Radnorshire Settlers in the Foundation of Pennsylvania
Published in The Radnorshire Society Transactions
Volume 29, Pages 3-19, by Frank Noble, B.A. (1959)
Probably the most important feature of the history of the county of Radnorshire in the past three hundred years has been the amount of emigration from it. There is a sad lack of information about this movement, and even the subject of this present paper – the first recorded participation of Radnorshire people in the great overseas expansion of the West European peoples – has had but slight mention in the literature of the country. Yet the part that emigrants played in William Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment’ should be a source of pride here, for this was probably one of the most significant of all the colonial foundations in its effect on the development of western civilization, where religious tolerance, honest dealings with native tribes, and democracy itself, were shown to be practicable politics.
The majority of the early settlers from Radnorshire were Quakers, and it was religious faith rather than worldly ambition that prompted them to leave their farms and homes and neighbors in Radnorshire to fact the two months’ voyage across the Atlantic in small, crowded ships, and to hack out new homes and farms in the woodlands of North America, which had previously been only the hunting grounds of the Indian tribes.
The Quaker movement had come to Randorshire in the Commonwealth period, at the time when Oliver Cromwell had set his face against the high hopes of the ‘Independents’ and ‘Millenarians’, and had aroused the unquenchable animosity of Vavasour Powell.(1) But while Vavasour organized petitions and (according to his enemies) secret armies and violent plots, and thundered against the ungodliness of Oliver Cromwell, many of his former followers abandoned any belief that the Kingdom of God could be brought about by political and military action, and listened to the traveling ‘publishers of the truth’ of the Society of Friends.(2) So also did many members of the isolated group of Arminian Baptists, mainly confined to the area between the Ithon and the Wye, who owed their origin to the ministry of Hugh Evans of Llanyre, after his return to his native country in 1646.(1)
In 1654 the Quaker, Thomas Holme, reported ‘a great convincement’ in Radnorshire. He was followed by other Friends, and in 1657 by George Fox himself, who held one of the greatest meetings that he had in the tour of Wales somewhere in the country, and probably on Penybont Common, possibly near the site where the Pales Meeting House was later erected.(3) Among the people who joined them were Morgan Watkins, who was bold enough to challenge Vavasour Powell in public dispute at Knighton in 1658,(4) and Peter Price of Glascwm, then a Justice of the Peace for the county.
Vavasour Powell and his followers believed the ‘Fifth Monarchy’- the second coming of Christ to rule on earth – would follow the penultimate troubles of the Republic, “but the 29th of May 1660 saw the coming to London not of the expected Fifth Monarch, but of a very merry and material ‘Fourth Monarch’, Charles Stuart.”(5)
In Charles Stuart’s train there returned many men with long memories of indignities and deprivations, and a host of petty tyrants sprang up, anxious to show their zeal for the restored order by persecution of their dissenting neighbors. Parliament was only too willing to encourage their activities, and loaded the Statute Book with a mass of penal legislation. Some of the laws were especially directed against the Quakers, who by their refusal to use the customary deferential forms of address, or to show deference to rank and authority, or to take the legal oaths, made themselves obvious targets. Besides that, they could be harassed and persecuted without fear of covert reprisals.
In 1660 the meetings of the Radnorshire Quakers were broken up by soldiers armed with swords and staves.(6) Fines were imposed on them, as well as upon Baptists and Catholics, for not attending their parish churches.(7) Their appearance in court was made an opportunity for tendering the ‘oath of allegiance’, and their refusal was punished by imprisonment. Many of the restored clergy joined in the chase and distrained on their goods for unpaid tithes, and secured their committal to prison on writs of de excommunicato capiendo.
It says a great deal for the dogged persistence of the Radnorshire Quakers and Baptists that they stood firm in the face of all this. The persecutions went on for twenty years, with brief intermissions which were the result of individual action on the part of Charles II, rather than any slackening of the persecuting zeal. His Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 may have been primarily intended for the relief of his fellow Catholics, but the Merry Monarch undoubtedly sympathized with those dissenters who suffered with them. His Parliament, however, was too strong for him on this subject, and he was forced to revoke the Declaration, and after 1675 the persecution was once more in full swing.
This was the state of affairs in Britain when the King granted William Penn a great tract of land in North America in settlement of the debts he owed Penn’s father. Charles himself christened it Pennsylvania, in honor, he said, of the father, and against the wishes of William Penn who suggested that it should be called ‘New Wales’. The grant was finally sealed on March 14th, 1681, when Penn became the proprietor of a tract three hundred miles by a hundred and sixty, containing only a thin scatter of Swedish farmers along the banks of the Delaware river, and the small town of Upland (now Chester).
Two months after the grant had been made Penn held a meeting in May 1681, with a number of prominent Welsh Quakers, to discuss his plans for the settlement of his new colony. Penn seems to have been impressed by the sufferings and the hard lives of the Welsh Quakers, and particularly anxious that they should join in his ‘Holy Experiment.’ It seems to have been agreed that their lands should be laid out together in a ‘Welsh Tract’ of 50,000 acres, where the customs and language of the Welsh were to rule.
