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Home > Features > Yr American

Yr American


B.W. Chidlaw, Yr American : yr hwn sydd yn cynnwys nodau ar daith o Ddyffryn Ohio i Gymru, golwg ar dalaeth Ohio, hanes sefydliadau Cymreig yn America, cyfarwyddiadau i ymofynwyr cyn y daith, ar y daith, ac yn y wlad (The American : which includes notes on a journey from Ohio Valley to Wales, an overview of Ohio state, the history of Welsh organizations in America, instructions to seekers before the journey, during the journey, and in the country) (Llanfair, 1839)

(Only available in Welsh)


Yr American
A comprehensive guidebook about Ohio State which was published during the period when hundreds of Welsh people were considering emigrating to the United States.

It includes a description of the state's landscape, its schools and colleges, the government and the religious sects as well as details about the numerous Welsh communities which were developing there at the time. Chidlaw also gives essential and very practical advice to anyone intending to sail across the Atlantic and settle in Ohio.

Chapter 1


In Chapter 1 - the Voyage, we are lead on a journey with the Rev. B.W. Chidlaw from Paddy's Run, in western Ohio, to Cincinnati and on to Columbus, Radnor, Sandusky, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica, before he reaches New York.



Early pioneers, Cincinnati
(Courtesy of The Ohio Historical Society)
One subject which is given constant attention by Chidlaw throughout the guide is the development and progress of Ohio State and the exciting changes seen there over a period of fifty years. This is evident first of all when he describes the city of Cincinnati. In 1808, he says, its population was 5,000 but by the 1830s he claims that there were 50,000 inhabitants living there, and remarks:
"Half a century ago, this place was complete wilderness, domain to creatures, and wild Indians; great was the transition made in such a short time."
Chidlaw himself had been a witness to this change of course, as he was brought up in Ohio.
Description of Cincinnati and Columbus >>

He describes the views, the towns and the cities, the people and some of the sights he saw on the journey to New York such as Niagara Falls and the two tribes of Indians he came across.

After spending a few days in New York, Chidlaw sailed to Liverpool on board the Columbus. Even though he had a trouble-free voyage on the whole, he notes that he suffered some seasickness on board the ship. He also notes that they saw a shipwreck and that he had participated in a service to bury a child who had died at sea.
Go to page 10 to read a description of the conditions on board >>

Chapter 2


The general features of Ohio are given attention at the beginning of Chapter 2 - its location and size, its population, the coal and iron industries and the wool and cotton factories, the highways and the canals, the weather and the quality of the land in the valleys and on the hills.

Chidlaw gives us a relatively full picture but he made sure that the picture was not too idealistic. We are warned about the common diseases and maladies, such as malaria, bile, intermitting fever, pleurisy, rheumatism and tuberculosis, and he offers suggestions and advice to the reader as to the best way to look after his health.

Not forgetting that oppression, poverty and instability were some of the factors which impelled the Welsh to emigrate to America during this period, we can assume that readers of this guide would be very eager to read what Chidlaw had to say about the taxes of the state. The information at the bottom of page 17 and page 18 would surely alleviate the worries of those considering emigrating to Ohio to seek a better life.

Find out more about the taxes the residents of Ohio were expected to pay >>

There are three sections at the end of Chapter 2, namely "Government", "Religion" and a section on educational organizations in the state.

Chapter 3


In chapter 3, Welsh communities and organizations in the state are described:
(1) Paddy's Run (6) Owl Creek
(2) Radnor (7) Palmyra
(3) Newark and the Welsh Hills (8) Gallia and Jackson
(4) Columbus (9) Putnam and Vanwert
(5) Cincinnati

Emphasis is given again and again in this chapter on how basic the living conditions of the first Welsh pioneers were, as well as how hard they had worked to clear and cultivate the wooded land. Even though they did not have many resources, the Welsh did succeed to accomplish a great deal in a relatively short time, and transformed "the homely woods into a beautiful home for themselves and their children".

First of all he discusses Paddy's Run, in western Ohio. This is Ohio's oldest Welsh community and the community in which Chidlaw was brought up. The majority who lived there at that time were agriculturalists and according to Chidlaw, 200 - 250 of them were Welsh. A description is given of how the fertile land in the area was used and he also notes the price of buying and leasing land, and the wages of farm hands, servants and maids.

Details of the church established by the Congregationalists in Paddy's Run is given on page 22 >>

According to Chidlaw, the community in Radnor in Delaware County was formed in 1804. Welsh people from mainly Montgomeryshire and Brecknockshire had settled there and he believes that this particular community is larger than any other in Ohio. They were attracted no doubt by the fertile land of the area and the fact that schools and markets were so convenient. The different religious denominations had chapels and churches in Radnor and we are told that a great revival had taken place there amongst the Congregationalists and that the Welsh Baptists and Wesleyans had joined with their English counterparts.

More information on how much one would have to pay for a smallholding in Radnor >>


During this period, Newark, in Licking County, was a town "developing greatly" and many craftsmen from Wales were living there. Another Welsh community lived to the north west, in Welsh Hills which was first established by Theophilus Rees in 1803. A religious cause was started there by the Baptists. The Congregationalists and the Calvinist Methodists joined together to form a religious cause and build a chapel.

