Evan & Elizabeth Davis
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Jackson and Gallia Counties, Ohio
On this page:The history of establishing one of the most populated and famous Welsh communities in America began in 1818, when six extended families ventured from the Cilcennin area of Cardiganshire in West Wales, and crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life.
"The 1818 Welsh" settled in southeast Ohio and for many years after that only a few followed them. Gradually, from the mid 1830s onwards, more and more Welsh people were drawn to the counties of Jackson and Gallia, lured by reports in the press and the promise of new opportunities. Between 1835 and 1850, it is estimated that approx. 2,500 to 3,000 men, women and children left Cardiganshire because of poverty and instability, and established "Little Cardiganshire" in southeast Ohio.
By the end of the nineteenth century it is believed that there was a community of 4,000 - 6,000 Welsh people there.
"The 1818 Welsh" - The Early Pioneers
John Jones, Tirbach
J. Evans, Penlanlas
Evan Evans Tymawr
Lewis Davies, Rhiwlas
William Williams, Pantfallen
Thomas Evans, Pantfallen
More information about these six families can be found in:
by Virgil H Evans (English) >>
An article by A. V. Evans published in The Cambrian in 1888 (English) >>
They had a wretched and difficult voyage because of the bad weather and the conditions on board ship and unfortunately the journey was too much for the little daughter of John and Mary Evans Penlanlas and she had to be buried at sea. After a voyage of 7 weeks and 6 days, the Welsh must have been extremely glad when the ship landed in Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore on 1 July, but this wasn't the end of their journey. John Jones and his company intended to join the other Welsh people from Llanbryn-mair in Paddy's Run, in western Ohio, and so straight after landing they faced another long journey of 500 miles.
The Welsh traveled in wagons to Pittsburgh and then onwards in flat boats down the Ohio River. The men were unfamiliar with steering these boats and found it extremely hard, and the women had their worries as well as their food was becoming scarce.
The Ohio River in Gallipolis
(By permission of The Ohio Historical Society)
After traveling 100 miles, the travelers were exhausted, hungry and needed to mend the boats, and so they decided to land and stay the night near Gallipolis in southeast Ohio, where a community of French people lived. During the night the boats' ropes were either cut loose or they became loose in a storm. The Welsh feared that they had lost everything but it seems that they managed to get their boats and their belongings back safely.
Whatever had happened, the events of that night was a turning point in the story of the "the 1818 Welsh" and a milestone in the history of the emigrating from Wales to Ohio in general because the exhausted Welsh people decided to stay put rather than continue on the journey to Paddy's Run. According to one story, the women were completely fed up of traveling by now and they refused to budge a step further, but according to another story, it was the French who were mainly responsible for inciting them to stay in the area.
At that time the highway between Chillicothe and Gallipolis was being built so the men managed to find work in the area quite quickly. There was plenty of government land available to buy in the county but it seems that the Welsh had contemplated carefully before venturing to buy. John Jones went to survey the land in Radnor, Delaware County, where a community of Welsh people already lived and saw that the land there was low and flat but he was worried that the climate could foster diseases. All in all then, it seemed that buying land in the Gallipolis area was the best choice. The Welsh chose land worth $1.25 an acre, approx. 18 miles from where Centerville was later established.
"The Welsh did not like the New World very well, consequently they wrote no glowing letters back to their friends."The land of the Welsh was part of the township of Raccoon, in Gallia County, but the farm of Lewis Davies extended into the next county, and therefore he was the first Welshman to settle in Jackson County. Later on, western parts of Gallia were added to Jackson County thereby putting the families living there in the township of Madison.
J. W. Evans, The Cambrian (1883)
The living conditions of the early pioneers and the multitude of difficulties they faced are described in:
William Williams and Thomas Evans and their families moved to Delaware County in 1822 but the rest of the group stayed in the area and most of them were buried in Evans Cemetery by Moriah Church.
Emigrating on a large scaleEven though the living conditions in rural Cardiganshire did not improve at all after John Jones Tirbach and his group left, nobody else ventured to follow them to southeast Ohio for nearly 12 years. The emigrating started anew in the thirties, with families here and there packing their bags to join their former neighbors in Jackson and Gallia. More details about the Welsh people who emigrated to the area in this period can be found in
"I reckon that this state is by far the best for the Welsh to colonize ... And remember that the best place is on the southern side."Religion was an important part of the lives of these Welsh people and they must have missed worshipping in Welsh greatly because soon after arriving they started the first cause in Moriah in 1835, under the supervision of the Rev. Edward Jones from Cincinnati. Edward Jones returned to Wales in 1837 and he published a guidebook for emigrants - (The American Traveler) - which sang the praises of Ohio and describing Jackson and Gallia as the best counties to settle in. It is believed that this booklet had a substantial influence on the Cardis (people from Cardiganshire) as the emigrating on a massive scale from Cardiganshire to southeast Ohio started in the same year as the booklet was published.
