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Home > Features > Acrefair Papers - the story of William and Hannah Morgan

The Acrefair papers - the story of William and Hannah Morgan

One family from Wales decided to move from Ohio to California in 1858 but the venture soon turned to tragedy.

Very little is known about the background of William and Hannah Morgan and their five children - William, John, Joseph, Margaret and Richard - but from the letters which have survived it seems that they originally came from the Dowlais or Rhymni area in Wales and had emigrated to Coalport, Meigs County, Ohio, sometime around the beginning of the 1850s.

While the family was living in Coalport, William went to California - "to the land of gold" - and he managed to earn enough money to enable him to buy some land there. Two letters sent home by Hannah during this period have been digitized.
digital library documentLetter 13 January 1854 (Welsh; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter 14 February 1854 (Welsh; English translation) >>

By 1858, William and Hannah and the children were ready to move to California, so in August of that year they went by steamboat from Coalport to Kansas city, and then onwards by wagon to the town of Emporia. But the family did not reach their destination.

"... a sort of rash broke out around their lips, and their mouths became very bad. This happened to nearly all of them even though giving birth to an 8 month old child was the cause of Hannah's death; it is believed that the child had died a week before the birth"
digital library documentLetter by the Rev. John Williams

An account of the unexpected and terrible deaths of William, Hannah and Joseph their son, is given in a letter sent by the Rev. John Williams, Pomeroy, Meigs County, to their relatives back in Wales. He also wrote about the four children left behind and the auction sale held to sell their possessions.

digital library documentLetter 24 January 1859 (Welsh; English translation) >>

"her situation was hopeless, she had Salivated[?] so badly that the flesh had been eaten from the top of all her mouth and making its way quickly up the left cheek I do not know if she is alive or dead"
digital library documentLetter by the Rev. John Williams

The news about the deaths must have shocked those who knew the family. Read the response of one acquaintance:

digital library documentLetter 5 January 1859 (Welsh; English translation) >>

The Rev. John Williams sent two other letters to the family in Wales discussing the future of the orphans and who could look after them either in America or in Wales. He suggested that it would be a good idea if their relatives would come over to Kansas to them but it seems that his suggestion was not given consideration at all. We understand from the letter sent to their uncle six years later that the children had had to stay in Kansas, not having received any help or support from their family in Wales.

digital library documentLetter 9 November 1859 (Welsh; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter 8 December 1865 (Welsh; English translation) >>