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Home > Places > Jackson and Gallia Counties, Ohio > The First Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties

The First Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties

A. V. EVANS, 'A History of the First Welsh Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio' (in two parts), The Cambrian, Vol. VIII, No. 11 (Nov. - Dec. 1888), pp. 322-5; No. 12, pp. 355-7.

Read at the Pioneer Meeting, Centreville, Ohio, Sept. 19, 1888

On the first day of July, 1818, a stately ship, in charge of Captain Sands, anchored in our port, Baltimore, having on board six families from Cardiganshire, South Wales and bound for Paddy's Run, the famous Welsh settlement near Cincinnati., O. The names of the heads of these six families were Jno. Jones (Tirbach); John Evans (Penlanlas); Evan Evans, (Tynmawr); Lewis Davis (Rhiwlas); William Williams, (Pantvallen), and Thomas Evans.

About the first of April they had left their homes and kindred in (Plwy) Kilkennin, Cardiganshire, South Wales, with sad hearts, yet with the determination to better their condition and secure land for their children, for they had owned none in Wales. What a parting that must have been! Friends clinging to them with an energy born of the conviction they would never see the emigrants again. For to the average Welshmen, who never wandered far from home, to whom a trip to London was an undertaking to be thought of rather than attempted, the voyage to America seemed almost an impossibility. We can imagine their feelings. They were leaving forever their beloved Wales which contained everything dear to them on earth. There were the homes and graves of their ancestors. There the little churches in which they had been accustomed to sing their grand Welsh hymns in praise to God. There the soil their infant feet had trod, and which, later, had yielded up its fruits to the sturdy efforts of their strong arms. With one long last look at their little homes, theirs no more, nestling among the hills with the Welsh mountains towering above them and the green valleys extending before them, they are gone. How they tore themselves from the arms of friends who would have kept them in Wales, has been told over and over again.

After tarrying a month at Liverpool they started on their perilous voyage across the mighty deep, which was a stormy and tempestuous trip occupying seven weeks and six days. They were overtaken by two storms of such fury as to cause them to think they would surely be drowned; not a few of them sought refuge on their knees in prayer, while the voice of good Captain Sands could be heard crying "Be of good courage. The tempest will soon be over."

One sad incident occurred on the voyage - the death and burial of the infant child of John and Mary Evans, which died on ship-board and was left in the bottom of the great deep. There are those yet living who remember seeing the little babe with weights attached sink into the ocean after the simple funeral ceremonies.

When the party had landed at Baltimore they felt lost indeed. The broad Atlantic lay between them and their old homes. Except memory and love, every tie which had bound them to Wales was severed.

They did not remain long in Baltimore, but at once sought conveyance over the mountains to the Ohio river. At that time a railroad was a thing unheard of, and the Baltimore & Ohio did not then, as now, wind its way along its picturesque route over the Allegheny mountains from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. There were but three ways to come; on foot, on horseback, or on wagons. They chose the latter, and, having made a contract with an owner of wagons and teams to convey the party as far as Pittsburgh, they started from Baltimore one pleasant summer morning in two covered wagons, with four horses to each wagon, keeping pace with the merry whistle of the teamster and stimulated by the crack of his long whip. It was a tedious march - over deep rivers, broad valleys, and high mountains. The men walked much of the way to lighten the load, and there are with us those of the children who remember how they used the wagons for playhouses, and disported themselves for the edification of the drivers. At length they reached Pittsburgh, thoroughly tired of that mode of travel, and glad to trust themselves to the bosom of the Ohio river, which lay before them as the path to their destination. Accordingly they purchased boats, such as were to be had in those days, and embarked on the Ohio, which was an unknown river to them. They knew nothing of the dangers through which they were to pass, and it was fortunate for their courage that they did not. They knew nothing of the snags and sand-bars which were concealed beneath the surface of the Ohio, and which might sink the boats. They only knew that the Ohio river seemed to them a small stream as compared with the great Atlantic, over which they had safely come. Many times the boats grounded on the numerous sand-bars which lay in the river, and as often the men, all unconscious of their danger, jumped off, at the risk of their lives, and were dragged aboard by those on the boats, while the sand crumbled away beneath their feet. Not until long afterward did they fully realize the risks they had run, and appreciated their good fortune sufficiently. At length they came in sight of the pleasant and picturesque little city of Gallipolis, Ohio, a settlement of French people, as the derivation of the name of Gallipolis proves. There they tied up their boats and went ashore for the purpose of procuring provisions, and were so kindly received by the French, who were glad to receive others from over the sea, that the entire party was influenced to go ashore and spend the night with their new-found friends. During the night the boats became unfastened in some unaccountable manner and floated away. Among the many causes advanced for this circumstance, not the least probable, is the one held by those who think that some resident of the town, having become infused with the modern idea of booming his town, cast the boats adrift, and thus compelled the Welsh Emigrants to increase the population of Gallipolis, for a time at least. However, they adapted themselves to circumstances and gave up the hope of reaching Paddy's Run.