One of these prominent Welsh Quakers was Richard Davies of Welshpool. On the 16th of August 1681 he obtained from Penn a patent for five thousand acres of land in the proposed Welsh Tract, and set about finding settlers for it from among his friends in Wales. Of the twenty-six subscribers he secured, nine were from Merionethshire, including Rowland Ellis of Brynmawr who himself took 1,100 acres, one was from Carmarthenshire, two from unknown locations, and fourteen were from Radnorshire. All these seem to have been Quakers, and some of them may have made Richard Davies’s acquaintance almost twenty years previously, when a group of Radnorshire Quakers were imprisoned as vagrants in the House of Correction at Welshpool.(8)
Considering that the price paid for the land by these subscribers was only fivepence per acre, the modest amounts bought by the Radnorshire Friends would seem to indicate that they were either men of no great wealth, or of considerable caution, but altogether they subscribed for a total of 2,100 acres. The list of Radnorshire subscribers was as follows:
David Kinsey, a carpenter of Nantmel, ... 100 acres
John Evans, gent of Nantmel, ... 350 “
Ellis Jones, weaver, of Nantmel, ... 100 “
Margaret James, spinster, of Newchurch, ... 200 “
Richard Miles, weaver, of Llanfihangel helygen, ... 100 “
Roger Hughes, gent, of Llanfihangel rhydithon, ... 250 “
David Meredith, weaver, of Llanbister, ... 100 “
Richard Corn, glover, of Llangunllo, ... 50 “
Richard Cooke, glover, of Llangunllo, ... 100 “
Thomas Jones, gent, of Glascwm, ... 100 “
Evan Oliver, gent, of Glascwm, ... 200 “
John Lloyd, glover, of Disserth, ... 100 “
Edward Jones, gent. Of St. Harmon, ... 250 “
David James, mariner, of Glascwm, ... 100 “
It appears that some of these also bought land directly from Penn’s agents, but few particulars are available about these purchasers, who may have included people from Radnorshire not listed above. As it was, at least two of Richard Davies’s Radnorshire subscribers, like Richard Davies himself, never crossed to America to take up their lands, but sold their titles to later emigrants. Others delayed for a year or two before setting out. Some Radnorshire settlers, however, did arrive in Pennsylvania in 1682, which was the first year of active colonization, and it may be that some were among the employees of Penn who went out in 1681 to prepare the way for the colonists.
Two Radnorshire families are said to have had the honor of crossing to America on the ‘Welcome’, the ship on which William Penn himself set out from Deal on August 30, 1682. These were the families of Thomas Jones and Evan Oliver, both from Glascwm. It may not have been altogether fortunate for them, for few of the ship’s companies suffered more from disease. Thirty of the ‘Welcome’s’ passengers are said to have died of the smallpox, and it seems probable that Thomas Jones was one of them, for we hear nothing of him in Pennsylvania. The Olivers may have been more fortunate. Another child was born to them on the voyage, and christened “Seaborn” making seven children all told. Evan is said to have been in Penn’s employment as a ‘woodward or forester.’
One of the first parties of Welsh emigrants had arrived in august or early September of that year, being the company of John ap Thomas and Dr. Edward Jones, from Merioneth. The distinction of being the first Radnorshire settler however, seems to belong to David James, of Glascwm, who must either have arrived with this party or before them for he wrote in August 1682 to the Radnorshire Meeting of the Society of Friends for a certificate of membership for himself, his wife Margaret, and his daughter Mary.
We can imagine that he also gave a good report of the prospects in Pennsylvania, and advice for those who were to follow, similar to that contained in the letter, which has survived, from Dr. Edward Jones to the friends in Merionethshire: in this Dr. Jones described how they had been aboard for eleven weeks before they reached land, due to contrary winds, and then had taken another week to sail up the Delaware to Upland, and in all this time they had not lacked meat, drink or water, having three pints of beer, a quart of water and three ‘biskedd’ a day each. Many of the passengers had been able to eat little or no beef, though it was good, but they had found that “butter and cheese eats well upon the sea.” The town of Philadelphia was to be built fifteen miles up the river from Upland, but the ‘town lots’ had not been allocated yet. The lands which had been allocated to them “hath most rare timber,” and the end of each lot would be on a river as large as the Dee at Bala, called the “Skool Kill River.” He ended with a note in Welsh, to the effect that while they had no complaints against their captain (who was carrying back the letter for him) some of the first colonists from Carmarthenshire had come over with another captain from Liverpool, and spoke very highly of the provisions he had supplied.
The certificate for David James’ family was given at a meeting of Radnorshire Friends on the 10th of May 1683. The persistence of these Quakers is amply shown by the fact that they held a meeting at all, for ten weeks previously their Monthly Meeting at Llandegley had been entered by the High Sheriff and his deputy when one of the members was praying. All the Friends present were taken to an alehouse in the village, shut up there all night without fire, and in the morning taken over the bleak hiss to Knighton. Own Humphrey was find £20 for ‘praying at a meeting,’ and they were all kept in prison for a while for refusing the oath of allegiance. By the 10th of May however, they had been released, and were holding another meeting, but it is not surprising that part of their business should have been to issue certificates to members departing for the New World. It is more remarkable that any of the Society should have chosen to remain.
