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> > The Welsh Pioneers in the Miami Valley

The Welsh Pioneers in the Miami Valley

Rev. B. W. Chidlaw, 'The Welsh Pioneers in the Miami Valley', The Cambrian, Vol. IV, No. 9 (September 1884), pp. 248-51.

In April, 1795, in the ship "Maria," of Salem, Massachusetts, a large number of emigrants from Wales, Great Britain, sailed from Bristol for Philadelphia. After a tempestuous and tedious voyage of thirteen weeks they reached the desired haven. These adventurous and enterprising emigrants were the founders of the Welsh settlement at Ebensburg, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, the "Welsh Hills," of Licking and Butler and Hamilton Counties, Ohio. In 1796 two young men, Ezekiel Hughes and Edward Bebb, of this band of emigrants, came west and settled in Colerain Township, Hamilton County. Ezekiel Hughes was the son of Richard Hughes, of Llanbrynmair, North Wales, a freeholder. The father gave the younger son a good outfit, and his blessing, on his departure for the western wilds of America. Mr. Hughes had a fair education, and had acquired the English language.


Preserved by his descendants, now lies before me, it is quite legible, but fragmentary. After landing in Philadelphia, in July, 1795, he remained in the city, visiting different parts of the country till the Spring of 1796. The first record in the journal is dated November 22, 1795: Went to Pennyp meeting, kept too much to the . The land is pretty good, clay and sand, plenty of creeks to drain off the water. Passed two mills. The wheat and sowed among the stubble of Indian corn and fields of excellent clover and turnips. Heard Rev. Mr. Rees preach the forenoon in English, and Welsh in the evening. Dined at Dr. Jones', returned that night, on foot and alone through Frankfort to Philadelphia.

"28th November - George Roberts (afterwards Hon. Judge Roberts, Cambrian County, Pennsylvania) was to enquire of the country people in market for Evan Jones. We met Mathews, who lives four miles from him, and twenty-nine miles from Philadelphia. He invited us to his house and we set out Saturday morning, and reached there in the evening, and were kindly entertained.

"Sunday, after a good breakfast, went to Mr. Jones', and attended meeting. That night we stayed with Es Hughes, where we were received with great deal of free good nature. was a Major in the United States Army; was in several battles, especially that of Brandywine. He is a great politician, but of easy access as anyone I ever saw. We called on several families. Mr. Ferguson, whom I thought the best farmer I had yet seen. His father was eighty-two years of age. When he first came over he purchased two thousand two hundred acres, and left it to his four sons and three daughters. It is generally remarked that foreigners live longer than natives. Next night we stayed at Mr. Stewart's; he is also a good farmer. The following day we called at several places, and were kindly entertained. The land is in some places good, and in several barren, that is, it begins to be too tired to bring wheat without manure. We only saw three farmers that had used manure. I have heard the women of this country severely censured; but in my opinion, except in making butter and cheese, they are as industrious and economical as ever I saw; they and their husbands are clothed entirely with goods of their own manufacture. The weather has been cold for three days, about the 1st of February it froze as intense as I ever felt in Wales; there was ice in the Delaware, about six inches of snow, but no blustering, windy weather this winter. I have lately been in Baltimore, Alexandria, and the Federal city Washington. The works are carried on slowly this time of the year, but they advertise for more hands. I do not think it any better for tradesmen than Philadelphia, it being more difficult to get comfortable lodgings and board, and full as dear. The walls of the Capitol are not above two yards high, and those of the President's house not finished. The hotel is covered but not finished. There are several private houses of brick finished, and others building, they are so scattered that they do not make a regular street. Shops and taverns for the accommodation of the workmen are chiefly frames. The Episcopal Church is a frame. Georgetown, which joins and may be considered a part of it, is a smart little place, on a regular plan, with four churches, Roman, Dutch, Presbyterian and Methodist, and a very elegant college or seminary. There is considerable trade carried on; flour and other produce is brought a great way down the river, though the locks are not completed. I believe all kinds of business may be said to be as brisk as anywhere in America. I passed, on my return, though Wilmington and other towns of less note. The President, General Washington, has advertised most of his lands about Mt Vernon for rent, and will sell the stock and implements if desired. It is very common here to let land upon shares on different terms, some finding stock and seed have two-thirds of the produce; some not finding anything but labour have the third, and others the half.

"The women take a pride in having nothing about their family or in their houses but their own manufacture. I would never wish to wear better linen than they make. I never saw in such a babel for languages, for you can hardly go into any tavern, stage-coach, or boat, but you will hear Dutch, French, Irish, and Scotch, besides English; but as all of them are on an equality here there seems to be no animosity on account of country or religion.