To this accident the Welsh settlement of Gallia and Jackson counties owes its origin. They were told by a land agent that there was good land for sale in the northern part of Gallia county, near where Centreville now stands, but before buying they decided to examine the surrounding country. There was a settlement of Welsh people at Radnor, or Delhi (as it was sometimes called), in Delaware county, central Ohio. With characteristic solicitude for dwelling among their own people, they sent John Jones to Radnor to view the country and buy, if suitable. He made the trip from Gallipolis to Radnor and back on foot, and a long trip it was. When he returned he reported that the land around Radnor was too low and flat, and that the climate suggested malaria. They then purchased land near Centreville and moved their families there. This was the beginning of the Welsh settlement of Gallia and Jackson counties.

These six families were composed of persons as follows: The family of John Jones consisted at that time of himself and wife, Eleanor with their two unmarried children, Timothy and Jane. Their two married daughters were also in the party. The old folks died long since, being the parents of David, Mary, Eleanor, Susannah, Timothy and Jane. None of these are living. Of the two single children who crossed the ocean, Jane became the wife of William Dulaney, and was the first of the Welsh settlers to marry an American. Two of her children are living, Mrs Hunt of Oak Hill, and Margaret Stubbs in Pike County, Ohio. Timothy married Hannah Williams and became the owner of the land where Centreville now is. He was a man of great energy and business ability, and it was he who built up the town of Centreville. He built and operated Woollen Mills at Centreville for a number of years. He is now dead and is survived by two children. One of these is James Jones, a well known citizen of Centreville. The other is Mrs Lucretia Rupp. She lives at Wellstone, Ohio, with her husband John H. Rupp and three daughters.

The family of John Evans consisted of himself and wife Mary (daughters of John Jones), with two children, John J. and Eleanor. Though they brought but two children into the settlement, they became the parents of ten children, only two of whom are now living: Eleanor Markham and Timothy J. Evans, who lives on the old homestead north of Centreville. Of the two children who crossed the ocean, Eleanor afterward married Richard Markham and is now living at an advanced age near Waverly, Ohio, though her husband died about three years ago. John J. Evans known later as John J. Evans Vega, married Rebecca, daughter of Clement Cherington, and spent his life farming at Vega, Ohio, where he died in 1882, having reared a large family.

The family of Evan Evans consisted of himself and wife Susannah (daughter of John Jones) with their three year old son Evan, who afterward married Polly B., the daughter of Thomas Cherington, and is now living on his farm at Camba, Ohio. He is the father of eleven children, eight of whom are living.

Evan Evans and Susannah both died at an advanced age. Though they brought but one child across the ocean, there were born to them eleven children, one having died in Wales. But three of these children are living: Evan Evans, Camba, Ohio, David D. Evans, Wellston, Ohio, and John W. Evans, who lives north of Centreville on some of the land which was owned by his father. David and Elizabeth Evans, the unmarried brother and the unmarried sister of Evan Evans (Tynmawr), came over with the party and may be considered as part of the family of Evan Evans (Tynmawr). David seemed to be endowed with the restlessness which is characteristic of the Celtic race, and drifted about from place to placed until he was married. He then settled at Apollo, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, where he afterward died, and where his children now live. Hugh Evans, the lawyer, is his son. The sister, Elizabeth Evans, married a man by name of Gilberts, and lived for many years at Evansburg, Pennsylvania. She afterward moved with her husband and family to Dayton, Ohio, where she died. Her children are still living in and around Dayton.

A. V. Evans, 'A History of the First Welsh Settlers in Gallia and Jackson Counties, Ohio', The Cambrian, Vol. VIII, No. 12, pp. 355-7.

The family of Lewis Davis of that time consisted of himself and wife, Marian, with their two sons, David, who is now dead, and John, who is living surrounded by his children, at Easton, Buchanan county, Mo. To Lewis and Marian Davis were born eight children, three of whom are living. These three are John Davis, Easton, Mo.; Mrs Polly Evans, Cincinnati, O.; and Thomas Davis, Pottsville, Pa. After the death of his first wife, Lewis Davis married Mrs Huntley, and they are the parents of two children, Charles and Nancy. Charles is dead, and Nancy is living at Oak Hill, the wife of Jonathan Lloyd.