"... Jackson and Gallia are only Cardiganshire on 'a larger' scale"By 1850 around 3,000 of the Cardis had crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in the area of Tyn Rhos, Moriah, Nebo, Centerville, Peniel, Oak Hill and Horeb, and according to one report in Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd, Jackson and Gallia was no more than Cardiganshire on a large scale!
Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd
MemoriesThe history of establishing some of the Welsh communities in Jackson and Gallia counties has been recorded in articles published in The Cambrian at the end of the nineteenth century, for example:
Anonymous, 'The Accidental Settlement of the Welsh in Gallia and Jackson Counties, O' >>
Anonymous, 'The Welsh Settlements in Ohio - Gallia and Jackson' >>
Anonymous, 'Hewitt's Fork, Jackson Co., O' >>
Anonymous, 'Horeb, Jackson County, Ohio. By a Fostered Son' >>
A. V. Evans, 'A History of the First Welsh Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio' (Part 1); (Part 2) >>]
D. J. Evans, 'First Settlers in the Horeb Neighborhood ..' >>
J. W. Evans, 'The Founders of the Welsh Settlement in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio' >>
Bydd melys lanio draw,
'Rôl dod o don i don,
Ac mi rof ffarwel maes o law
I'r ddaear hon.
(Sweet will be the landing over there,
After coming wave on wave,
And I'll say my farewells
Eventually to this earth.)
Many of the emigrants suffered greatly after reaching their journey's end and the story of one family from Llannon, Cardiganshire, is an example of the poverty suffered by some emigrants. John and Mary Lloyd and their children emigrated in 1840 and they settled on fairly poor land in Cooper Hollow in the north of the township of Madison, Jackson County. According to their grandson, , they needed a cow to feed the children but they didn't have enough money to buy on. But John managed to arrange to pay $7 for a good cow from a neighbor from the money he was about to earn working on a new canal in Logan county. But John fell ill with the dysentery within days in Logan and his brother-in-law borrowed a two-wheel cart to take him home and he died the following day. Another child was born to Mary and John seven months later but it did not live long and a short while afterwards their two-year old became ill with children's paralysis. Mary didn't have to pay back the $7 to her neighbor after that. Even though her circumstances improved slightly after remarrying, she had quite a hard life and apparently she used to walk 15 miles from her home to Gallipolis with a basket of eggs on her head to sell in the market there when she was an old woman. She was 71 years old when she died.
Our Heritage, edited by Evan E. Davis, includes memories and stories by some of the emigrants from Cardiganshire, and members of the Welsh community formed in the Tyn Rhos neighborhood:
Ann Richards was a widow from the parish of Cilcennin and she was 70 years old when she and her children and grandchildren emigrated in 1840.
Reminiscences of a different sort happened in 1946 when a special radio program was broadcasted between Ohio and Cilcennin. The broadcast included the voice of Dan T. Davis in Oak Hill and voices from Wales discussing the pioneers and how the Cilcennin John Jones Tirbach had left in 1818 differed from the Cilcennin in 1946. There is no copy of the original broadcast in Wales but there is a script of it in the National Library of Wales (see below). Apparently there is a copy in vinyl record form available in Ohio.
The Rev. Stephen Morgan was born in Tyn Rhos, in the parish of Nantcwnlle, Wales and he has an avid interest in the history of the emigrating from his native neighborhood. He wrote a drama called "Melys Glanio Draw" (Sweet will be the landing over there) about the emigration from Wales and the history of John Jones Tyn Rhos and his family and it was performed in Felinfach Theatre, which is about 2 - 3 miles from Cilcennin, at the end of the 1990s.
In 2004 a pantomime was performed - "Oi Oi Oi Ohio" - in the same theatre.
Horeb (1838), Centerville (1840), Bethel (1841), Soar (1841), Sardis (1843), Bethania (1847), Tabor (1848), Oak Hill (1850), Bethesda (1856), Salem (1862), Peniel (1870), Jackson (1880) and Coalton (1881).
