone already has researched the history of the French church’s establishment in Ireland to find the origin of its members.    If so, please let us know.


  • Variations of this surname bring to mind the first day of English Lit Class and answering roll call.  The professor said, “Runyon?  Oh, yes, the witches’ scene in Macbeth.”   Looking up that scene in Shakespeare’s play, we find the following lines:

First Witch:  A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,

And munched, and munched, and munched:--‘Give me,’ quoth I:

‘Anoint thee, witch!’ the rump-fed ronyon cries.

Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger:

But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,

And, like a rat, without a tail,

I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.


The word itself is not as distinguished as its appearance in a Shakespeare play would imply.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “ronyon” as a “mangy and scabby beast.”  The origin of the word, according to the same dictionary, is probably the Middle French word rogne, which means scab.  Middle French was the tongue used in France during the 14th to 16th centuries. 


  • Studying the Runyons/Runyans just through their ownership of land through the years yields many interesting leads and stories.  The Runyans who lived in the vicinity of the village of Quakertown, NJ, are examples.  The records of this area show that in 1775, Samuel Stevenson sold about 150 acres with an old dwelling to Thomas Runyan.  After Thomas Runyan’s death, Absalom Runyan, his son, purchased the land.  He and his wife, Wincha, conveyed the property to Dr. James Willson on 01 May 1772.   Scott Allen, who as a young boy lived in this old structure after the Runyans had sold it, described “the curious looking structure:


“It had kitchen and cellar on the first floor, the fireplace was very large, we could put in a back log eight feet long.  The joists were large enough for girders in a barn.  There was a long flight of steps on the outside to reach the second story, which made it look very odd.  The second floor had three rooms, one large one, and two bedrooms.  The garret was one long room and was used to store grain in, and it was no light task to carry it up those two long stairways.   The roof was quite steep or would be for our day.  The house is very old.  The first summer we lived there, 1837, a gentleman from the west visited us, who said he was born there just fifty years before, and it was old house then.”


Another tract of land in that vicinity in 1794 was referred to as “Runyan’s plantation where his son, Evan, lives.” 


  • Evan Runyan and his wife, Deborah, conveyed that property to Peter Younger.  Evan was an innkeeper. Thomas Runyon on 22 April 1817 bought land near Quakertown from Arthur Stevenson.  Peter B. Runyan on 29 May 1845 bought a farm and sold it 26 November 1851 to Charles Bartles.  

(Source:  History of the Land Titles in the Vicinity of Quakertown, New Jersey.  Mary C. Vail.  Flemington, N.J.  H.E. Deats.  1915.  pps. 8, 9, 11, 18.) 


  • Southern Living magazine tells of the creative nature of Rebecca “Bec” Runyon Bryan of Alabama.  The vice president of marketing and design for a development, construction and management company is a native of Mississippi, according to the article.  She developed a second home as a family getaway on the Bon Secour, a river whose name translates into “safe haven” and is located near Alabama’s Gulf Shores.   Bec worked with a Louisiana architect to design the house, and she and her sister, Ann, decorated the interior.  The article runs on pages 126-129 of the March 2004 print issue of the magazine.  We could not find an online link to it.


  • Adrian Hegeman (Hagerman), the father-in-law of Isaac Runyon, had purchased land in 1767 in Frederick County, Maryland, from John Logsdon. After Adrian’s death in 1774, he left the property to his wife, Mary, and to his daughter Geertje (Charity) who was married to Isaac Runyon. The heirs sold one tract of land back to Logsdon. Evidently, Adrian and Mary lived and farmed on another tract on the next bank on Great Pipe Creek. Adrian was buried on this tract in a family cemetery.


Mary Hagerman and Isaac Runyon then sold this other tract to Jacob Stimmelli with one stipulation: “excepting the five Perches of land parted in for a graveyard where Adrian Hagerman lies buried, standing and being on the premises with the Egress and Regress to and from the said graveyard for them, the said Mary Hagerman, Geertje Runyon, Isaac Runyon, and their heirs.”


By the 1800s, Isaac, Charity and their children had left Maryland and lived in Montgomery County, Virginia. By then, Mary may have died and also may have been buried in that Maryland cemetery. Does that cemetery still exist? Jacob Stimmelli, the owner, wrote in his will that this plantation was to be sold one year after the decease of the testator by his son. The son failed to sell after one year, so the other heirs sold the land to John Whitehill on 21 June 1810. The deed has no mention of the cemetery.

