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Home > Places > Jackson and Gallia Counties, Ohio > Accidental Settlement of the Welsh in Gallia and Jackson Co

The Accidental Settlement of the Welsh in Gallia and Jackson Counties

n. a., 'The Accidental Settlement of the Welsh in Gallia and Jackson Counties, O', The Cambrian, Vol. III, No. 3 (May/June 1883), pp. 129-131.

Probably there is no portion of the world, where there are Welsh, where the phrase, "Sefydliad Gallia a Jackson" (the Gallia and Jackson settlement) is not more or less familiar. It is one of, if not the most populous and flourishing settlement in the United States. It covers the larger portions of four or five townships - the territory being about equally divided between the two counties. Three or four of these townships are populated almost solidly by Welsh immigrants and their descendants. And the Welsh population is destined to increase in the near future and not decrease, as many old Welsh colonies are doing. This will surely be the fate of all purely agricultural settlements. Paddy's Run, the oldest Welsh settlement in Ohio, is fast changing from Welsh to German, and from Protestant to Catholic, we are told. The Welsh Hills settlement, Licking County, if not changing in religion and nationality, is certainly losing the Welsh language rapidly. Even the strong, thrift, and wealthy settlements of Allen and Van Wert counties have reached their climax numerically. The land is too high priced in all these places to induce new immigrants. Land is selling in Paddy's Run and Gomer at from $75 to $100 per acre. Poor immigrants from Wales can not purchase land at these figures, and if they did, not one in a dozen could ever pay for it. As the chief value of these places is agricultural, and likely to remain so, no great increase of the Welsh population can be expected.

But not so with the Gallia and Jackson settlement. We believe it is only in the infancy of its development, numerically and industrially. True it was nick-named, forty years ago, "Gwlad yr Asgwrn" (Boneland) as indicative of the poverty of the soil as well as the people. Could the Rev. Jenkin Jenkins (Sciencyn Ddwywaith), who applied the epithet to it, not look down from his frigid home in Minnesota, and see the millions of bushels of coal which are mined in Jackson and Gallia, and shipped by all the railroads towards the Northwest, and behold the thousands of tons of iron which are mined and manufactured, and witness the thrift of the country, as it marches to the music of the wheels of industry, surely, he never would have called it "Boneland".

True the soil is thin compared with the rich alluvial soils of the valleys and the black loam of the Northwestern prairies, but it is not so barren but that all the farmers make a good living, and many of them save money. It is doubtful whether the lots of the first immigrants could have fallen to them in pleasanter places.

The whole country is underlaid with different strata of coal, of the best heating and manufacturing qualities. The iron ore is abundant, as evinced by the great number of blast furnaces which dot the country, and which are still on the increase. Fire clay is also plentiful.

Where there is an abundance of coal and iron, which is only in the infancy of its development, the Welsh, who are the best coal miners and iron manufacturers in the world, will, in the very nature of things, be on the increase. Doubtless other places are as rich in these minerals as Gallia and Jackson, but it is questionable whether there is any section of country which offers better inducements to the Welsh emigrant than that settlement. Land is cheap there yet, ranging from $10 to $30 per acre and sufficiently fertile to support a large manufacturing population. There are good schools and good churches. The Calvinistic Methodists have about ten churches, mostly in Jackson County; the Congregationalist six or seven, mostly in Gallia County; and the Baptists, three or four. They all have an able ministry, and society is in a settled state. It is not like going to a new country, where farms are to be opened and school houses and churches are to be built. The climate is comparatively mild, the country is healthy and blessed with an abundance of soft, cool water from running streams and perennial springs.

The first settlers located here in 1818. The names of the heads of those families were John Jones, Ship, as he was called (because he kept a tavern in Wales on the sign of which was painted a ship), John Evans and Evan Evans, sons-in-law of John Jones, Lewis Davies, and a man by the name of Williams, - five families in all, we believe. Nevertheless, like many other good things and useful discoveries, the settlement of the Welsh there was purely accidental. The destination of all these families when they left Wales was Paddy's Run. When they arrived at Pittsburg, they, like all other emigrants in those early days, procured a small flat-boat on which they intended to float down the Ohio River to Cincinnati. When they arrived at Gallipolis, a small town of French settlers, they stopped for the purpose of buying provisions for the remainder of the journey. They tied their little boat to the shore and proceeded up town where the families spent the night. A heavy rain and wind storm, which prevailed that night, lashing the waters so that the little craft broke lose and floated down the river. The next morning the pilgrim sailors found themselves boatless - with no means - naval or terrestrial - of proceeding on their journey, and with no money with which to buy another boat. Thus their southward journey was accidentally arrested if not providentially terminated. Mr Daniel M. Davies (son of Lewis Davies) who lately died at Kerr's Run, near Pomeroy, Ohio, told us that what ended the journey was the rebellion raised by the women, who declared they had risked their lives long enough by land and by water, and that they did not propose to do it any longer. Whether that or the want of means, or the importunities of the French colonists be the cause, the fact is that the journey was brought to an abrupt close at Gallipolis. The poor immigrants could not afford to remain idle long, nor to be dependent on the hospitality of the French colonists. As the state was opening a public road at that time from Gallipolis to Jackson, the men soon found employment on it. In this way they were taken out in the neighborhood of Centerville. They were particularly pleased with the topography of the land in that vicinity because it closely resembles that portion of Wales from whence they emigrated. As an abundance of Congress land was to be had then at $1.25 per acre, they decided to locate on that place which, to them, mostly resembles their native Wales of any place they had seen in the New World.

Thus was laid the foundation of what, from 15 to 25 years afterwards, proved to be the most popular resort for Welsh emigrants of any place in the United States - particularly emigrants from Cardiganshire.

On what slender threads our destinies hang! But for the breaking of that cable, which anchored that little boat to the shore, the thousands of Cardiganites and their descendents, who populate the knolls and dells of Gallia and Jackson, would probably be tilling the richer soil of Butler County, engrossed in the production of barley, corn and hogs. But there is a soil as well as a providence that shapes our ends. The hills and ravines or white and blue clay plains could never make farming profitable in Gallia and Jackson. A comfortable living was all that the majority of the farmers aimed at, and all they could reasonably expect to attain prior to the development of their minerals. Hence religion and literature flourished far more than pork and beans. As a consequence we find that "Gwlad yr Asgwrn," the butt end of so many jokes in richer lands with lesser brains, has raised more doctors, teachers and particularly preachers than any other settlement of its size and age in the United States. Cardiganshire is said to have been the nursery of preachers in Wales, and the same thing, whether owing to blood or soil, are both, and grace combined, is true of her representative in the United States. Vigilax.