More information about these churches, the ministers who served them and their Sunday Schools can be found in:
"It is a land of the Bible, of preaching, and of Sunday Schools, much like a more privileged Wales."The long list of churches established between 1835 and 1880 is very revealing about the attitude of the emigrants from Wales and their way of life. Religion was a central part of their everyday lives and it was with the gospel in their heart and their Bibles in their arms that many of them came to Ohio. They were dutiful to the religious tradition of their upbringing and after arriving in the new land the emigrants tried to continue that tradition.
The Welsh established 37 Sunday and church schools in southeast Ohio and according to the Rev. R. D. Thomas in (The History of the Welsh in America) (1872), there were 30 C.M. churches in Ohio in 1871 with 1,997 full members and 6,350 attending services. The Congregationalists had 40 churches with 2,490 members and 5,490 going to the services. The Baptists had 18 churches with 845 members and 1,900 attending.
John Jones Tyn Rhos
The Tyn Rhos cause was established by twelve Welsh emigrants and it was them who built the simple wooden chapel - the old Tyn Rhos chapel. The original chapel is still standing today and you can watch Elizabeth Davis showing it to Professor Hazel Walford Davies on the Welsh-language program "Breuddwyd Pedair" by clicking on the image below (Welsh only)>>
Very soon, the wooden chapel was much too small for the expanding congregation and in 1852 another chapel was built, a stone's throw from the original chapel.
It is possible to read more about the history of Tyn Rhos, as well as the memories of some of the Welsh people who worshipped there, in:
in The Saga of The Central South Welsh Congregational Association and Y Gymanfa (1840 - 1954) (English);
(English) and (English) in Our Heritage.
Establishing the Tyn Rhos cause was not the only contribution made by John Jones to the Welsh community in the lower part of Ohio. It is very possible that he influenced his former neighbors and friends in Wales and tempted them to join him and hundreds and hundreds of other Welsh people in Jackson and Gallia counties. He boasted about the new opportunities and the land in these areas.
"Almost every kind of grain is raised here ... There are good oats, and the corn and the potatoes and beans look fine. There is a good place for every kind of fruit here, and a man can live here comfortably enough, if he makes a little effort with [the help of providence.". John Jones, Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd, p.246The opportunity to own their own land was a great incentive for the first Welsh people who went out to Ohio and therefore what Jones had to say in a letter in 1845 must have greatly appealed to many prospective emigrants. If the land was cultivated in the same way as it is cultivated in Wales, he said, extensive crops could be grown there. He emphasized as well that there was plenty of work available for the Welsh people in the iron industry and that workers could earn between $12 and $15 a month as well as their bed and board. This letter is sure to have instigated many discussions, and its contents carefully deliberated back in Wales.
The letter from John Jones Tyn Rhos is available in full here (Welsh only) >>
Anne Kelly Knowles noted that the Jackson and Gallia area was unusual amongst the rural Welsh communities in America as it offered opportunities to emigrants in different industries as well as in agriculture. This Welsh community in Jackson and Gallia was a community of Welsh agriculturalists in the first half of the nineteenth century but it was also part of a much larger local economy which included the iron industry.
The nature of the rural community was revolutionized when the railroad arrived in Jackson County in August 1853. The effect of the railroad on the area and how Oak Hill was formed in the wake of its arrival is described by Evan E. Davis in
The railroad sustained the iron furnaces of course, and during this period the iron industry - and the area called "Hanging Rock iron district" - was quickly spreading north towards the Welsh communities. The Welsh soon realized that they had an opportunity to embrace this new industry and be part of it.
"Seeing them [Americans] sweeping all before them, it came to mind among some of the Welsh to take a stab at what they could do." Thomas Ll. Hughes, Y Cyfaill o'r Hen Wlad (April, 1854), p.153There were many factors in their favor: the raw materials needed to develop the industry were already there: hard wood, iron ore and limestone. In addition to this, many of the Welsh had already had experience of the iron industry, and they therefore had the necessary skills to succeed. And so in 1854, some families in the Horeb neighborhood decided to build furnaces. gives the history of some of the Welsh people who founded the first industries (English) >>
As there were no individuals rich enough to fund these new ventures, they had to think of other ways of starting up, and their solution was to exchange the deeds of their land for shares in the furnace companies. By doing this, the majority managed to keep hold of the ownership of their homes and buildings on the farm as well as keep the right to farm the land. They were also being faithful to their principles by avoiding being in debt. Three iron furnaces were established in Jackson County -Jefferson, Cambria and Limestone.