(Source: Land Record WR-2 and Land Record WR37, Frederick County, Maryland.)


  • Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon commanded the Fourth Division, New Jersey militia, at the first battle of Bull Run 18-21 July 1861, which took place across 8 miles from Centreville to Manassas Junction on the Virginia Midland Railroad.  Although the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th divisions battled the Confederate forces, Runyon’s division was assigned the duty of guarding communications at Fairfax Court House. His militia later did build Fort Runyon on the Potomac River to protect Washington, D.C., from Confederate forces.


Born 25 October 1822 at Somerville, NJ, Runyon graduated from Yale College in 1842 and became a lawyer in 1846. He became city attorney of Newark in 1853, and a city councilman in 1857. In 1873, he ran as Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, but lost. He later was appointed ambassador to Germany where he represented American interests in Berlin, frequently meeting with Emperor William II. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Berlin on Jan. 27, 1896, and his body was brought back to the United States where he was buried in New Jersey.


The press had a love-hate relationship with Runyon, honoring him for his service to his country but deriding him for continuing to dress in military uniform while ambassador to Germany. The Washington Post in particular never forgave Runyon for succeeding the highly popular former minister to Germany, William Walter Phelps.

(Source: The Washington Post. 16 October, 1883. p. 1; 21 July 1893, p. 4; 27 January 1896, p. 1.)


  • Speaking of The Washington Post, it ran a story from Sheepshead Bay, NY., in 1892, where Sir Francis ran into Runyon and all “spectators were transfixed with horror.” The Runyon in question was a horse running in the fifth race in the Flatbush Stakes at Sheepshead,  The race track, which no longer exists, was built on land in New York City that was sold to the track developers by Winston Churchill’s American grandfather. At the time of the race, Sir Francis was Runyon's stablemate.  As Runyon swerved from the rail to the middle of the track halfway down the home stretch, Sir Francis' jockey steered his horse into Runyon's rear. The other jockey survived, but the mishap kept Runyon from finishing in the money. There’s no mention of Runyon’s namesake. We’ll keep looking.

(Source: The Washington Post. 7 September 1892. p. 6.)


  • And a final story from The Washington Post, reprinting an earlier article from the Newark Advertiser, relates the story of a Miss Runyon who had died a week before and the “subtle, mysterious connecting link between the known and the unknown.”


This case actually involved Miss Runyon’s friend who reportedly had no information about Miss Runyon's death as they had not seen each other for quite some time. Yet Miss Runyon reportedly occupied her thoughts.


On the evening of the day of her death, her friend picked up several sheets of music. On the last one was a song with the name Miss Runyon written on the first page. The newspaper reported that the next day at breakfast, her friend learned for the first time that Miss Runyon was dead. The headline of the article added a little sensationalism to the story. It was titled: “Presentiments of Evil.”

(Source: The Washington Post, 2 April 1883, p. 2.)


  • Could there have been a Runyon-Runyan ancestor using the surname spelled ROYNON living in England in 1421?  An estate called Steyning which was part of an 11th century estate of  Stockland in Stegursey and Spaxton passed to John Roynon. Then William Roynon died in 1521 and was succeeded by Thomas Roynon, his grandson, who sold the estate to William Poole.  Another John Roynon appears in 1537.  Durborough Manor descended to Thomas Pokeswell.  He died in 1537 leaving Durborough to two daughters:  Elizabeth, wife of Richard Howe, and Eleanor, wife of John Roynon.  This Roynon share was sold to George Smythe in 1584. 

(Source:  A History of the County of Somerset. R. W. Dunning, Editor. Vol. VI. Published for the Institute of Historical Research by Oxford University Press. 1992. p. 139, 146.)


  • According to John W. Wayland, the only church of the Old or Primitive Baptists still in existence in Rockingham  County, Virginia, in 1912 was the Runion Creek Church in Brock’s Gap.  The Baptists had become divided over missions about 1840.  An anti-mission faction called itself Old School or Primitive Baptists. The other group was known as Regular or Missionary Baptists. 

(Source: A History of Rockingham County, Virginia.  John W. Wayland. Dayton. Ruebush-Elkins Co. pp. 244-245.)


