The Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania Considered Especially in Regard to
The Causal Inclusion Therein of Easttown and Tredyffrin
By Franklin L. Burns
Published by Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives
January 1982, Volume 20, Number 1, Pages 3-11
This article is an unpublished paper from the collection of the Tredyffrin Easttown
History Club. While its author is not indicated, it is believed to have been written
by Franklin L. Burns
A Note on Welsh Names-"Our social home makes sisters three, Verse, scholarship,
and history." "What ancients teach; The Cymeric speech; All memories of the good
and great. These three must bards perpetuate." (English translation of Welsh proverbs)
When William Penn received the royal charter for Pennsylvania from Charles II, March
4th, 1681, in lieu of a debt due Penn's father, the Admiral, John ap John, the first
and chief disciple of Quakerism in Wales, received early tidings of the event, doubtless
from George Fox, the English founder of the faith. He thereupon headed a number of
Welsh gentlemen, all of the new belief, to interview William Penn, of Worminghurst
in the County of Sussex, in May of the same year. The conferees included these well-known
John ap John, Ruabon, Denbeighshire
Dr. Thomas Wynne, Cherwye, Flintshire
Dr. Griffith Owen, Dolserre, Merionethshire
Richard ap Thomas, Whitford Game, Flintshire
Dr. Edward Jones, Bala, Merionethshire
John ap Thomas, Llaithgwm, Merionethshire
Hugh Roberts, Llanvawr, Merionethshire
Thomas Ellis, Dolserre, Merionethshire
John Roberts, Dongelly, Merionethshire
Robert Owen, Tyddyn y Garreg, Merionethshire
Charles Lloyd, Dolobran, Montgomeryshire
Richard ap Davies, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire
John ap Evan, Treferigg, Glamorganshire
Edward ap Richard, Almeley, Herefordshire
Lewis ap David, Llandewy Velfry, Pembrokeshire
William Jenkin, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
John Burge, Haverford-West, Pembrokeshire
It is not known in what order individually, or in groups, the above Welsh Quakers
arrived to hold conference with Penn, but it may be assumed that they represented
the Meetings of which they were leading members, as well as themselves individually.
They found that aristocratic Quaker, and favored courtier of the Court, engaged in
the gigantic land promotion scheme of the age, anxious to dispose of his land in
blocks of 5,000 acres, according to the Dutch plan of patroon concessions or townships,
and most willing to promise or ally any reasonable condition the Welsh desired.
Therefore, under certain arrangements orally granted, as the Welsh Friends later
asserted (and there seems to be no doubt that they exacted conditions even though
they neglected to have them reduced to writing and signed and sealed), a syndicate
or association of seven companies engaged to take 30,000 acres at once, the sponsors
or trustees being in nearly every instance the same as the members of the delegations
already mentioned. Another 10,000 acres were engaged conditionally, with an additional
10,000 acres subsequently sold by Penn's agents, making a grand total of 50,000 acres
in the Welsh Tract.
Penn's original price was 100 pounds sterling for each 5,000 acres, subject to an
annual quit rent of one shilling per 100 acres, payable by or on the first of March,
forever. There was some delay in giving the exact location of the grants, though
it was understood or agreed upon that the land of the Welsh Friends should be contiguous
and, furthermore, according to the purchasers, it should be subject to the local
government of the Welsh Quakers, in which they could set up their own laws and regulations
in their own language without becoming entangled in the legal verbosity of an unfamiliar
The patents for the original 30,000 acres were nearly all of the same date in September
1681, Seventeen Friends, one a woman, subscribed to the purchase of 5,000 acres for
Company 1. They were the first to arrive, on August 13th, 1682, on the ship "Lyon"
at Upland. The party included Dr. Edward Jones, Robert ap David, William ap Edward,
and Edward ap Rees. Their allotment of land was in Merion and Goshen. The next arrivals
were John ap Evan (or John Bevan) and his family and party, on the "Morning Star",
on November 16th, 1682. They were allotted the 2,000 acres of Company 3 in Haverford,
Radnor, Marple and Newtown.
