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"Hanes Cymry America" (A History of the Welsh in America) by Rev. Robert David Thomas, 1872. (Translated by Phillips G. Davies, Ph.D. Lanham, MD: Univeristy Press of America, 1983)

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CHAPTER V. Iowa--The Settlements and the Welsh Churches


[This account seems to be as of November 1870]

   2. WILLIAMSBURGH [SIC], Stellapolis P. O., near Marengo, Iowa Co., Iowa. This Welsh agricultural settlement is about 26 miles to the west of Old Man's Creek, and about 10 miles to the southwest of Marengo, the county seat of Iowa



county. The town is located on the railroad, about 84 miles from Davenport and 30 miles from Iowa City. There is very good land for miles around the small settlement of Williamsburgh which is located on a low hill, along the banks of Old Man's Creek which is but a small stream here. Its source is only a few miles to the northwest. This place is surrounded by thousands of acres of good land which is still in the hands of the speculators and which can be bought for from $5 to $12 an acre for ready money. But most of the wooded land has already been taken. it is likely that hundreds of Welsh families will settle near there in the space of the next ten months. It certainly is very fruitful and fertile land; and when the railroad runs from the south to the north, through Williamsburg, this village will come to be a center of trade and an important town and the value of the land will double. Now is the time to immigrate and settle there. It has excellent land for growing hay, wheat, corn, etc. The groves of trees and the rolling prairies make the land remarkably beautiful. And after various kinds of trees are planted and cultivated, it will be even more beautiful.

[the following passage translated by Gwawr Jones, Bangor, Wales, 2002]
   The first Welsh settlers in the place were: Evan D. Evans and his spouse, from Carno, Llanbrynmair; Richard Pugh, from Llanbrynmair, and his spouse, from Carno; William Evans, from Felin y 'Forge' [the mill of the forge], Meifod, and his spouse, from Pontrobert, Montgomeryshire, North Wales. They emigrated from Wales in 1840 and 1841, and were for some time in Cincinnati, Ohio; and in Autumn/October 1844 [The Welsh word 'Hydref' can mean either the month or the season] they left there for Iowa, and settled near to one another, under the groves of trees near 'The Indian Graves', within about a mile and a half to the place where Williamsburgh village stands today. They built log houses there, and lived in them for many years, and had very hard times there. After this they built good houses at the side of the road that leads to the village of Williamsburgh. Richard Pugh died in 1850, and Mr. Williams (Second husband to Mrs Pugh) July 9, 1860; and Wm.Evans on March 1, 1870; but Evan D. Evans, and the widows Mrs Wm. Evans, and Mrs Richard Williams (formerly Mrs Pugh), were alive and well on their fine small-holdings in November, 1870. When they first came there, they were truly religious people with the Independents; some of them died in peace; and those who still live,



with their children, are still faithful members of the Independent Church in the place. In 1846, David and Jane Evans, from Carno, came there (parents of the two Evanses, and of Mrs Pugh, who later became Mrs Williams); they came there in the Spring, and they died in the Fall, on the same day, within a half an hour of each other; and they were buried on Evan D. Evans' land, near the trees. He was 60 years old, and she was 63 years old. In 1849, John Watkins of Carno came there; he is a brother-in-law of Evan D. Evans, and he still lives near him.

[translation by Davies, continues]
In September 1854 Lewis Williams, the oldest son of my old faithful friend Henry Williams of Rome, N. Y., and formerly of the Machynlleth, North Wales area, came to live there. At about the same time William Rowlands, a doctor, came; he later moved to Oskaloosa, and from there to Bartholomew, Drew Co., Arkansas. Hugh Evans and his wife, formerly of Penegoes, North Wales, came there in 1855; John Hughes (son of the Rev. Hugh Hughes (Congregational), from Palmyra, Ohio and formerly of Penllys, Montgomeryshire) North Wales and his family came there in September 1856. He is the postmaster there now. These were the first settlers. When they were first there neither roads nor bridges had yet been built; they traveled across the prairies for about 25 to 30 miles, along Old Man's Creek, to buy and sell in Iowa City and in Muscatine on the banks of the Mississippi. At times it took them eight days to go and return! Land was selling for $1.25 an acre, but the prices of everything they sold were very low.

   At the end of the year 1870, this Welsh settlement had about 70 Welsh familes, numbering about 350 people in all. I give a list of their names, their origins, and the time when they came there:


Evan D. Evans       Carno, Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1844
Mrs. R. Williams    Carno, Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1844
Mrs. William Evans  Carno, Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1844
John Watkins        Carno, Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1849
Lewis H. Williams   Machynlleth
                    Montgomeryshire            1854


