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Home > Places > Allen County, Ohio > Gomer, Ohio

Gomer, Allen County, Ohio

Land purchase

In March 1833, three Welshmen traveled 140 miles from Paddy's Run to see what sort of land was for sale to pioneers at Sugar Creek Township. This was a flat, wooded area in the north-west of the county, where the Shawnee Indians had once lived. By the early thirties of the nineteenth century most of the Indians had left, and the land could be bought from the government for $1.25 acre. The three men must have found suitable land, because they returned - with their families - six months later.

The Welsh Pioneers

Thomas and Jane Evans Watkins

Thomas and Jane Evans Watkins
Thomas Watkins (on the left), James Nicholas and David Roberts were the first Welsh pioneers to settle in this part of the state of Ohio, later named Gomer.

digital library documentFurther information about the pioneers and their families (English) >>

The three families arrived on 13 September 1833 but had to live in their wagons in the forest for the first month while the log cabins were being built.

Pike Run Cemetery (courtesy of Mark Gierhart)

Pike Run Cemetery
(courtesy of Mark Gierhart)
Tragedy soon struck David and Anna Roberts. On 6 October 1833, less than three weeks after their arrival, Mary, their six-year old daughter, died, and then their two year old son, David, died six days later. Both children were buried in the forest, and the spot eventually became a cemetery for the inhabitants of the Pike Run and Gomer area.

"The First Funeral in Gomer, O" was published by the Rev. B. W. Chidlaw in The Cambrian in 1882. View the article (English) >>

Mary Nicholas, wife of James Nicholas, died in 1894. Particulars of her life, her family and her funeral were published in The Cambrian in the same year.

Read the brief obituary (English) >>

In November 1834, more settlers, Evan Jones, John Watkins, John R. Jones and their families, moved from Paddy's Run to live in the area, and during the following two years David Morgans, Rowland Jones, Thomas G. Jones, Joseph Griffiths, John Stephen(s), Evan Morgan, Richard Richards, John Morgans, William and Thomas Roberts, John D. Jones and Cadwaladr Jones arrived. There are believed to have been about 15 Welsh families at Sugar Creek by 1836.

This was the beginning of the steady stream of Welsh settlers moving into the area. The inhabitants of Paddy's Run and other Welsh communities in America came to hear of the new community and reports about it were of course sent back home to Wales. In 1839, when digital library documentYr American was published, the Rev. B. W. Chidlaw estimated that there were between 40 and 50 Welsh families in the Putnam and Van Wert areas and that more were still moving in.

digital library documentRead Chidlaw's description of the land and of the prices of homesteads in the area (available in Welsh only) >>

Leatherwood

Leatherwood

Leatherwood
Some of the Welsh settled in the Leatherwood area, about three miles west of Gomer. The first Welsh settlers are believed to have bought land there in 1834 and Daniel D. Jones and his wife Martha are thought to have arrived sometime before 15 January 1844, when their first child, Evan, was born. The recollections of some of the area's inhabitants were published in Gomer's First 150 Years.

digital library documentRead the account (English) >>


Hardship

The life of the early pioneers was full of difficulties and hardship. There were no roads or railroads or canals, only a forest covering the fruitful but wet land of Ohio's Great Black Swamp. Little by little this land was cleared, but a number of accidental deaths were recorded in the early days.

Turn to an article published in The Cambrian in 1883 for an account of some fatalities while tree-felling (English) >>

The living conditions of the new community were described by a writer born there in 1841, David D. Nicholas, son of James Nicholas. He recorded his recollections of the first cabins built, as well as a description of the work of the women, cooking, going to market and making clothes and soap.

digital library documentRead his recollections (English) >>

A destination for settlers from Montgomeryshire

Sugar Creek Township was mainly a destination for Welsh settlers from Llanbryn-mair, Carno and the neighboring villages. Following the arrival in 1848 of William Jones (Tawelfan) and Richard Breese (Coed) and the Montgomeryshire Welsh settlers who accompanied them, the community and the church flourished.