Charles Lloyd, of Company 2, did not leave home, but conveyed his interest to his
brother Thomas, a lawyer, who became the keeper of the Great Seal for Penn and later
proved the most contentious for his rights and those of the Welsh Friends. He, with
Margaret Davies, a widow, received land in Merion. The Quaker evangelist, John ap
John, also did not come over, but Dr. Thomas Wynne, of Company 4, found their land
variously apportioned from Merion to Middletown, Goshen and Tredyffrin. Wynne had
been a cooper by trade, but he related that when he was learned enough to set up
a human skeleton with some assistance, the doctors thought fit to license him to
Lewis ap David, gentleman, of Company 5, had his 3,000 acres in Haverford, Marple
Richard ap Thomas, of Company 6, died shortly after his arrival, and his son Richard
Thomas, a lad of ten years when he landed November 16th, 1683, lost his allotment
in Newtown by bad surveys, sold his part in Goshen, and eventually settled on the
balance of his inheritance in Whiteland.
Finally, Richard ap Davies, of Company 7, also did not leave home, but his purchase
was located in various tracts in Merion, Radnor, Newtown and Goshen. Thus the "First
Purchasers" or early Welsh emigrants flocked to the western shore of the Delaware
and were thrust out into the wilderness, without even an Indian trail to guide them
to parts of their land. They were a sturdy, worthy people, perhaps more clannish,
argumentative, and less progressive than the English, and it has been hinted that
some were constitutionally opposed to hard labor. Few of them were satisfied with
the situation of their land. Many protested the parceling of their tracts in remote
sections of the province, and complained of the failure to define clearly the boundary
lines of the Welsh purchase. Belatedly, on the 13th day of the 1st month, 1684,
Penn gave Thomas Holmes the authority to make a survey, with these instructions:
"Whereas Divers considerable persons among ye Welsh Friends have requested me yt
all ye Lands Purchased of me by those of North Wales and South Wales, together with
ye adjoining counties to ym as Herefordshire, Shropshire and Chesire, about forty
thousand acres, may be ley'd out contiguously as one Barony, alledging yt ye number
allready come and suddenly to come, are such as will be capable of planting ye same
much within ye proportion allowed by ye custom of ye country & so not lye in large
"And because I am inclined and determined to agree and favor ym with any reasonable
Conveniency and priviledges:- I do hereby charge thee and strictly require thee to
lay out ye sd tract of Land in as uniform a manner as conveniently may be, upon ye
west side of Skoolkill river, running three miles upon ye same, and two miles backward,
& then extend ye parallel with the river six miles, and to run westwardly so far
as this ye sd quantity of land be Completely surveyed unto ym."
It is not known why the surveyor failed to follow the instructions of his superior
insofar as the bounds were concerned. Perhaps the allocation of land had so dispersed
the Welsh settlers that he feared to leave any considerable number on the outside.
Under the Surveyor-General's instructions, his deputy, David Powell, laid out the
Tract in the method of townships later decided by the Governor, at five thousand
acres, more or less, for each township. But it was not until the 25th of the 5th
month, 1687, that the exact bounds were defined and made known to the public.
This survey included Lower Merion, a part of Upper Merion, Haverford, Radnor, Tredyffrin,
Easttown, Newtown, Willistown, East and West Whiteland, East and West Goshen, and
a part of Westtown townships in the so-called Welsh Barony. Of this area, the Welsh
Quakers controlled politically only Merion, Haverford and Radnor. The shrewd system
of Penn's Land Commissioners had placed some of the land grants of the Welsh Quakers
in Marple, Middletown, and elsewhere outside of the area of the Welsh Tract, while
they had granted land in Easttown, Newtown, Willistown and other townships within
the Welsh Tract to English Quakers, and thus prevented the consolidation the Welsh
Friends desired and claimed. Perhaps it could not have been avoided.
