Evan & Elizabeth Davis
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Home > Places > Jackson and Gallia Counties, Ohio > The Welsh Settlements in Ohio - Gallia and Jackson
The Welsh Settlements in Ohio - Gallia and Jackson
n. a., 'The Welsh Settlements in Ohio - Gallia and Jackson', The Cambrian, Vol. VI, No. 2 (February 1886), pp. 46-49.
As already stated in our introduction to the sketch of Paddy's Run, in the January number, it is not the intention of the writer to have a history of these settlements from their origin up to the present time, so much as it is to give a general outline of them as they now exist. In order to do this much, some reference to the past is, unavoidably, necessary. Beyond this, nothing in the way of history will be attempted.
The settlement which forms the subject of this sketch is, in these latter days, more generally known abroad as "Jackson and Gallia" than as "Gallia and Jackson." We do not know how this came about, for it was not thus in the beginning, and should not be so now, for two, if not more reasons: 1. Originally, Gallia county included nearly if not all of Jackson county, as now populated by the Welsh. Jackson County is composed of slices from other counties, the Welsh part of which was taken from Gallia. 2. Not only has it the priority in age, but also alphabetically and euphonically.
However, that is a question of minor importance so that the reader understands that whichever county is named first they both refer to the same place. But for the fact that nine tenths of the Welsh who originally located in Gallia and Jackson were from Cardiganshire, and continued to pour in, in one incessant stream, from about 1830 to 1850, it would hardly be proper to speak of it in the singular number; for, as a matter of fact, it is a series of eight or ten settlements with twice that number of churches.
The first settlement, in point of time, is Centerville, Thurman P.O., and of it we shall speak first. It is situated eighteen miles from Gallipolis, and is the county site of Gallia and about fifteen from Jackson the county site of Jackson county. The first Welsh families (of whom accounts to have already appeared in THE CAMBRIAN) settled a little north of this village in 1818. There were few if any accessions to these six families for ten or twelve years. The village of Centerville, which has a population now of about 500 people, is located in Gallia county, right on the line dividing the two counties. The division of the county threw all the farms on which the old pioneers settled into Jackson county, and this may be the reason why the Jacksonites claim the priority in the name.
Centerville is a beautifully located little village, lying in a charming little narrow valley which runs from Symes Creek on the northeast to the Big Raccoon on the southwest - a distance of six or seven miles. The surrounding hills rise quite abruptly in some places, - so as to make the farming of them almost impracticable; while in other places the slope is gentle and pleasing to the eye. The soil is a mixture of clay and sand, underlaid with sandstone and coal in strata of different depths, and like all coal land it is thin.
However, by good cultivation and the liberal use of fertilizers, the farmers all make a good living and some of them accumulate money. There has been little or no growth in the population, business, or enterprise of Centerville for the last forty or fifty years. It is true that the most of the primeval log-houses have been displaced by larger and more commodious farm houses, or else their antiquity has been covered up by weather boarding; but there is not a brick house in the place. It is seven miles from the nearest railroad, and hence there are no anxious excited crowds who flock to the station as at Oak Hill, its rival town, whenever the whistle of the locomotive is heard, and who peer in at every window as though they believed their fortune from Wales had arrived. Centerville cannot boast of any of these characteristics of a railroad town or evidence of a progressive a people.
Still, being the center of a farming community of several miles radius there is a great deal of MERCHANDISE AND PRODUCE BUSINESS done in it. It sustains three dry goods and notion stores; one hardware store; one drug store; two doctors; two millinery stores; one saddlery and harness shop; three blacksmith shops; two wagon and carpenter shops; one cheese factory; two shoe maker shops; two grist and sawmills; one tannery; one national bank; one or two saloons; one undertaking establishment; one tailor shop; and one - sometimes two hotels. This is not a bad showing for a little village of 500. Besides these evidences of commercial thrift, Centreville has a Masonic and other lodges, and four churches - one English and three Welsh - all of which are well attended, and their preachers poorly supported.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES
Centerville has a graded school and a good new school-house well adapted for the requirements of the place. We have heard it said that that the offer was made once to locate Rio Grand College there, and the elders of the city shut their gates against it. If so, it was the most unwise thing they ever did, and the most short-sighted effort of their life, viewing it simply from a business stand-point. As it is, the village of Rio Grande, which is growing up around the College, is not only rivalling Centerville, but bound to eclipse it in a short time, unless there is some mighty upheaval there of which there are no symptoms just now.
Of the churches in Centerville, the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist is the strongest, probably, in point of members, through it would take an expert to decide which is the strongest spiritually - the weakest, may be, would be the better way of putting it. There is, among all of our Welsh American churches of the present day, a good deal of tithe-ing of mint, anise and cummin, and neglecting of the weightier matters of the law.