When Iorthryn Gwynedd visited the area in 1851 a great number o people from Montgomeryshire had long settled there and he set about recording where the Welsh people lived, the cemetery, the schoolhouse and the chapel on a sketch of the area.

digital library documentTurn to "Brâs-Ddarlun o'r Sefydliadau Cymreig yn Sugar Creek, Allen Co. O" and the list of addresses (Welsh) >>

The growth of the Welsh community at Gomer

"... it is now one of the chief Welsh agricultural settlements in America."digital library documentHanes Cymry America (A History of the Welsh in America), p.110
James Nicholas and Samuel Ramsey are believed to have been the persons responsible for laying out or planning the village of Gomer in 1850. John W. Thomas asked whether he could choose a name for it and was given permission to name it 'Gomer'. In 1852 a grocery and dry goods store was opened in Gomer by William W. Williams and the Post Office was opened in the same year.

digital library documentFurther information about businesses in the village (English) >>

digital library documentA history of the area's education system, from its beginnings in 1833 can be found in Gomer's First 150 Years >>

The majority of the area's population were farmers, as indicated by the list below:
NamePlace of birthBusinessDate of arrival in Allen County
James Nicholas Ohio Dealer in farm implements 1833
R. E. Jones North Wales Doctor 1848
J. P. Williams South Wales Minister and farmer 1874
John Evans South Wales Farmer 1843
Josiah Jones North Wales Undertaker and farmer 1851
Israel Jones North Wales Farmer 1853
Joseph Thomas South Wales Farmer 1842
Ellis Francis North Wales Farmer 1862
David Jones South Wales Minister 1870
J. D. Edwards Ohio Dry goods dealer 1841
William Evans South Wales Livestock dealer and farmer 1868

The above information was taken from Historical Atlas of Allen County, Ohio, compiled by Charles H. Jones with the assistance of Theodore F. Hamilton. Published by H. H. Hardesty & Co. Publishers, Chicago, in 1875.

One of the most interesting items digitized as part of this project is NLW 14111D, a series of letters home to Llanbryn-mair from Edward Peat. The collection provides us with a glimpse of the nature of Welsh society in Gomer between 1868 and 1883.

Go to NLW 14111D: The Letters of Edward Peat (Features) or go directly to browsedigital library documentthe manuscript. (Welsh with some English translations) >>

House building

"Help is available to build a new house, they call them log houses and they are fine ones ... They put them up them in a day, and then plaster them on the inside, and they are very warm."
digital library documentNLW 14111D
Soon after arriving in the United States, Edward, eldest son of Edward and Elizabeth Peat, succeeded in finding work as a bricklayer in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and when the family moved to Gomer he was busy building houses in the area. There are a number of references in letters to his father to the "fine" houses being built in Gomer. In a digital library documentletter dated 20 March 1869 for example, he describes some of the Welsh settlers' new homes.

Substantial houses began to be erected along Gomer's Main Street around 1874 and apparently David. D. Nicholas planted maples along the streets at the same period. According to Edward Peat, digital library document"11 fine houses" had been erected in the village by about 1876.

It was the excellent construction and quality of the Welsh homes in Allen and Putnam counties which were responsible for their being chosen for inclusion in the National Register of Historical Places in 1980.

digital library documentFurther information on the clay brick houses can be found in Gomer's First 150 Years (English) >>


The Farm of Thomas Watkins

The Farm of Thomas Watkins
Typical Welsh-American farmstead

Typical Welsh-American farmstead
The image on the left shows the farm of Zachariah Evans in Gomer. He was born in Llanbryn-mair on 11 August 1811 and emigrated to America in 1849. When this photograph was taken, the farm was occupied by Everett Evans, a third generation descendant of Zachariah Evans.



Worship

The Welsh settlers in the area began coming together for worship in 1835. The first meeting was held at the home of David Morgan and it was at that meeting that the decision was taken to hold a Prayer Meeting every Sunday morning at the home of Thomas Watkins and the Sunday School at the home of Rowland Jones every Sunday afternoon. This went on for about four years. Soon after this system had been established, an arrangement was made for Mr. John W. Thomas, a native of Llanidloes, to come from Lima to preach in Thomas Watkins's barn from time to time. The Rev. B. W. Chidlaw visited the area and he too preached in the same barn. The Gomer Congregational Church was also set up there in 1839. The early history of that Church has been published in Y Cenhadwr:Josiah Jones, 'Yr Eglwys Gynulleidfaol yn Gomer: Cychwyniad a Chynydd yr Eglwys Gyn. yn Gomer, Allen Co., O', Y Cenhadwr (April, 1867), pp.102-7.
The history of the area's Churches has also been recorded in:
digital library documentGomer's First 150 Years >>
digital library documentUnited Church of Christ, Gomer, Ohio : 150th anniversary 1839 1989 >>

The letters of Edward Peat (NLW 14111D) include a number of references to the chapel at Gomer. Turn to some of his letters, for example:
Services in the area: digital library documentletter dated 20 December 1973 (Welsh; English translation) >>
The new Chapel and the minister: digital library documentletter dated 7 December 1975 (Welsh; English translation) >>
The cost of building the new Chapel at Gomer: digital library documentletter dated 18 March 1976 (Welsh; English translation) >>

Josiah Jones (Josiah Brynmair) - 1807 - 1887


Josiah Jones

Josiah Jones
Josiah Jones was born on 4 July 1807 at Braichodnant, Llanbryn-mair. He married Mary Hughes, of Bryncoch, Llanbryn-mair in 1833 and they had eight children. The family emigrated to the United States in 1850, settling in the Gomer area.