In a letter to her relations in the Llanarth area, Cardiganshire, Martha James described some of the changes she saw at the start of the fifties:
"There is a great difference now from when we came here [circa 1837] The land has risen such that one cannot get land near these parts short of 15 to 20 dollars per acre if houses and water and everything are convenient ... The [iron] works are coming along well throughout the land, new furnaces are being built, two of them within five miles or less from us, and a rail road runs through the country from New York to Cincinaty and from there to the State of Virginia, to Pittsburgh and Baltimore [and there are] branches of them coming within six miles of us. This has helped prices here and the awful war in the east has raised the price of labor ..."
The shareholders of Jefferson had some considerable success and by 1870 there were many very rich Welsh people in the community of Horeb but that industrial success was
"the organizers and stockholders of Jefferson Furnace were endowed with rare ability and wisdom. This group and their relatives later invested their capital or talents in numerous other local industries."deeply rooted in the Calvinistic teaching taught to them in their native country. They made every effort to avoid being in any debt, the Sabbath was always respected and they ran their companies very similarly to the way they ran their chapels. Ten of the original investors in Jefferson were deacons in the chapel and they took the values and procedures they were familiar with to keep everything in order in the running of the chapel and its associations, and adapted them for business.
Evan E. Davis, , p.153
Jefferson's furnace is considered to be the mother of the other industries which developed in the area because the furnace's shareholders invested their money and business skills in the and works of Oak Hill.
The presentEven though 190 years have gone past since The "1818 Welsh" settled in southeast Ohio, the links between the Welsh and this part of the state continue to flourish and an effort is continually made to promote and keep the Welsh culture alive and to ensure that the history of the Welsh emigration is kept on record. In September 2006 for example, the 134th annual Gymanfa Ganu was held in Tyn Rhos Church!
In 1972, the Welsh-American Heritage Museum was established in Oak Hill by Mildred Jenkins Bangert, Evan E. Davis, Ben R. Evans, D. Paul Morgan, the Rev. James A.M. Hanna and many other supporters. Financial support for the venture was received from the Evan E. Davis family and the Oak Hill Savings Bank. The Museum's unique collection reflects the lives of the Welsh people of Oak Hill and America in general and a short video clip of it can be seen through clicking on the image on the right (Welsh only).
Some of the earlier leaflets of the Museum have been digitized as part of the Wales-Ohio Project: ; ;
In 1996, a unique center was established in the University of Rio Grande, Gallia County. The mission of the Madog Center for Welsh Studies is "to promote a further understanding and appreciation of the Welsh heritage within the University of Rio Grande and its surrounding community". The Center is now located in a building named in honor of Elizabeth F. Davis. Visit the Madog Center website for more information.
Digitized materials held at NLW
Manuscripts and archives
The David Greenslade Archive:
Nebo Congregational Church - 111 Years: The Ninety-Ninth Welsh Gymanfa of The Central South East Ohio Association of The United Church of Christ
The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Welsh Gymanfa: The Annual Conference
Tyn Rhos and Nebo (1972)
The One Hundred Third Gymanfa: The Annual Conference
Welsh-American Heritage Museum, Oak Hill (1975)
The One Hundred Ninth Gymanfa: The Annual Conference
Welsh-American Heritage Museum, Oak Hill (1981)
The One Hundred Tenth Gymanfa: The Annual Conference
Tyn Rhos (1982)
Oak Hill, Ohio - Now 1976 and Then 1876
It includes "A Glimpse of the Past" by Mildred Jenkins Bangert and a poem by David E. Jenkins - "The Old Welsh Church"
"Gŵyl Dewi Sant Gwledd", Oak Hill (3 March 1980)
"Gŵyl Dewi Sant Gwledd", Oak Hill (6 March 1982)
"Gŵyl Dewi Sant Gwledd", Oak Hill (5 February 1983)
. Translated by Phillips G. Davies, , edited by Lillian Thomas Brownfield.
(Only available in Welsh)
(Only available in Welsh)
Additional material in the National Library of Wales
The Library also has a script for a special radio program broadcasted in Ohio (10 January 1946) and Wales (27 January 1946).
BBC - BOX 74
Clicennin - Ohio (Welsh part of the program broadcasted on 27 January 1946)
Written and produced by P. H. Burton.
