Captain Frederic Munger House

526 Boston Post Road

Greek Revival Federal

circa 1840                     

The most notable architectural features of this relatively simple house are its two elegantly fluted free-standing columns with bell capitals, which are a distinct Connecticut design of local invention. Unusually, a full-sized sash window is in the front gable. The brackets that are evenly spaced across the underside of the overhang on the bottom of the gable pediment are possibly of a later Victorian addition.

Captain Frederic Munger, born in 1811, was the original owner of this property. He lived here with his wife, Rebecca, born in 1814. Their daughter, Ellen, who lived with them, studied in New Haven and was the organist at the Congregational Church. Captain Munger owned a small schooner named the Chelsea, which he kept at West Wharf. A fisherman by trade, he is believed to have held an interest in the fish pounds offshore. He hauled in his nets near Tuxis Island every day, processing the fish oil and using the refuse as fertilizer.

His neighbor Mary Scranton Evarts recalled in a written account that Frederic was a man of small stature. He walked with a limp and required the constant use of a cane. Mary wrote that he often carried a clam basket on his arm, although she also noted that there were no clam flats at West Wharf. According to Mary, Frederic’s basket was a flat-bottomed vessel of coarse splint weaving with a handle at the top.

In an essay published in Madison’s Heritage, Edwin Redfield recalled a humorous incident involving Captain Munger, whom he knew very well from his boyhood spent down at West Wharf. To fully appreciate the story, it might help to understand that a lobster plug, or peg, was a small wooden tool used to keep the claws of the lobster shut to help keep them alive during shipping.

    Redfield wrote:

One Saturday morning I was down at the store, as Capt. Munger sat in the stern of his boat plugging lobsters. … Two ladies from Chicago were standing on the shore watching the Captain and commenting audibly on his cruelty to the helpless lobsters. Pretty soon I saw the old Captain’s lips move, a habit he had before he said something, so I hung around at a respectful distance and waited for developments. After his observers were pretty well worked up and were about to appeal to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or some other rescue league, he said to the one who appeared to be the “leading lady”—“Madam, I’m very sorry that my plugging these poor creatures distresses you so much. We didn’t always have to do this but for the past year or so the lobsters have come ashore at night and pulled up the farmers’ young corn, and we have been obliged to plug them in order to protect our crops.”

“The ladies fled post haste,” recalled Redfield, claiming that by the following winter half of Chicago had heard the tale of the plugging of lobsters in Madison.

Frederic died in 1891 at the age of 80 and is buried in West Cemetery, along with his wife Rebecca.

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