  • From a newspaper report at the turn of the last century: “When Joseph Runion, Charles Cameron and James Gordon were digging a well in Mr. Cameron’s place last week, Mr. Runion, who was at the bottom of the well, about 30 feet deep, was noticed by the others who were on the outside to stop work and nothing could be heard from him. Mr. Gordon pluckily descended to the bottom and found Mr. Runion almost helpless from the gas arising from the use of dynamite. The former fastened a rope about the body of his companion who was quickly drawn up and has suffered no ill effects from exposure to the gas.”  

(Source: The Page News. Weekly newspaper in Luray, VA. Edition of 15 August 1902. p.3C2.)


  • Some researchers have commented that a large number of Runyons-Runyans-Runions marry Ryans. The mention of one such marriage does not identify the precise Runyon. A David Ryan who was a native of Westmoreland, VA, went to Harrod’s Station with his mother. He married a Miss Runion and reared a large family. He owned a farm in Mercer County and died there in 1854.

(Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Compiled and published by John M. Gresham Company. Chicago. 1896. p.60.)


  • The editor of the Somerset County Historical Quarterly mentions old militia days in Somerset County in the section titled “Historical and Other Comments.” On 25 October 1832, a list of the Third Troop of the Somerset Squadron Brigade of Cavalry of New Jersey shows Ephraim Runyon as one of the 35 members.  The editor reported that sometime earlier, during the war with Great Britain, militia companies were formed in each county of New Jersey.  Muster rolls of some troops have been found, and one from Plainfield, the township then in Essex County, listed Martin Runyon. 

(Source: Somerset County Historical Quarterly. Vol.2, No. 2,.April 1913. p. 317-318.)   


  • Lucille Stewart Krisch, in a genealogical column called ”Twigs and Trees” that she once wrote for the now defunct San Antonio Light, once had an interesting tidbit about the Mexican War that took place in 1847.  She mentioned the battle that was fought at Buena Vista in the valley of Encantada, six miles north of Agua Nueva in northern Mexico.  The battle took place 22 to 23 February 1847 on one of the valley’s plateaus.  On 24 and 25 February, the Americans buried their dead at Buena Vista and at a pass called Angostura.


Krisch goes on to write that the rosters of the American soldiers who fought in the battle are not complete.  But since veterans only received $8 a month when they returned, they organized into groups in some states to use the force of numbers to appeal for an increase on their pensions.  R. L. Runyon was listed as a member of the veterans’ group from Kentucky. 


Also interesting to genealogy researchers is that the person enrolling would sometimes give his place of residence in the registration papers.  Listed in this manner is Dean Runyon of Co. B, a resident of Danville, KY.  Lucille Kirsch adds:  “The Texas Archives has diaries, stories, and applications for pensions from the veterans and widows of the veterans of the Mexican War.” 

(Source:  San Antonio Light. Clipping of the column, “Twigs and Trees” titled “Buena Vista—A Sad Story for US.  Lucille Stewart Krisch. (no page number on clipping)


  • Researcher Thomas Milton Tinney tells of the marriage of Runyans into prominent families.  Quoting him,  “Peter Runyan, a brother of John Runyan who m. Ann Elizabeth Dunn, was also the father of a great posterity.  For example, his daughter, Grace, b. 17 Jan. 1706/7, m. Daniel Cooper 17 Apr.1726.  From them came Daniel C. Cooper, noted founder of Dayton, Ohio; Agnes Ludlow, who m. Silas Hurin, founder of Lebanon, Ohio; John Ludlow, part owner of what is now Cincinnati, Ohio.  His half brother, Israel, was a great surveyor, for which Ludlow, Ky., was named and whose daughter Sara Bella married Jephtha D. Garrard, a lawyer in Cincinnati, and son of Governor Garrard, of Kentucky.  However, Israel was not of the blood line of the Runyan family.”


He goes on to say “In Passaic Valley Genealogy, an excellent book for those of Ky, who may have early New Jersey connections, there is much mention of those “gone to Ky. and etc. “ There are also numerous statements in the genealogical accounts given in the book, Early Germans of New Jersey,  though the book is not completely accurate. 

Source: Kentucky Ancestors.“Concerning The Ancestry Of Thomas Milton Tinney.” Thomas Milton Tinney.  Genealogical Quarterly of the Kentucky Historical Society.  Vol. 5, No. 1.  July 1969.  p. 29.)