Josiah Jones was a farmer, but he also worked as an undertaker in the Gomer area. He was elected to the posts of deacon and Chapel secretary soon after his arrival, serving faithfully in both positions till his death.

Josiah was a learned and able man. Poetry and articles by 'Josiah Brynmair' were published in periodicals such as Y Cenhadwr, Y Drych, Y Cronicl and the Dysgedydd but he is chiefly remembered for his gift as a composer of hymns and carols.

Before his departure from Wales, he worked with S.R. (the Rev. Samuel Roberts) to prepare Casgliad o dros Ddwy Fil o Hymnau (1841). Sixteen of his hymns were included in the collection, numbers 46, 88, 356, 607, 791, 792, 879, 967, 970, 986, 1158, 1283, 1390, 1560 and 1562. He composed his best-known hymn - "O! am ysbryd i weddïo" - in Llanbryn-mair in 1825. This was the period, he said, "when the prayer meetings in the area were very animated". In an article entitled 'Josiah Bryn-mair - Emynydd Anfarwol', R. Gwylfa Roberts said:
"This was a hymn of whose lasting quality no one can be in any doubt . It has taken hold of the Welsh heart, and has become a part of the experience of the Christian in our land; a hymn to remember and to sing, to recite and to treasure; and had Josiah Bryn-mair written not one line more, his place is assured among the immortal hymn-writers of our nation."
The hymn was included in Y Llawlyfr Moliant Newydd (number 440).

Further reading:
Angela Bennett, 'Josiah Brynmair', Bwletin Cymdeithas Emynau Cymru 2 (1985/86), pp.248-9 - article only available in Welsh.
D. Densil Morgan, 'Y daith i fro Joseia', Barn 345 (1991), pp. 13-5.
R. Gwylfa Roberts, 'Josiah Brynmair - Emynydd Anfarwol', Y Dysgedydd, August 1914, pp. 363-73.
W. Meirion Davies, 'Josiah Brynmair a'i Emynyddiaeth', Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd, Vol. LVIII (1897), pp.77-80.
Josiah Brynmair, Dwy Garol Nadolig: ynghyd a byr-oes hanes (18--).
Josiah Jones, A History of the Gomer Welsh Church (1870).

The Gymanfa Ganu and the Eisteddfod

It was probably in 1846 that the first Gymanfa Ganu held in Gomer. We do not know how many were present that year but 7 ministers attended from the Churches in Gomer, Oak Hill, Cincinnati, Radnor, Paddy's Run, Newark and Granville to take part in the program.

"Well, - Dafydd was with the 'Gomer Choir' in Columbus, on Christmas Day - about 150 miles from here, and they took the prize - 100 Dollars - for the Main piece, and 30 Dollars for another - and 7 1/2 Dollars for another."
digital library documentNLW 14111D

School and community Eisteddfodau were held in Gomer for many years and there are references in the letters of Edward Peat (NLW 14111D) to the success of "Gomer Choir" in the Eisteddfod held at Columbus.

Occasional special events were recorded; a grand Gymanfa Ganu was held in Gomer in both 1860 and 1883 and the Eisteddfod in October 1895 attracted an audience of 3,000.

The traditional Eisteddfod is no longer held, but the popularity of the Gymanfa Ganu continues to this day. The annual Gomer Gymanfa, held on the first Sunday in October, attracts an enthusiastic congregation.

digital library documentFurther information about Gomer choirs and singers (English)>>

The Present Day

Gomer Welsh Community Museum
Gomer's Welsh atmosphere has endured to the present day. An annual Gymanfa Ganu is held on the first Sunday in October, Saint David's Day is celebrated there and Gomer Welsh Community Museum has been set up in the village.