Easttown and Tredyffrin townships, in the very heart of the Welsh Barony, had few
or none of the Welsh Friends as their first purchasers. Easttown was entirely in
the possession of three English speculators, while Tredyffrin was held in reserve
for some reason. Land in Merion was most in demand, and the early settlers, perhaps
for the reason it lay contiguous to Penn's "Greene Town", considered it the most
desirable. While Upland, or Chester, was the principal place of debarkation for
the earlier settlers, rumors that Holmes would recommend that the principal town
be located further up the Delaware at the Swede's farm called "Viccaco", brought
about a rush of immigrants to locate within or near by the future city of Philadelphia.
Many were content to purchase 500 acres or less from the speculators, and the more
affluent were attended by trains of needy relatives, ostensibly as servants, who
were eager to partake of Penn's bounty of 50 acres and his guarantee of religious
liberty. Here they set up their family altars without interference, and for a time
well might Maria Jones, their poetess, sing "I hear Jehovah's praise in Cymric's
native tongue", for the Society of Friends sooner or later erected meetinghouses
in every township within the Welsh Tract, save only Easttown. Preaching in Welsh
took place in Merion, Haverford, Radnor, and perhaps other townships. In these same
meeting houses the Welsh Quakers also conducted the business of local government,
unofficially, by their elders, as well as the conduct and spiritual welfare of their
A resolution was passed by the Provincial Executive Council as early as April 1st,
1685, in which Haverford and Radnor were separated from Merion, with the former placed
in Chester County and the latter remaining in Philadelphia (now Montgomery) County.
Pending Penn's approval, however, it was not enforced until March 25th, 1689 when,
during the absence of President Lloyd, it was reaffirmed by the Deputy Governor Blackwell,
and the majority of the Council. It was a tremendous blow to the Welsh Quakers,
since it rent in twain politically the most populous townships of the Welsh Tract.
The people of Haverford and Radnor refused to submit to the authority of Chester
County, voted for candidates in the Philadelphia district, and for a time caused
much unpleasantness. It was a practical demonstration of another Welsh proverb,
"Handsome slices can we make
When we cut our neighbor's cake."
The Land Commissioners (Markham, Turner, Carpenter and Goodson) dealt the final blow
to the Welsh Quaker domination of the area when, on October 25th, 1690, they passed
"Resolved, that notice be given unto David Powell, or some other purchaser concerned
in said trust, that they show cause why the land, not laid out, or not seated and
improved, within said tract, according to regulation, may not be disposed of as other
Lands, within the Province."
Owen Griffith and others replied at length, in a quaint and dignified manner, of
which the following contains the gist:
"Wee, the inhabitants of the Welsh tract in the Province of Pennsylvania, in America,
being Descendants of the Ancient Britons, who always in the land of our Nativity,
under the Crown of England, have Enjoyed that Liberty and priviledge as to our bounds
and Limits to ourselves, within which all Quarrels, Crimes, and Tittles were tryed
and wholly Determined by officers, Magistrates, Juries of our own language, which
were our equals,
"Having our faces toward these Countrys; made the motion to our Gov'r that we might
Enjoy the same here, which thing was soon granted by him, before he or we ever came
to these parts. And soon the 40,000 acres were Surveyed out, and by his own warr't
Confirmed by several orders from the Commiss's of ye Property and Settled upon already
with near four score Settlements, and, as we had good grounds to believe, if the
way had been clear from troubles, there might have been so many Settlers upon it,
by this time, as in Reason it could Contain.
"For we can declare, with an open face to God and Man, that we Desired to be by ourselves
for no other End, or purpose but that we might live together as a Civill Society,
to endeavor to decide all Controversies and debates amongst ourselves in Gospell
order, and not to entangle ourselves with Laws in an unknown Tongue, as also to preserve
our Language, that we might ever keep Correspondence with our friends in the land
of our Nativity.
"Therefore, our request is, That you be tender, not only of violating the Governor's
promises to us, but also of being Instrumental of depriving us of the thing, which
were the Chief Motives and Inducement to bring us here. ... And then we shall with
all readiness become responsible for the Quit-rent accruing to the Proprietor, the
Commencement thereof we shall refer and submit to his Consideration, and if our reasonable
desires be not answered, but our antagonists Gratified by our being exposed to the
uncertainties that may attend, wee shall chose, rather than Contest, to suffer and
appeal our Cause to God, and to our friends in England."