John D. Evans       Machynlleth
                    Montgomeryshire            1855
Hugh C. Evans       Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1855
John Hughes         Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1855
Rowland Davies      Merioneth, North Wales     1856
John W. Jones       Merioneth, North Wales     1856
Lewis Jones         Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1856
Thomas Ellis        Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1856
Benjamin Harris     Monmouthshire, South Wales 1857
Edward Edwards      Monmouthshire, South Wales 1857
William R. Jones    Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1858
William Jones       Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1858
David Jenkins       Aberdar, North Wales       1858
Rev. Evan J. Evans  Llanegryn, Merioneth       1858
William E. Evans    Flintshire, North Wales    1859
John L. Hughes      Anglesey, North Wales      1860
Robert L. Hughes    Anglesey, North Wales      1860
Mrs. William
  D. Jones          Anglesey, North Wales      1860
John J. Jones       Ffestiniog, Merioneth      1862
Thomas Evan         Merthyr, South Wales       1863
Thomas Perkins      Llangyfelach, Glamorgan    1863
Roger Jones         Ruthin, Norht Wales        1863
David T. Jones      Dowlais, South Wales       1864
Richard Richards    Merthyr, South Wales       1864
Thomas Rogers       Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1864
John Jones          Breconshire, South Wales   1864
Thomas A. Jones     Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1864
John J. Jones       Breconshire, South Wales   1864
David J. Jones      Breconshire, South Wales   1864
John Davies         Pembrokeshire, South Wales 1864
Mrs. Henry Davies   Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1865
Robert W. Roberts   Ffestiniog, North Wales    1866
Thomas Hughes       Treffynon, Flintshire      1866
Thomas M. Davies    Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1865
Morgan Thomas       Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1867
Lewis D. Jones      Carmarthenshire,
                    South Wales                1867
William M. Davies   Maldwyn, North Wales       1867
Nicholas Lewis      Pontypridd, Glamorgan      1868


David R. Evans      Aberdar, South Wales       1868
John James          Glamorgan, South Wales     1868
Thomas J. Jones     Breconshire, South Wales   1868
Job S. Williams     Cardiganshire, South Wales 1868
Robert Powell       Caernarvonshire,
                    North Wales                1868
Edward H. Jones     Oneida Co., N. Y.          1868
Edward Roberts      Merioneth, North Wales     1868
John Roberts        Merioneth, North Wales     1868
Edward Blythyn      Flintshire, North Wales    1868
James Thomas        Monmouthshire, South Wales 1868
Richard Thomas      Llanidloes, North Wales    1868
Mr. Richard J.
  Jones (Calvinistic
  Methodist)        Merioneth, North Wales     1868
Owen R. Jones       Steuben, N. Y.             1868
David Roberts       Ffestiniog, Merioneth      1869
William Williams    Ffestiniog, Merioneth      1869
Richard Gittins     Llanfihangel,
                    Montgomeryshire            1869
Rev. David Price    Dinbych [Denbigh],
  (Congregational)  North Wales                1869
John O Hughes       Anglesey, North Wales      1869
Thomas J. Davies    Glamorgan, South Wales     1869
David Morgan        Aberdar, South Wales       1869
Robert Thomas       Aberdar, South Wales       1869
Robert C. Jones     Caernarvonshire,
                    North Wales                1869
Henry Jones         Caernarvonshire,
                    North Wales                1870
Moses Edwards       Dinbych [Denbigh],
                    North Wales                1870
Richard W. Thomas   Oneida Co., N. Y.          1870
David H. Jones      Montgomeryshire,
                    North Wales                1870
John D. Evans       Dinbych [Denbigh],
                    North Wales                1870

   The Welsh Congregational Church in Williamsburgh, Iowa. The first settlers were Congregationalists. They moved their prayer meetings Sunday School from house to house for years, and it was about four years before they had a preacher. The Rev. David Knowles of Long Creek was the first to preach there. After that came the Rev. George Lewis, minister of the church at Old Man's Creek, and he preached for three weeks. On September 18, 1856 the Rev. Jonathan Thomas of Ohio came on a visit there. He is was [sic] who founded the Congregational church in the house of William Evans. (See the story in the Cenhadwr [Missionary]



for January 1857). The Rev. Evan J. Evans ministered faithfully from September 1858 until May 1859 [probably 18691.], and he and his numerous family live very comfortably there yet. The Rev. David Price (Dewi Dinorwig)2 began to serve there in the summer of 1869. He is still there, both respected and hardworking. The chapel was built and the debt was paid in the time of Rev. Evan J. Evans. It is a small, beautiful, and convenient one and stands in the center of the village. It is a strong church and has a good Sunday School and a numerous congregation. The deacons are John Hughes, Lewis H. Williams and others. The church and the congregation are scattered, for there are few people in the village. It contains a good public schoolroom, two English-speaking churches, the Congregational and the Wesleyan, two stores and a post office. William Evans, a blacksmith, John Hughes, a plasterer, William M. Davies, a shoemaker, and Roger Jones, a Joiner, live there. They had neither a tailor nor a doctor at the end of the year 1870.

   The Church of the Calvinistic Methodists in Williamsburgh, Iowa. A small number began to hold prayer meetings in the house of Mr. Roger Jones at the end of February 1868 when a preacher who belonged to their denomination, one Richard J. Jones, settled in their midst. There was occasional preaching in the Jones house and later in the school. The church was incorporated by the Rev. E. Salisbury and Mr. Richard Jones; and in the spring of 1869, the church was received into the Wisconsin Assembly, and this church and the churches in Welsh Prairie and Long Creek were made a separate division under the Assembly's control.

   About the same time another preacher, Mr. James Thomas, came to live in the district; and from that time until the present, they preach there regularly every Sunday, and the sacraments are administered by the Rev. Ebenezer Salisbury. Sunday School 30, members 31, a small congregation. They have not chosen their officers yet, their places being filled by the two preachers. John O. Hughes, formerly of Remsen, N. Y., is the Treasurer, and Roger Jones, formerly of Racine, Wis., is the Secretary. They have already built a good small church, 30 by 30 feet, in the village; it is valued at $1,200.



Bracketed [] comments by the transcriber, Stephen D. Williams, except for "[Missionary]", by the author and those within the Gwawr Jones translation by Gwawr Jones.
1 The orginal Welsh language book also shows May 1859, but this seems to be a typographical error.
2 "Dewi Donrwig" is David Price's bardic name.