Philip Phillips - Narrator
Tom Jones - John Jones
Arthur Phillips - Voice 1 and the Driver
The differences between Cilcennin 1946 and Cilcennin 1818 are discussed. The reasons why the residents of Cilcennin emigrated to America are stated: living conditions after the Napoleonic Wars, high rents and taxes and the tithe. John Jones is portrayed as a powerful leader who possible knew some of those who had already settled in Paddy's Run.
Materials digitized in Ohio
Archives and manuscripts
The following collections also contain material on the Welsh in Jackson and Gallia Counties:
Madog Center & Greer Museum Collection, University of Rio Grande; Welsh-American Heritage Museum Collection, Oak, Hill; Evan and Elizabeth Davis Collection; Evan John Davis - collection of photographs; Jeanne Jones Jindra Collection; James H Lloyd Collection; Mary Ellen Morgan Collection; Marilyn Davis Payne Collection.
Ben R. Evans, Memories of Tyn Rhos, Welsh Congregational Church, Gallia County, Ohio (1976). Published later in .
Anne Kelly Knowles, Calvinists incorporated: Welsh immigrants on Ohio's industrial frontier (Chicago, 1997)
J. P. Morgans, Cofiant y Parch. Robert Williams, Moriah, Ohio: yr hwn a fu farw Medi 10fed, 1876; yn nghyda sylwadau coffadwriaethol am ei anwyl ferch Mrs. Mary Parry (The biography of the Rev. Robert Williams, Moriah, who died on September 10th 1876, as well as notes in memory of his dear daughter, Mrs Mary Parry) (Utica, 1883)
Anon, 'The Accidental Settlement of the Welsh in Gallia and Jackson Counties, O', The Cambrian, Volume III, No. 3 (May/June 1883), pp. 129-131.
Anon, 'The Welsh Settlements in Ohio - Gallia and Jackson', The Cambrian, Volume VI, No. 2 (February 1886), pp. 46-49.
Anon, 'Hewitt's Fork, Jackson Co., O', The Cambrian, Volume I, No. 6 (1881), pp. 221-6.
Anon, 'Horeb, Jackson County, Ohio. By a Fostered Son', The Cambrian, Volume V, No. 2 (February 1885), pp. 45-51.
'Hwyl Eisteddfod yn Ohio', Y Ford Gron, Vol.1, no.2, Dec 1930, p.26 - article only available in Welsh.
A. V. Evans, 'A History of the First Welsh Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio' (in two parts), The Cambrian, Volume VIII, No. 11 (November - December 1888), pp. 322-5; No. 12 (November - December 1888), pp. 355-7.
D. J. Evans, 'First Settlers in the Horeb Neighborhood (Jackson Co., Ohio)', The Cambrian, Volume V, No. 2 (1885), p. 52.
J. W. Evans, 'The Founders of the Welsh Settlement in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio', The Cambrian, Volume III, No. 6 (November/December 1883), pp. 286-287.
David Lewis Jones, 'The Colonel, The Judge and Cilcennin', Cardiganshire Family History Society, Vol 3, No. 1 (February 2002), pp. 17 - 21.
The Rev. E. I. Jones, 'The Early Welsh Churches of Jackson and Gallia Counties, Ohio' The Cambrian, Volume XXIII, No. 2 (February 1903), pp. 53 - 60.
John Jones, 'Hanesiaeth Gartrefol: Sefydlfa Gymreig Swydd Gallia', Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd, Volume VI, No. 68 (August 1845), pp. 246-7.
William Harvey Jones, 'Welsh Settlements in Ohio', (in three parts) The Cambrian, Volume XXVII, No. 9 (July-September 1907), pp. 395-9.
David A. Lloyd, 'The Moriah Calvinistic Methodist Church, Jackson County, Ohio', The Cambrian, Vol. IV, No. 4 (April 1884), pp. 108 - 111.
Newspaper articles about the ceremony held in Aberaeron to plant an oak tree in remembrance of the Welsh people who emigrated to southeast Ohio:
'Prelude To The Oak Hill Rush', The Cambrian News (11 May 1979), p.20.
'Tree', The Cambrian News (18 May 1979), p.14.
'Oak Tree Ceremony on Friday', The Cambrian News (25 May 1979), p.1.
Oak Hill Welsh Museum Catalogue
The introduction includes the history of the Welsh communities of Jackson and Gallia counties by Dr Marcella Barton, former Director of Madog Center, the University of Rio Grande.
Rio Grande University
Oak Hill Welsh-American Heritage Museum
Ohio Historical Markers
Cilcennin Cyntaf ... for and about the community of Cilcennin