On May 2nd, 1691, the day appointed for the final answer, there appeared Griffith
Owen, Hugh Roberts, Robert Owen, John Sevan, and others of the First Purchasers who
stated that they were willing to pay henceforth quit-rent for the whole 40,000 acres,
but not since the date of the survey. This was the bone of contention. Their answer
not being satisfactory, it was resolved that the land already laid out in said tracts
unto other purchasers be confirmed unto them.
In "D. Powel's Acct. of ye Welch Purchasers in Genl" he lists forty-one grants in
his "Account of the purchasers Concurned in the Welch Tract Granted by Generall War't
by wich the Tract was laid out and such lands as hath bin laid by war'ts Dulle Executed
within same and ist of ye said English Parishes, The whole Comp'nt 50,000 acres".
Powell's own allotment in lieu of cash for surveying, is given as 1,000 acres in
Radnor, and he secured in Tredyffrin alone, between 1704 and 1708, seven tracts,
in aggregate 2,036 acres, most of which he no doubt disposed of at a profit. (For
although his spelling may have left much to be desired, his calling was favorable
to a shrewd estimate of good farming land.)
The Welsh Quakers were not alone in their desire to establish an all-Welsh community.
In 1718 and 1719, a number of members of the St. David' s Church, including Philip
David (or Davies), William Davis and Thomas Edwards of Easttown, removed to the Conestoga
Valley and established an Episcopal Church at Churchtown in Lancaster County, in
a second attempt to be alone.
The Land Commissioners gave the death blow to a possible clan of hyphenated citizens
of the great Welsh Tract, even though the Welsh had dwelt for ages in proximity to
the English and had managed to preserve their own peculiar language, a tongue forgotten
here in less than three generations. The English language has certainly proved to
be more apt and expressive, or many Welsh words would have survived among the numerous
descendants of the Welsh settlers. It is true that we have some beautiful geographic
names derived from Welsh sources - Cynwyd, Bala, Llanerch, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood,
Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Radnor, Berwyn, Duffryn Mawr, Tredyffrin - but I know of only
one word commonly used in a corrupted form; it is "pink", from the Cymeric "pwne",
meaning "acme", as in "the pink of perfection".
It should be remarked that the Welsh Quaker companies never controlled a square foot
of land in Easttown, and only a part of Tredyffrin, although both townships were
in the heart of the Welsh concession, and later saw a preponderance of Welsh owners
and inhabitants. Easttown was apportioned early. A surveyor's line, the well-known
Welsh line, extended across the township in a line from the middle of the Newtown
Street Road, and into Tredyffrin as far as Swedesford Road. In Easttown some 1050
acres were alloted to James Claypoole, a friend of Penn's [a member of the Free Society
of Traders, and the first Prothonotary of Philadelphia] as part of his 5,000 acre
grant. The remainder of the township (all west of the Welsh line) was taken by William
Wood, later of Marple, and William Snarlow, a prosperous merchant of London, a total
of 3,330 acres. Thus these three English speculators became the owners of the township
in its entirety.
"East Town", as it was originally written, was so called from its position in the
county, and like Tredyffrin, it is complete in name without adding the superfluous
and reiterative "Township". Tredyffrin is Welsh, from "Tre" (town) and "dyffrin"
(a wide cultivated valley), and hence was Valleytown in old English writing. It
was written "Treyrdyffrin" in 1715, "Tre:yr:Duffrin" in 1722, "Treddyffryn" in 1737,
and "Tredytsryn" in 1760, and also as "Treardyffrin" and "Tudyfrins" as it appears
in corrupted state on documents and tombstones of colonial time.
