EDITOR'S NOTE: I noticed that Don says John Munsinger died at the age of 99 years and 9 months, but his headstone says 104 years and 9 months. I wrote to Don about this and got the following answer:
I can prove beyond reasonable doubt that John Munsinger, christened "Christian" in Germany, was born in Bruchmühlbach, Palatinate, Dec. 18, 1817. Also I have documented that his parents, Johann Christian Adam Münzinger and Maria Eva Krick, were married March 25, 1813, and had two daughters, born 1813 and 1815, before John was born.
Here is my theory on the fabrication of his age:
John told a story that probably has an element of truth in it. The story is that Napoleon Bonaparte, on his way to Moscow to conquer Russia, stayed the night at the Münzinger home in Bruchmühlbach. Now, if you look at an atlas of Germany, you will see that the main road from France east toward Russia runs up through Saarbrücken, Kaiserslautern, and so on through Germany and Poland. Well, Bruchmühlbach is on that road, about midway between Saarbrücken and Kaiserlautern. It is certainly a reasonable point for a stop-over on a horseback trip under the conditions of 1812.
However, in re-telling the story in the early 1900s, as I found in a Kansas newspaper clipping, old John elaborated that "as a baby, he had kept the emperor Napoleon and Josephine awake." Now, if that were true, he would have had to have been born by 1812. So, in order to make the story come out right, it was necessary to add 5 years to his actual age to get back to 1812.
In the 1850 census of Russia Township, Lorain County, which you can see online at the Oberlin College web site, John said he was 33. In the 1880 Jones County census, which was taken about a month after he lost his wife Julina, he said he was 64. However, by 1900, he suddenly was 88. So they had a huge 100th birthday party for him in Howard, Kansas in 1912 when he was supposedly 100, and I have that newpaper clipping also. But as you see, the exaggeration happened sometime between 1880 and 1900 to support the story that he had kept Napoleon awake at night. The only part that I still don't understand is, why did his 14 children all go along? Surely most, if not all, of them knew the truth. It may have been that he was simply such a strong, curmudgeonly personality that no one wanted to contradict him. My grandmother (John's granddaughter) told my father that John was almost intolerable to live with until after he turned "100," which in reality was his 95th birthday.