The membership in our Welsh country churches is characterized by high-toned morality, scrupulous fidelity to their church vows and duties, but they lack that robust religious which makes them working as well as praying Christians, - which makes their good influence felt as well as their good character admired. What is needed in all of our Welsh churches is a little less thanksgiving that we are "Cenedl y Breintiau Mawr," - a little less boasting about our Welsh Worthies, and a great deal more of the energy and enthusiasm of those men which made their names deserving of honourable mention for all time.
But these remarks to not apply, nor are they intended to apply to the Calvinistic Methodist church, of Centerville any more than they do to the other churches there or elsewhere. But if any of them are applicable to it, we want the church to take them. This church has no settled pastor, but is one of a circuit (Cylch) of seven or eight churches to which about as many preachers minister in their turn. These men follow some other avocation - generally farming - in addition to preaching. They farm for a living and preach for the good and the glory there is in it.
The next church in point of numbers is the English Methodist Episcopal. Although an English church, it has had Welsh people in it from the very beginning of its existence. This is the church which the old settlers of 1818, and their children and grand-children have attended. There were not many of the Welsh, comparatively, who became the followers of John Wesley; but in the absence of English churches of their own order, many of them in this country, have become members of the Methodist Episcopal church. This is the case at Centerville, and the number is constantly on the increase, and will so continue unless the Welsh churches adopt the plan of having English services a part of the time, so as to retain their young people.
The third church in point of numbers is the Welsh Congregational. This is the oldest church organization in the place, and if we mistake not, in the settlement, though not as a Congregational church. It was originally organized as a Protestant Episcopal church, and so far as we have ever heard, it was the only Welsh Episcopal church ever organized in the United States. This is where the first settlers all worshiped for some time, until there were enough of them to start churches of their own order. The Rev. Abraham Edwards "priest Edwards (y 'Ffeirad)" as he was generally called, was the organizer of this church and continued its pastor until the time of his return to Wales, about 25 or 30 years ago. Priest Edwards was a man of a great deal of force of character, he was for many years a school teacher as well as preacher in Centerville and his influence both in the pulpit and in the school room is felt to this day by those who were under his charge. After Mr Edwards' return to Wales the church concluded to identify itself with the Congregationalists and has so continued to this day. The first pastor under the new order of things was the Rev. Ebenezer D. Jones, now of Emporia, Kansas, whose labours are held in grateful remembrance. He was followed by the Rev. D. S. Davies, now of Bangor, North Wales; Rev. Enoch Jones, now of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Rev. H. Humphreys, of Wisconsin; Rev. Wm. Powell of Minnesota; Rev. George Rees, now of Minersville, Pa.; and some others for short periods.
The weakest church, numerically is the Welsh Baptist. This church has maintained preaching for many years in Welsh and English. The present pastor is the Rev. Daniel S. Jones, who is in excellent man and a good preacher in both languages. The Rev. Daniel Lloyd, a man of good report also, minister for many years to it in Welsh. There have been other pastors whom we do not now recall.
The people of Centerville are slow and easy going as is the case with most country people remote from the centers of business activity. There is no great wealth nor poverty such as is to be found in large towns and cities. The people have plenty to eat, drink and wear, and are therewith content. They do not trample on each other's toes in the scramble for wealth or fame. The fact is, the opportunities for the former and the ambition for the latter, are wanting. Still, Centerville has it men of local prominence and influence. The Hon. L. M. Beman, a live Yankee who located there, when a young man, in the commercial business, is the wealthiest man in the place and one of the most influential citizens in the county. He has twice represented the county in the State Legislature and is a man of general usefulness in financial circles. Mr Beman is a man of fine social qualities and few men knew how to get along with the Welsh settlers better than he. He is now the President of the Thurman National Bank, and has acquired a competency which enables him to live at his ease. Mr D. O. Jones, the clerk in that Bank, is the son of an old Welsh settler in the Tyn-Rhos neighborhood. He has been engaged in business for himself and with others so long that few men are better and more favourably known than he. Another of the best and most favourably known citizens is Mr Edward S. Jones - the undertaker. He is a man well read, of good judgement, good social qualities, and of far more information than the average of men. David A. Thomas - watchmaker, who came to this country way back in the 20s is still living there, honoured and respected by all who know him. Centerville furnishes the present Probate Judge of Gallia county, in the person of J. J. Thomas. Capt. John Herbert Evans, ex-Auditor of Gallia county and ex-State Senator, though now a citizen of Gallipolis, was born and brought up in Centerville. There are many others deserving of mention who live there now, or who have been brought up there, of whom space will not allow us to speak in this number, but whose turn will come by and by. Before closing this article it might be said that if the people of Centerville only put their streets and side walks in better condition, which they can easily do, and do a little more towards beautifying their front yards with green grass and flowers, they might have one of the most charming little villages in Southern Ohio.