In 1740 Lewis Evans recorded upon his map the region between the two ranges of hills,
now known as the Great Chester Valley, as "y Duffryn Mawr" (the Great Valley). The
original Welsh Quakers, members of the Companies concerned in the purchase of the
Welsh Tract, were granted a part of their land in Tredyffrin, which in the aggregate
equaled an average township in size. Penn's agents shrewdly threw in some badland
with the good, so all the valley farms also had wood lots on the North or South Valley
Hills, land considered useless for farming purposes. Few of the original grantees
made actual settlement in Tredyffrin. The list, so far as known, included:
Richard ap Thomas' right to 5,000 acres, 1681, transferred 1705 to Richard Howell
Dr. Thomas Wynne's right to 5,000 acres, 1681, transferred 1708 to David Powell 350
Lewis David's right to 3,000 acres, 1681, transferred 1706 to Henry Lewis 352 A.
William Mordant (or Mordaunt), 1681 500 A.
William Powell, in right of his 1,250 acres, 1681 500 A.
Richard Hunt's right, 1681, transferred 1684 to William Beach 400 A.
John Taylor's right to 750 acres, 1681, transferred to John Griffith 250 A.
Cadwalder Jones, by right of his mother 100 A.
John Cadwalader (described as a Yoeman of the Great Valley) 500 A.
John Weale, 1682 200 A.
John Kinsey, 1684, patented 1702 and sold the same year to Lev/is Walker 539 A.
Henry Jones, 1684 200 A.
Rees Rhythry, 1684 250 A.
Elizabeth & Jane Potts, 1684 100 A.
John Hart, 1685 1,000 A.
A goodly proportion of the above were of Welsh origin, and of these there appear
a number of well-known Quakers. It is not known definitely, but it is presumed that
a large proportion of the early grantees of land in this, the largest township in
the county, forfeited their rights according to the contract because of non-settlement.
It is also possible that the syndicate over-estimated its ability to settle and
improve all the land it had contracted for. It is well known that this was not the
only Welsh Tract, and that their countrymen were being diverted to land east of the
Schuylkill River also.
The Welsh had been accustomed to stout walls of stone in the land of their birth,
and in the New World they lost little time before exchanging the log cabin for a
home of stone, snug and comfortable against a northern bank if possible, and with
a great chimney and cellar within. Their countrymen were not famous for any distinctive
style of architecture, yet their farmhouses seemed to fit into the landscape as typical
of the Colonial period in Pennsylvania. Even after the passing from the father to
the son of the burden of labor, and the necessary addition (or additions) to the
original house, the whole managed to retain a pleasing style.
The Welsh Quakers were never able to settle Easttown and Tredyffrin with more than
a minority of their own sect; the larger part was inhabited by Welsh Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, and Baptists, and with an ever-increasing English speaking population.
The history, the social, and the spiritual life of these early Welsh settlers rest
in the records of the Valley Friends, Great Valley Presbyterian, Great Valley Baptist,
Radnor and Montgomery (St. David's and St. Peter's) Episcopal meeting houses, for
the settlers were too busy felling trees and harvesting the lush crops to record
It was a hardy race of settlers who, after a week or fortnight of hard labor, found
time to make their long arduous way through the backwoods to the their place of worship
of their own creed, to make even these records available today.
A Note on Welsh Names
After the establishment of Christianity in Wales, many Biblical names were adopted
by the Welsh. A proud Welsh gentleman possessed of a retentive memory might, thus,
be identified personally by a recitation of his pedigree, as, for instance, "James
ap (son of) John ap Hugh ap Thomas ap David" etc., in a seemingly endless genealogy.
When family names or surnames were adopted, the transition was simple enough in many
cases: James ap John became James John, Thomas ap David became Thomas David. When
many of the names later became Anglicized, John in turn became Jones, David became
Davis or Davies, Hywel was changed to Howell, Harry to Harris, Gryffydd to Griffith,
Llew to Lewis, Llwyd to Lloyd, C-wain to Owen, Rhys to Rees, Rholyn to Rowland, and
In a similar manner, ap Richard became Pritchard or Prichard, ap Evan was changed
to Bevan, ap Harry to Parry, ap Hugh to Pugh, ap Howell to Powell, etc. Thus many
Welsh names are simply a reflection, sometimes Anglicized, of a part of the family