The family of William Williams consisted of himself and wife, Margaret, and nine children, as follows: Morgan Williams, who died at Radnor, Ohio, about the year 1850; Hannah, who became the wife of Timothy Jones at Centreville, O.; Eleanor who became the wife of William H. Cherington, and died at her home near Camba, O., in 1878. She was the mother of seven children, and is survived by one daughter and her husband, who is still living at the age of 86. David who died at Radnor, O., in 1876, leaving children, two of whom live in Nebraska and three in Ohio; Ebenezer, who died in 1867 or '68, leaving a family, some of whom are living in Franklin county, Ohio, and others in various places; Ann, who married Abraham Lloyd, died about thirty years ago, leaving her husband and one daughter, who are now living at Radnor, O.; Mary, who married John W. Cone and died at Radnor, after having reared a family of twelve children to adult age. Of these there are living seven sons and three daughters - two in Kansas and eight in Delaware county, O. Thomas B. Williams, who became a doctor and lived at Delware, O., where he had a lucrative practice and died a few years since, survived by his wife and daughter, Clara, who are now living at Delaware. The above named members of the Williams family who crossed the ocean are all dead, but there is still living one, and one only child, of Wm. Williams, though she was born after the settlement was made, and did not cross the ocean. She is Margaret Williams Maize, and lives in Delaware county, O., where she has three children. Her husband, James Maize, died several years ago.

The sixth and last of the original families consisted of Thomas Evans and wife, with their four children, viz. John, David, Margaret and Madaline. They moved to Radnor, O., in 1822, and are now all dead. John and David removed, before their death, to Hardin county and engaged in stock-raising. Margaret married Mr. Moore, and lived and died in Union county, O. The other daughter, Madaline, married Sylvanus Davids and lived until her death at Radnor township, Delaware county, O. Of the grandchildren of this Thomas Evans, the whereabouts of but one is known. That one is B. F. Davids, who lives at the old homestead near Radnor, O.

The persons named above composed the party which made the first Welsh settlement in Jackson and Gallia counties. The family of Wm. Williams bought and moved first on the farm known as the Gillespie place, about half a mile north of Centreville, whence they removed in 1822 to Radnor. Thos. Evans purchased an adjoining farm and lived there until he sold the same to Wm. Wilmore, (the father of Thomas Wilmore of Banner, O.), and removed in 1822 to Radnor. The other four families were closely related and seemed a separate party. They purchased land near each other on Cherry Fork, at some distance from Williams and Evans, and lived there, first in one large house, and afterward separately, each on his own land. The land was at that time covered by a dense forest, and was a part of Raccoon township, Gallia county, but a few years later it became a part of Madison township, Jackson county. At the time of the settlement there was very little cleared land in the vicinity, and the new-comers were but little behind their American neighbors in that respect. There was experienced the same lonesome, home-sick feeling which affects all strangers in a strange land. Yet their neighbors were very cordial in their welcome, and treated these people from Wales with uniform kindness and courtesy. They had for neighbors John Horton, Adam Welker, James Lewis, Thomas Buck, Philip Atkins, Benjamin and Elijah Dulaney, Thos. Oliver, Nimrod Arthur, Hickman Powers, Mr. Calligan and Mr. Radabaugh.

Jackson County was in its infancy, as was also Gallia County. In the year the Welsh settlers came, Jackson county polled only 309 votes. Surveyors were at that time platting and laying out the city of Jackson, and not until the next year was there a person buried in Jackson's oldest cemetery. At the time of the coming of the Welsh settlers Jackson Co. had for her commissioners John Stephenson, Robert G. Hanna and James Weeks. Daniel Hofffman was Auditor; Chas. O'Neil was Treasurer; Nathaniel Andrews was Recorder and Clerk of Courts; Gabriel McNeal was Surveyor; Joseph Armstrong was Sheriff, and Joseph Sill was Prosecuting Attorney.

At that time in the history of Ohio there were many hardships to be undergone by the pioneers, and our people were at a great disadvantage on account of their language and ignorance of American customs. Money was scarce and wages extremely low at trade rate. Farm products were scarcely worth hauling to market, yet they raised oats and hauled them to Gallipolis for 8 cts. a bushel. The men worked out for 16 cts. a day when they were able to get work.

The Indians had left the country, but wolves infested the settlement and gave the settlers much trouble. Their dismal howling in the woods at night was a sure producer of home-sickness, and many were the tears that were shed in the humble homes after the shades of evening had fallen and the settlers had time to indulge in thoughts of home and friends. They were dissatisfied and gladly would have gone back to Wales. But return was impossible.

Meanwhile time rolled swiftly by and events were transpiring which were slowly, though surely, binding them to their new homes. The first child born in the settlement was a son to Evan and Susanna Evans. That son is David D. Evans, born Nov. 19, 1848, and who now lives at Wellston, Ohio. He is the father of eight children, six of whom are living. Of the party which crossed the ocean in 1818 there are but three living: Evan Evans of Camba, O; John Davis of Easton, Mo., and Mrs. Eleanor Markham, of Waverly, Ohio.