  • One of the sad stories of the Civil War concerns a steamboat named the B.M. Runyan.  On 21 July 1864, the steamboat was carrying Civil War soldiers who were traveling up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati to be mustered out of the Army.  The B. M. Runyan sunk off of Skipworth’s Landing and 150 lives were lost.  The tin-clad steamer Prairie Bird rescued another 350 persons.  In Way’s Packet Directory 1848-1994, author Frederick Way Jr. reports that Runyan’s cabin broke free of its hull and grounded on a sandbar.  The Runyan was known to Mark Twain and has an interesting parallel to a scene in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 


Besides a huge loss of lives, the sinking of the B. M. Runyan also lost important records about the Civil War.  William Long Tolman, M.D., who had been a surgeon with the Tenth Missouri Cavalry Volunteers that participated in Vicksburg, lost all his personal effects and medical records when the B. M. Runyan went down.  And then there is another mystery.  We don’t know who the namesake of the B. M. Runyan actually was.  Perhaps someone reading this has some information.


  • A recent interesting note concerns Patrick Runyon of Dayton, OH, comes to us from Don Runyon.  Patrick, now 58, served under fire in Vietnam with Secretary of State John Kerry of Massachusetts.  Kerry, then the Democratic nominee for president, visited with Patrick during a campaign stop in Dayton.  The Dayton Pioneer Press ran a 19 February 2004 article on the meeting between the two Vietnam veterans.  According to the article, “The skirmish involving Runyon occurred one night in early 1969. Kerry, Runyon and Bill Zaldonis, who was Kerry's Swift boat engine man, were assigned to a small Boston Whaler to patrol a peninsula north of Cam Ranh in search of Viet Cong in South Vietnam's ‘no man zone.’"  The full article is accessible for a fee through the Dayton Pioneer Press’s website.


  • Could the mysterious C.F. Runyan be Frank C. Runyan? In the July-August Tidbits, we noted a newspaper article that reported C.F’s name on a Victorian era portrait of a man and a woman that was taken by a Chicago studio and found in 1994 on the side of a Wisconsin road. The connection between C.F and Frank C. is possible, says Tom Runyan, based on geographic similarities. Tom sent us a link to Frank’s biographical sketch from 1890 in a forum. Frank’s background shows interesting links to the portrait: Frank was a dentist in Ohio. He grew up in Wisconsin. And his sketch was in a “portrait and biographical album” that was published in Chicago in 1890 where the portrait presumably was taken. Great detective work, Tom. Perhaps the photographer transposed the initials when writing it on the portrait.


  • Thanks to Tom Runyan again for letting us know that Mountain Springs, TX, between Fort Worth and the Red River, had Ed Runyon as one of its earliest settlers. Ed established his store in 1877 about 2.5 miles from the cabin of Joe R. Burch, who was the town’s first settler. The post office moved from Burch’s cabin into the Runyon store. The online Texas Handbook has more information on this small Texas community for Ed’s researchers.


  • In 2002, Christelle Augris, a certified genealogist in France,  researched Vincent Rongnion, the first American Runyon/Runyan. A summary of her findings is documented on this web site. Ms. Augris did a search for Vincent in provinces in and around Poitiers, his birthplace according to his marriage certificate of 1668. Ms. Augris had some interesting conclusions that we share with Runyon/Runyan researchers:


“I found no trace of Vincent Roignon (Rougnon, etc.) your ancestor. Why? First of all, some sources have been partially destroyed (for instance, Champagné-Saint-Hilaire). We know that a Roignon lived at Champagné in 1663 and was a notary, and that a Vincent Rognon, a tax prosecutor, lived in 1659. He was certainly the father of Jacques Rognon. You know that they had relationships with families which came from Périgord. Did they come too from this area? I don’t know, but I didn’t find in the area of Champagné other members of this family (except for Vincent Rognon and his children plus a Marguerite Rognon)."


Ms. Augris also researched the abjuration act lists of Protestants who were forced to give up their religion in the late 1500s. Although this was almost 40 years before Vincent is believed to have been born, she thought it would indicate (1) a father or other ancestor who abjured or (2) a reason the Rongnon family might have left France.


“I didn’t find a Roignon,” she said. “If some members of this family remained Protestant, it could explain why I didn’t find information concerning them. Most of the Protestant registers have disappeared.” She concluded that she could not find proof that Vincent left France because he was Huguenot. So the research continues.


  • Three Runyan brothers show the difficulty genealogists and historians have in keeping identities separate.


