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Home > Places > Van Wert County, Ohio > Venedocia, Ohio

Venedocia, Van Wert County, Ohio


The first three families


In May 1847 three families began their voyage from Wales to the United States. William Bebb, from Rhiwgriafol, Darowen, Thomas Morris from Dolygweiddil, Trefeglwys, and R. Jervis from Llanbryn-mair set sail with their families and 60 other Welsh emigrants and landed safely in New York six weeks and three days later.

They then went on to Ohio and reached Paddy's Run in a fortnight. The family wintered there, but William Bebb and his cousin of the same name, who was at the time governor of Ohio, traveled through Allen and Van Wert Counties looking for land suitable for purchase. They bought land at York Township in Van Wert County, and in April 1848 the families moved there and started to build log cabins, clear the trees and prepare the land for cultivation. This was the nucleus of the Welsh settlement and the town known today as Venedocia.

Life was difficult for these pioneers. There were no paths or roads in the area and the nearest railroad was 100 miles from the settlement. There were two shops, a post office and a mill about 8 miles away - where Delphos stands today - and it was there that the Welsh went to buy and sell, but they had to travel through thick forests and swampy land to reach the town.

William and Margaret Bebb wrote two letters home in 1850 describing their living conditions and the Welsh community in the area.
digital library documentClick here to read William and Margaret Bebb's letters (Welsh; English translation available) >>

The Development of the Welsh Community

Very soon, more people came to settle in the Venedocia area. Some of the Welsh settlers who moved there were:
Montgomeryshire:Thomas Bebb and his family from Llanbryn-mair; John Brees from Llanwnog;
Edward Jones, from Carno; Robert Richards and Abraham Jones, from Darowen;
David Owen, from Penegoes.
Cardiganshire:John D. Jones and his family from Rhosmaes, Llanilar; Thomas George and his family
from Newcastle Emlyn; a group from the Llanwenog area - Daniel Thomas and
Thomas Thomas and their families; Sarah Jones; Gwenllian Jones; Elizabeth Watkins.
Carmarthenshire:William Williams and John Rees and his family from Llanllwni.
Glamorganshire: Evan Roberts from Llansamlet.

According to a digital library documentletter home to Wales from William and Margaret Bebb in 1850 (NLW 6174D), twelve Welsh families were living in the vicinity and the population had probably increased to 800 by the time digital library documentHanes Cymry America (A History of the Welsh in America) was published in 1872.

"It is a wooded area, flat, and damp, but when it is dried out, and well cultivated, the district will be fruitful and healthful. It contains every sort of valuable tree." digital library documentHanes Cymru America (A History of the Welsh in America), p.111
It was the quality of the land that attracted many people to the area. It is said to be the best agricultural land in north-west Ohio and according to R. D. Thomas people could digital library document"buy wooded land for moderate prices around Van Wert still" decades after the first pioneers moved into the area.

The Rev. Michael D. Jones of Bala preached the first sermon in Venedocia in June 1848. Salem Church was founded by the Rev. Howell Powell in 1849, at which time there were 15 members: William and Margaret Bebb and their three children, Richard Jervis and his wife, Thomas Morris and his wife, David Owen and his wife, Edward J. Jones and his wife, Mrs. Richard Jones and David M. Jones. The first chapel was built in 1851/52 and the Rev. Hugh Pugh served as its minister between 1854 and 1868.
digital library documentRead more about the early history of the Church and its minister in Hanes Cymry America (A History of the Welsh in America) >>

All the services were held in Welsh until the foundation of the Presbyterian Church of Venedocia in 1895 and Salem Church's annual report was published in Welsh until 1917.

The Present

Historical Marker, © Charles Good  as seen on Venedocia website

Historical Marker, © Charles Good
as seen on Venedocia website


The Welsh atmosphere of Venedocia endures to this day. Some of the descendants of the settlers make an effort to maintain the area's Welsh culture. They celebrate Saint David's Day and, without doubt, the most important date on the calendar is still that of the annual Gymanfa Ganu held at Salem Presbyterian Church.







Digitized materials held at NLW

digital library documentNLW 6174D: Frondirion 21 - Letters from emigrants to the U.S.A.
Letter dated 10 October 1850 to Griffith Owen, Vaner, Llanelltyd, Dolgellau, E. W. Evans and others in the Dolgellau area from William and Margaret Bebb. (Welsh; English translation available).

digital library documentR. D. Thomas, Hanes Cymry America (Utica, 1872) (A History of the Welsh in America) pp.111 - 112

The Annual Gymanfa Ganu: Salem Presbyterian Church
Venedocia (1984)
digital library documentProgramme (English) >>

Gymanfa Ganu keeps heritage alive [Venedocia]
digital library documentNewspaper cutting (English) >>

digital library documentFlorence Jenkins Cope, 'The history of the Jackson, Ohio eisteddfod' (MA Thesis, Ohio State University, 1937)

There are brief descriptions of Van Wert and Putnam Counties in:

digital library documentB. W. Chidlaw, Yr American (Llanfair, 1839), p.27 (Only available in Welsh)

Materials digitized in Ohio

Archives and manuscripts
digital library documentRecord book of the Van Wert County Sunday Schools, 1883-1892

digital library documentRecord book of the Sunday School at Horeb Church, Van Wert County, 1890-1902 [in Welsh]

digital library documentRecord book of Salem Sunday School, 1905-1910 [mainly in Welsh]

digital library documentLedger book of Horeb Calvinistic Methodist Church, 1878-1937

Photographic material
David Hugh Evans Collection

Printed material
digital library documentVan Wert Eisteddfod Program (1904)

digital library documentDelphos Eisteddfod Program (1910)

digital library documentReport by the Building Committee of the New Chapel of Seion Venedocia, Van Wert County, Ohio (1906) [in Welsh]

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

General bibliography

Rev. J. P. Morgan, 'Early History of the Welsh Settlement in Van Wert County, Ohio', The Cambrian, Vol. II, No. 1 (Jan/Feb 1882), p. 1-5

R. Jervis, 'Adgofion am Ddechreuad Preswyliad y Cymry yn Venedocia, Van Wert Co., Ohio', Y Cyfaill (1894), pp.286-7 and pp.365-6

Links

Venedocia Website: http://www.venedocia.org/



Gweinyddu