I have attended the Hall several times, hearing debates on several subjects. I shall mention one in particular; A man name Randall, from Vermont, with several others who were British merchants from Canada, had formed a company to purchase a tract of land from Congress. I was there also the day when the French flag was presented, and much good-feeling prevailed.


Leaving Philadelphia early in the spring of 1796 with his cousin, Ed. Bebb, they walked to Cambria County, on the summit of the Allegheny mountains, where several of their fellow voyagers from Wales had preceded them and commenced a settlement called "Beulah". Resting here a short time they walked to "Red Stone, or Old Fort" (Brownsville, Pa., on the Monongahela river). There they found their "boxes" sent by wagon from Philadelphia, and embarked on a flat-boat for Pittsburgh and down the Ohio. "We worked our passage down, six of us forming reliefs, two on the watch two hours, and four resting four hours. Arriving at Marietta, at the mouth of the Muskingum river, sometimes called the Ohio Company's Purchase, we left the flat-boat here that we might examine the country. The registrar at the land office is General Putnam, seemingly a very worthy character. He gave us a plat of the donation lands, fifty lots of one hundred acres each, and other lands for sale. We walked over the country for three days, some level land very good, but most of it hilly. A lot would be donated if we settled on it, or on the purchase. We did not accept the offer, but again embarked on a flat-boat bound or Limestone (Maysville, Ky.). We reached there the 16th; and on the 19th took a flat-boat for Fort Washington (Cincinnati). The passage down the Ohio is safe and slow. We thought it remarkable that the heavier the boat is the faster we go. The Ohio receives many rivers almost as large as itself. It does not increase in breadth as much as depth. Sometimes, it is said, it will rise sixty to seventy feet. Generally hills on one side and bottom level land on the other. At Cincinnati we applied to Judge Symmes, registrar and chief proprietor of the purchase for plats of the land for sale. We went to see the land but did not like it. We got another plat, and for three weeks traversed most of the five lower ranges. We fixed on a section of what we considered right good land, well watered and convenient, being within a mile of the big road from Cincinnati to Hamilton. The price was $3 an acre cash, or $4 part down and the rest in four years. This was Section 23, 2 Township, 2 entire Range. We did not like his terms. I then bought one hundred acres, N.E. corner 34 Section, 2 fractional Township, 1 entire Range, for $2.25 per acre. This is not level, being on the east side of the Miami river. My object in buying this was to wait until the office would be opened for the sale of land by the U.S. government, west side of the Miami,, and also to explore that land and to learn by experiment what we could produce on the soil, and to get some stock. Congress has passed a bill to survey the land so soon as possible. Boats go by here almost every day loaded with provisions for the army at Greenville. They say that they go up one hundred miles. Their craft are long keel boats with a board fixed on each side to walk on. Having long poles with iron sockets, they stand at the bow, fix their pole in the bottom of the river , and push till they come to the stern. Fort Washington (Cincinnati) may be as large as Machynlleth (a small town near his native place). It seems to be a thriving village, and the purchase is settling very fast, chiefly by people from New Jersey.

"We have lived here in our cabin since May (1796); our corn and potatoes in a fair way, and we are now but getting a turnip patch ready.

"When we first came here we had two neighbors within three miles. Since then a man from Trenton, N.J. has settled on an adjoining section and built his cabin within one hundred yards of ours. He is a very religious man, and a minister has called here twice. We have preaching within four miles of us frequently, by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodist.

"We entered on our land May 16, 1796, built a small cabin, and set to work clearing, intending to have three acres planted in corn. My cousin hurt his eye when grubbing, and he cut his foot with the axe and was obliged to go to Cincinnati (sixteen miles) to the doctor. He is now recovered, and our corn is planted. In the woods we find bears, wolves, and panthers. I never heard that they attack a man without they are first offended. Bear meat is better than bacon, being equally fat and not as rank. Some of them weigh over four hundred pounds. They occasion no dread at all. In this country, people travelling through the forest, would rather lay out in the woods than go two or three miles out of their way to find shelter. I have done so myself. I have come home from Cincinnati late at night with a pack horse four miles without a house. The Indians were troublesome, but for two years, since the British posts at Detroit have been given up, no settlers have been killed, but they still steal a horse now and then. They say, 'White men work cows' meaning oxen, 'and are driving the Indians away.'

"We understand that the government lands, west side Miami, when surveyed, is to be sold at public auction for not less than $2 per acre in sections and quarter townships, or 6,000 acres.

"In 1802 Mr. Hughes bought at public auction, in the Cincinnati land office, two sections in Whitewater Township for $2.10 per acre. His cousin Edward Bebb, bought land on Dry Fork, in Butler County, and was one of the founders of the Welsh settlement known as Paddy's Run."

These worthy pioneers died in a good old age, and left a rich inheritance, not only in lands and tenements, but in names and character, a richer and more valuable legacy for their numerous descendants.