Professor of European history at Brown University for many years, and a well-known author and educator, Wilfred Harold Munro comes of a distinguished Rhode Island family. He was born at Bristol, in this State, on August 20, 1849, a son of John Bennett and Abby Howland (Batt) Munro. His father was a merchant and banker, and served in the Rhode Island Legislature for a number of years. Of the children in the family, several have risen to national prominence.
Wilfred Harold Munro, of this record, now the oldest man connected with the faculty of Brown University, attended the public schools of his birthplace. He was graduated from Bristol High School in 1864 and from Walnut Hill School, at Geneva, New York, in 1866. He then entered Brown University, where he took the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1870 and the Master of Arts degree in 1873. He was captain of the university “nine” while attending this university. In further preparation for his career he studied abroad, teaching for several years at the universities of Freiburg and Heidelberg, in Germany, during 1890 and 1891, while in 1910, in recognition of his distinguished position among American historians, Hobart College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature.
Meanwhile, however, Professor Munro’s professional activities were well under way. From 1870 to 1871 he was master of DeVeaux College at Niagara Falls, New York, and in the latter year became associate principal of St. Mark’s School, at Salt Lake City, Utah. During 1873 he traveled in Central and South America, and, after his return in 1875, became principal of LeRoy Academic Institute at LeRoy, New York, where he remained until 1879. From 1881 to 1889 he was president of DeVeaux College, and in 1891, following the completion of his studies in Europe, he became professor of European history at Brown University. This chair he filled with distinction for twenty years, resigning because of ill health, and becoming professor emeritus.
During his long residence in Providence, Professor Munro has been active in various phases of the city’s life. For fifteen years he was a member of the Providence School Committee, and during that period was chairman of the committee on high schools. Professor Munro is also a member of the Rhode Island Historical Society, and its president for fifteen years. He was a member of the American Historical Society, the American Antiquarian Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Minnesota Historical Society, the American Geographical Society, of which he is a Fellow, the National Economic League, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and other learned societies. He was a member, in addition, of the British Empire Club of Providence, and its historian; president of Rhode Island Alpha of Phi Beta Kappa Society; a member and governor of the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars; governor of the Rhode Island Society and deputy-governor of the National Society of Mayflower Descendants; a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Barnard Club, the A. E. Club and the Churchmen’s Club, president of the last four organizations. Professor Munro is also affiliated with the Delta Phi Fraternity, Pi Gamma Mu, and the Ends of Earth Club of New York. He has traveled extensively in nearly all parts of the world, the western states and territories, Central and South America, and Europe. Throughout California and South America he traveled on horse and mule back, having crossed the Andes Mountains four times in this manner. He went to the headwaters of San Bernardino and traveled on horseback through Mexico and also crossed the great Mojave Desert. In 1872 he made a trip to San Francisco on the Pacific Mail Steamship Line and had the misfortune to be shipwrecked off the western coast of Mexico. In 1903-04 he made a trip around the world. In 1871-72 he lived, for six months, in the town of Janja, Peru, South America, for the purpose of regaining his health. It was during this time that he crossed the Andes on muleback.
Professor Munro is the author of the following published volumes: “Story of Mount Hope Lands, History of Bristol, Rhode Island,” 1880; “Picturesque Rhode Island,” 1881; “Most Successful American Privateer,” 1913; “Legends of Mount Hope,” 1915; “Tales of an Old Seaport,” 1917; and “Among the Mormons in the Days of Brigham Young,” 1927. He was also editor of a new edition of the works of W. H. Prescott, published in twenty-two volumes, in 1905-06; and of the “Record Book of the Rhode Island Society Mayflower Descendants,” published in 1911.
At Bristol, Professor Munro was a member and vestryman of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, being the sixth member of his family in direct descent through successive generations to serve as vestryman there. Since 1897 he has also been senior warden of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Providence. Professor Munro is a member of the University Club of Providence, and the Brown Club of New York.
On December 28, 1875, at St. Michael’s Church, Bristol, Rhode Island, Wilfred Harold Munro married Susan Wilkinson Goodwin, daughter of the Rev. Daniel LeBaron and Rebecca (Wilkinson) Goodwin.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.