He then moves on to discuss the two cities, Columbus and Cincinnati. This is where the young people of Wales headed for. Details of the wages of servants, maids and craftsmen in the cities are given as well as the work opportunities in Cincinnati as it grew and expanded. The main difficulty a Welsh person would face would be finding work and a place to live straight after arriving. Some stayed in the cities to pursue their careers, while others saved their money to buy land and move to the country.

Go to page 26 if you would like to read a short description of the Welsh community in Owl Creek, approx. 36 miles from Columbus >>

It appears that the first pioneers from Wales had not ventured to Palmyra, in Portage County. Instead, they bought second-hand land worth 1 to 3 pounds an acre, after a Welshman called John Davies went there in 1829. Ten years later, Chidlaw surmises that the same land is worth 3 to 8 pounds. Even though it wasn't of the best quality, its location - near Ohio's canal and Lake Erie - made it valuable. He also notes that the Welsh denominations had churches and places of worship there.

After praising the terrain of many of Ohio's rural areas, Chidlaw then turns to criticize the quality of the land in the south east of the state, in Gallia and Jackson counties. When Yr American was published in 1839, hundreds of emigrants from Cardiganshire in Wales had settled in this area but, according to Chidlaw, the land was "extremely cracked and clayey" and it would be better if they had ventured to Mississippi valley.
Chidlaw's comments on Gallia and Jackson counties >>

It seems that Chidlaw was not the only one to criticize the land of this region. Anne Kelly Knowles noted in Calvinists Incorporated (p. 157), that John Jones Ty'n Rhos had heard that there was poor land in Jackson when he was heading there.
Letter by John Jones Ty'n Rhos which was published in Y Cenhadwr in 1845 >>

The community in Putnam and Vanwert was relatively new when Yr American was published. In 1834, many Welsh families moved from Paddy's Run to the area after the Indians sold the land to the government.
Information about the prices and the size of these original smallholdings can be found on page 27 >>

He estimates that there were approximately 40 to 50 Welsh families in Putnam and Vanwert in 1839 and, because the land was low and the canals so convenient, Chidlaw anticipates that more Welsh people would flock to this community than any other community in the state. There were no churches or places of worship there, but he noted that the Congregationalists had a preacher in the district and that there were preparing to form a cause.

There are other sections on: Utica, Deerfield, Floyd, Steuben, New York, Pittsburg, Ebensburg and Pottsville.

Chapter 4


Advice and instructions to those who were "seriously considering" emigrating to the United States are the contents of Chapter 4.

Chidlaw himself acknowledges that emigrating to a far-away and foreign country such as America, leaving family a friends behind, was a massive step and he urges anyone considering it to weigh up their situation carefully.

We are given a description of the personal features of those who would be most likely to succeed after venturing across the Atlantic, and also a description of the characters who would surely be disappointed and heart-broken and fail. It was generally believed that success would come to those who were willing to face the agreeable and the painful - those willing to work hard and suffer some hardship before being able to live a blissful life. "Faithful, sober, hard-working young people" would be better off if they went to America as well as hard-working and skillful craftsmen. There was a better place there also for young families according to Chidlaw:
"Parents, bringing up families, and owning property, and almost failing to keep their heads above water, in spite of all efforts, would be much better off if they went to America, where they would, undoubtedly, soon see a great change in their circumstances, for better."


His words are pretty harsh and firm to those who expect "an easy life with riches, laziness and drinking" after emigrating to America. He warns often against idleness and alcohol drinking in this chapter and plainly says that no "Gentleman Farmer" can live in the United States as everybody has to work there to ensure success. A sly kick is also included regarding the customs of the Welsh who had already emigrated.
Click here to read the complaint made about them >>

In spite of his warnings, Chidlaw mainly offers encouragement in this chapter as he tries his best to convince the reader to seek a better life in the United States.

The second half of the chapter discusses preparing for "The Journey". He notes which personal belongings should be carried all the way to America and instructions are given on how to arrange accommodation and a passage on a ship after arriving in Liverpool. Chidlaw was wise enough to realize how naive and inexperienced some Welsh people would be having left their own patch, and he therefore makes a point of warning them against "false friends" who could so easily deceive and mislead them. One of the problems faced by travelers in Liverpool would be having to wait a long time in the city after arranging for a ship to transport them.

Turn to the middle of page 42 to see how this could be avoided and to see how much it would cost to travel in a cabin and in the steerage >>

Chidlaw proceeds to offer extremely interesting advice regarding which food to prepare before leaving, how to avoid feeling depressed, how to conduct oneself generally on the ship and what to expect in New York.

Chidlaw does not allow the Welsh to choose their own paths in the foreign country either. He leads them on to Ohio, and describes:
a journey from New York to Utica and Ohio >>
a journey to Cincinnati through Pennsylvania >>
what kind of land should be bought and how to cultivate it >>

A description of the Mississippi valley can be found towards the end of the book as well as notes on the weather in that area and in Ohio.


A translation by Morris Owen Evans of the 2nd edition (1840) was published in Quarterly Publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio; Vol. VI, No. 1).

Click here to go to the page on B. W. Chidlaw >>



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