Evan & Elizabeth Davis
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A Distinguished Son of Llanbrynmair
'A Distinguished Son of Llanbrynmair', Montgomeryshire Express, 25 January 1910
Llanbrynmair, which Mr Lloyd George says is safe from a bombardment by German Dreadnoughts, was given not a few distinguished sons to the world, and amongst them Mr Ezekiel Hughes, who was born in that Montgomeryshire village on August 22nd 1767.
Hughes is said to have been the first Welsh settler in the Miami country, if not the first in Ohio. He wrote out an account of his immigration from his native land, and his adventures and travels during his first year or two in America. His journal was fragmentary and ended abruptly, but unfortunately was preserved. It was written in a blank book which, with a copy of "Poor Will's Almanac" for the year 1796.
In April 1795, with many other of his countrymen, he left the mountains of his native country to find a home in the new American Republic. After a voyage of thirteen weeks he arrived at Philadelphia, where he remained until the next spring when he visited Washington, D.C. He found the Capitol and the President's house both unfinished. In April 1796, in company with Edward Bebb, he started on foot for the North-west Territory, which was already attracting emigrants from the British Isles and the Continent of Europe. On arriving at Redstone (now Brownsville, Pa.), the travellers determined to take a boat down the river. At Redstone he wrote:
DOWN THE OHIO
"Our box arrived by wagon on Saturday, and we had an opportunity to go on a flat boat. On Wednesday we arrived at Marietta on the Musgingum, sometimes called the Ohio Company's purchase. There we found some good land that is said to yield one hundred bushels of corn to the acre, but much of the land is hilly. The present Register of the land is General Putnam, a very worthy character. We got a plot of two tracts of donation lands from him in all fifty lots or one hundred acres each. We were out viewing for three days, but could not thing of accepting and settling on these lands.
"We left Marietta on a flatboat bound for Limestone (Maysville, Ky), and thence to Cincinnati. The passage down the Ohio is safe, and the heavier the boat the faster it will go. The Ohio received a number of rivers; some of them appear as large as itself, but its width does not increase much, but it is said that sometimes is rises sixty to seventy feet above low water mark. The banks are chiefly clay; not many rocks, Generally one shore is level and the opposite hily. We travelled mostly in the night, as the boat floats faster in the night than in the day.
"When we landed at Cincinnati, once called Fort Washington, we applied to Judge Symmes, who is Register and chief proprietor of this purchase, for a plat of the land he has for sale. We went to see it, but did not like it. We spent three weeks in traversing the five lower ranges, and could fix on only one tract which we thought real good land for this country. It was well watered and convenient, being within half a mile of the big road from Cincinnati to Hamilton. The judge would not divide that section, and his price was high, so I broke off with him. This land was Section 23, Town 2, Range 2. I then bought one hundred acres at the north-east corner of Section 34, Town 2, Range 1, of another person for 2.50 dols. an acre. The land was not very level.
"My chief object in buying it was to wait til the US. land west of the Great Miami would be surveyed for sale. This land is near the Miami river, so that I would be near the government land and become acquainted with it, and learn experimentally what we could raise on the land when it was cleared. I was under apprehension that congress would not pass the bill this session but I now find that the land over the Miamis will be surveyed as soon as possible.
"The Miami is navigated by boats with provisions for the army at Fort Grenville. They pass every day and go about 100 miles up the river. Their crafts are long, sharp keel boats, with a board fixed on each side to walk on, having large poles with iron sockets. The boatmen stand at the bow, fix their poles in the bottom of the river, and push until they come to the stern and so on in their turn. Fort Washington, now Cincinatti, may be as large as Machynlleth (a town in Wales of about 800 inhabitants). It is a flourishing place, and the purchase is settling very fast, chiefly with people from New Jersey.
"When we first came we had two neighbours within two miles; on the other side we had none for five miles. Since then a person from Trenton, N.J., settled on an adjoining section and built his log house within a hundred yards of ours. He is a very devout man; a minister has called here and held meetings. We raise our own hemp, flax, cotton, and tobacco, and every kind of garden stuff. There are bears, wolves, panthers, and rattlesnakes in the woods, but I never heard that they attack a man unless they are first offended. Bear meat is better than bacon, being equaly fat and not so rank. Some bears weigh 400pounds. They occasion no dread to the people. The hunters would rather lay out in the woods than walk two or three miles to a house. I have done it sometimes myself and have come from Cincinnati alone with a pack horse at midnight, the three or four last miles with no road, only a path through the woods. The only thing dreaded by the settlers was the Indians, but since the British posts have been given up at Detroit, the Indians are peaceable, but they will steal a horse now and then, for it comes naturally for them. The Indians say the white people are too cunning for them, and that they work their cows - meaning oxen.
"We built a log cabin and cleared a patch for a garden, and in May our onions and potatoes are growing finely, and our turnip patch is about ready. We entered on our land on May 16th, intending to get three acres planted in corn, but in two days Ned (Edward Bebb) hurt his eye while grubbing, and for a fortnight he could work but little He then cut his foot with an axe, and was obliged to go to Cincinnati, seventeen miles, to a doctor. John, who worked for Judge Symmes, came to see me, and worked two weeks. He then said he would not work out in such hot weather for the world. So he left me and found work as a weaver. But in spite of all this, I got in an acre and a half of corn and half an acre of potatoes, and will have an acre of turnips. Everything grows very fast and luxuriant."
At the first Government sale of the lands on the west side of the great Miami, Ezekiel Hughes bought two sections (1,280 acres) at 2.5 dols per acre. These broad acres he left to his sons and daughters, together with the inheritance of a good name at this death in 1849. Both Hughes and his companion, Edward Bebb, were unmarried at the time of their settlement in the Miami country. Bebb's son, William, who was born at Paddy's Run, Butler County, December 8th 1802, became Governor of Ohio in 1846.