Evan & Elizabeth Davis
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Venedocia, Van Wert County, Ohio
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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.
The Development of the Welsh CommunityVery soon, more people came to settle in the Venedocia area. Some of the Welsh settlers who moved there were:
According to a (NLW 6174D), twelve Welsh families were living in the vicinity and the population had probably increased to 800 by the time (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."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 , p.111 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.
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.
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
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).
The Annual Gymanfa Ganu: Salem Presbyterian Church
Gymanfa Ganu keeps heritage alive [Venedocia]
There are brief descriptions of Van Wert and Putnam Counties in:
(Only available in Welsh)
Materials digitized in OhioArchives and manuscripts
David Hugh Evans Collection
General bibliographyRev. 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
LinksVenedocia Website: http://www.venedocia.org/