Richard Runyan, a Civil War veteran, filed for a “Declaration for Original Invalid Pension” on 06 December 1881 at the age of 51.  He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a light complexion, sandy hair and blue eyes.  At the time, he was living in the township of Princeton, Mercer County, NJ. In his declaration, he was reported to have enrolled on 10 October 1861 in the Seventh Regiment of New Jersey commanded by Col. Joseph W. Revere.  Runyan was honorably discharged 08 August 1862 at Harrison Landing.  During his service, his regiment saw the following engagements

•           Siege of Yorktown, Va, April and May, '62;

•           Williamsburg, Va., May 5, '62;

•           Fair Oaks, Va., June 1 and 2, '62;

•           Seven Pines, Va., June 25, '62;

•           Savage Station, Va., June 29, '62;

•           Glendale, Va., June 30, '62;

•           Malvern Hill, Va., July 1, '62;

•           Malvern, Hill, Va., August 5, '62;

Sometime during Richard’s eight months of service, he dislocated his left shoulder, which led to his infirmity.  After leaving the military, he became a lawyer.  His birthplace was Pinepack, Morris County, NJ, but his parents’ names are stated as “not known” on his application.  He died 23 December 1887 and his last place of residence was Princeton


A brother, Henry Runyan, in a deposition stated that Richard had married his first wife, Mary E. Laird, at Princeton.  She died 25 May 1864.  Richard later married Mary Adams on 20 October 1868 and she applied for a pension after his death.


Richard has been given credit for writing the book, Eight Days with the Confederates, and Capture of Their Archives, Flags by Company G, Ninth New Jersey Volunteers. 


Runyon/Runyan researcher Ira Runyon has a copy of the book and he reports that the author is not Richard, but another brother, Capt. Morris C. Runyan.


By the way, Henry Runyan was also an author and genealogist.  He wrote History of the Runyan Family that was published in Princeton in August 1891.  The small book originally sold for 50 cents.  There is a copy at the New York City Public Library. 


(Sources:  New Jersey State Library, N.J. Civil War Record: Page 300. and

Copies of applications, depositions and death certificate on file in the National Archives.)


My living friends, as you pass by,

On my tombstone cast your eye,

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, so you must be,

Prepare for death and follow me.


  • Those somber words are the epitaph that once was inscribed on the tombstone of Susannah Kuster Runyon, the wife of John Runyon who was the son of Joseph Runyon.  Susannah was born 25 April 1748 and died 12 September 1823 in Pleasant Township, Clark County, OH.  She is reported to have been the first woman buried in the Asbury M.E. Chapel Cemetery near Springfield, OH.  The part of her tombstone with the epitaph is now broken. 

(Source: The Baumgardner Family.  W. Beatty. Urbana, OH.  The Gaumer Publishing Company. 1944. p. 42.)


  • Many Runyons were belongers of the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearance,” a group more commonly known as the Shakers.  Followers of the religion received the moniker after outsiders observed them moving, shaking and dancing during their religious ceremony.  The religion was introduced to Pleasant Hill, KY, from New Lebanon, NY, where the Shaker movement was well established.  Runyons who signed the Shaker covenant at Pleasant Hill were:  Joseph, Emley, Phineas, Marcy, Vincent, George, Ginny, Sally, Lydia and Charity. 

(Sources: Old Shakertown and the Shakers. Daniel Mac-Hir Hutton. Jane Bird Hutton (revisions). Harrodsburg, KY.  Bluegrass Roots, Fall 1987.)


  • A couple of months ago, we talked about Runyon’s, a Manhattan sports bar.  Now, from Don Runyon comes this tidbit.  Many thanks, Don.


 “There is also a well-known bar with two locations in Minneapolis, owned and operated by a Runyon family.  One location of Runyons is in the business district at 107 Washington Ave. N in Minneapolis.  The other Runyons location is near the Marriott Towneplace Suites.  It has quotes on its wall by famous people.  An example is one from author P.J. O’Rourke:  ‘It’s better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than spend tonight like there’s no money.’”


  • Don Runyon, who sent us the great information last month on the Runyon's Bar in Minneapolis, has another great tidbit about his nephew, entomologist Justin B. Runyon. Justin, a doctoral candidate at Penn State University, is co-researcher of a predatory fly discovered in Arizona. The fly is notable for its mismatched but highly functional wings. Speculation about the evolution of these wings and other information on Justin is in an online National Geographic news article.








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