The Museum is open between 1:30 and 4:00 on the second and fourth Sundays of every month. The address and telephone number are:
Gomer Welsh Community Museum,
7365 Gomer Road,
Gomer, OH 45888
(419) 999-5820





Digitized materials held at NLW

digital library documentGomer's First 150 Years (Vol. I), The Allen County Reporter, Vol. No. XXIX, 1983, No.2

digital library documentGomer's First 150 Years (Vol. II), The Allen County Reporter, Vol. No. XXIX, 1983, No.3

digital library documentUnited Church of Christ, Gomer, Ohio: 150th Anniversary 1839 -1989

digital library documentNLW 14111D: Letters of Edward Peat and family (English translation available)

digital library documentNLW 3265D: Letters to 'S.R'. Letters to the Rev. Samuel Roberts ('S.R'.). Amongst them there are 10 letters by John Roberts Jones, Gomer, Ohio (English translation available).

Gomer is also referred to in:

digital library documentR. D. Thomas, Hanes Cymry America (A History of the Welsh in America) (Utica, 1872), pp. 109-110

Materials digitized in Ohio

Archives and manuscripts
digital library documentRecord book of The Welsh Congregational Conference of Southern Ohio (Y Gymanfa), 1871-1975 [parts in English and Welsh]

digital library documentRegister of baptisms in Gomer, Allen County, 1880-1888

digital library documentNotebook of Josiah Jones, an undertaker and farmer of Gomer, Allen County, 1866-1886

digital library documentDiary of W. G. Jones of Gomer, Allen County, 1863

digital library documentDiary of Thomas H. Jones of Lima, Allen County, 1892

digital library documentTwo composition books of Richard Newton Jones of Gomer, Allen County, 1876

digital library documentAdmittance card to a Welsh tea party (1876)

digital library documentInscriptions in the Humphreys Family Bible, 1825-1965

digital library documentProbate copy of the will of Thomas Roberts of Allen County (1885) and a letter addressed to William W. Roberts (his son), at Gomer, Allen County (1881)

digital library documentCertificate of Naturalization - Declaration of Intention of Rowland Whittington of Allen County, Ohio (1859)

digital library documentCertificate of Naturalization of Rowland Lewis of Columbia, State of South Carolina (1918)

digital library documentNotes on the family history of Thomas Watkins of Dolau, Llanerfyl, Montgomeryshire

digital library documentMap of Sugar Creek Township, Allen County

Printed material
digital library documentHistory, Constitution, By-laws, 1833-1915: Welsh Congregational Church, Gomer, Ohio

digital library documentEisteddfod Gomer Program (1895)

digital library documentEisteddfod Lima Program (1896)

digital library documentObituary of Josiah Jones of Gomer, Allen County (1888)

digital library documentObituary of Thomas H. Jones of Lima, Allen County

digital library documentProgram for the Centennial Celebration at Gomer, Ohio, held on September 2, 3, 4, 1933

The following collections also contain information on the Welsh in Allen County:
The Gomer Welsh Community Museum Collection; John Foulkes Collection; John Humphreys Collection; Barbara J Lloyd Collection; Carla Lewis Olds Collection; Nina Redmon Collection; Elizabeth Roberts Collection; Verona Sandy Collection; Kay Studer Collection; Joan Thomas Collection; Betty Watkins Collection.



General bibliography

Gomer's First 150 Years (Vol. I), The Allen County Reporter, Vol. No. XXIX, 1983, No.2

Gomer's First 150 Years (Vol. II), The Allen County Reporter, Vol. No. XXIX, 1983, No.3

United Church of Christ, Gomer, Ohio: 150th Anniversary 1839 -1989 (1989)

Angela Bennett, 'Josiah Brynmair', Bwletin Cymdeithas Emynau Cymru 2 (1985/86), pp.248-9 - article only available in Welsh.

The Rev. B. W. Chidlaw, 'The First Funeral in Gomer, O.', The Cambrian, Vol. II, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1882), pp. 271-72.

W. Meirion Davies, 'Josiah Brynmair a'i Emynyddiaeth', Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd, Vol. LVIII (1897), pp.77-80.

Anon, 'Reminiscences of the Welsh Settlement of Gomer and Vicinity, Allen Co., O.', The Cambrian, Vol. III No. 2 (Mar/Apr 1883), pp. 71-2.

T. H. J., 'Another Pioneer Gone', The Cambrian, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (March 1894), p.96.

Josiah Jones, 'Beginning and Growth of the Welsh Congregational Church, Gomer, O.', The Cambrian, Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 183-5; No. 5, pp. 234-6.

Josiah Jones, 'The First Church in the Village of Gomer (Ohio)', The Cambrian, Vol. XXVIII, No. 10 (October 1908), pp. 439-44.

D. Densil Morgan, 'Y daith i fro Joseia', Barn 345 (1991), pp. 13-5.

R. Gwylfa Roberts, 'Josiah Brynmair - Emynydd Anfarwol', Y Dysgedydd (August 1914), pp. 363-73.


Links

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