Besides the certificate for David James’s family at least two others issued at this meeting and three others issued by other meetings in Radnorshire are recorded in the early minutes of Philadelphia and Randor (Pennsylvania) Friends Monthly Meetings. Of the same date are the certificates of John Jarman of Llangurig, Montgomeryshire, and of Stephen Evans of Llanbister. David Meredith and his family, also of Llanbister, present a certificate dated 20.5.1683. From Llanfihangel helygen came Samuel and James Miles, with certificates dated 27.5.1683. James Miles, a man of sixty, was accompanied by a daughter and two other sons, Griffith and Richard, and it is Richard’s name which appears on the list of Richard Davies’s original Radnorshire subscribers. Samuel had been married, a year previously, to Margaret James, and a full account has survived of their simple wedding “by Friends’ ceremony, and in Welsh, at the house of Ann Thomas in Newchurch, Radnors.”(9) Margaret, probably either a daughter or a sister of David James, had taken two hundred acres in her own name in the new colony. Samuel seems to have gone out as a servant, probably to the Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania, who numbered ‘Thomas Harley of Kinsham,’ as well as Richard Davies, among its subscribers.(10) Stephen Evans also claimed at a later date that William Penn owed him something for personal services.
The close relation of these dates suggests that a party was being formed, and it seems likely that the following were included in it; the families of John Evans of Nantmel, and his brother Edward Evans, (for John Evans was taking an active part in Quaker affairs in Pennsylvania by 1686); David Kinsey of Nantmel, (who, however, died there in 1687); Richard Corn and Richard Cooke of Llangunllo (both of whom seem to have died within a year or two and their heirs sold their lands) and John Lloyd, whose presence in Pennsylvania is also only vaguely attested.
In the following year they are said to have been joined by Jane Evans, a widow with four daughters and a manservant, and Rees Rees (or Prees) with his wife and five children who crossed on ‘The Vine’ of Liverpool which arrived at Philadelphia in July 1684. Ellis Jones of Nantmel is also said to have arrived in that year.
For those who arrived late in the year their first experience of the hard Pennsylvanian winters was not altogether pleasant. Some were too late to build log cabins, but had to scoop hurried caves in the banks of the higher river terraces of the Delaware and Schuylkill. They were, however, supplied with food by the Swedish settlers, and also by the Indians, who hunted for them. In the following year they would, according to Penn’s calculations, be able to clear about fifteen acres and sow it, and erect a log cabin and barn on the pattern suggested by him.
The lands nearest Philadelphia, which had a population of 2,500 by 1685, were soon taken up, and the later arrivals were allocated their lands further back from the Schuylkill. In January 1684, William Penn ordered that the boundaries of the Welsh Tract Should be surveyed, and that its area should be divided into townships. The first land which had been allocated, along the Schuylkill and the boundary of the ‘City Liberties’ of Philadelphia, was named Merion township, west of that came Haverford township, and the township to the north of that was called Radnor. These were the first three townships to be settled, and their names reflect the origins of the three main streams of Welsh emigration to Pennsylvania.
Over half of the lands in Richard Davies’s patent were surveyed in Radnor Township, and while these did not include all the Radnorshire subscribers’ lands it does seem that they comprised the majority of the original occupiers of land in that township. The first child to have been born in Radnor township is said to have been Tamar, the daughter of Samuel and Margaret Miles. The next two births on record are those of John, son of John and Margaret Jarman, on 12.9.1684, and Sarah, daughter of Stephen and Elizabeth Evans, on 20.5.1686.
It is an interesting possibility that the surveyor of the Welsh Tract may himself have been a Radnorshire man. His name was David Powell, and the earliest deeds of the Pales Meeting House show that the burial ground there was presented in 1673 by David Powell, senior, and David Powell, Junior, of Llandegley. Their names appear frequently among the Radnorshire Quakers in the 1660’s and 1670’s, but have not been noted in lists of later date.(11) David Powell had had an original patent for 1,000 acres, and in 1686 his services as surveyor were recompensed by a patent for 611 acres to be laid out in Radnor, but he disposed of these, It seems probable that there were three different ‘David Powells’ living in the Tract. One was David Powell, son of Evan ap William Powell. He came over from Llanvareth, Merionethshire, in 1683, with his wife Gainor. In 1699 David Powell of Nantmel, Radnorshire, arrived with the party of Radnorshire people who had charted the ‘William Galley’ from Carmarthen, but there seem to be no grounds for identifying either of them with the surveyor of the Welsh Tract.
Almost all the settlers from Radnorshire so far named were Quakers but we know that between 1683 and 1686 a small group of five Baptists had crossed from Radnorshire. They settled to the north-east of Philadelphia, about fifteen miles from their old neighbors. They had the distinction of playing the major part in the foundation of the first Baptist church to be formed in Pennsylvania. The account, given by an eminent Baptist pastor of Philadelphia in 1770(12) reads as follows:
“About the year 1686, one John Eaton, George Eaton and June his wife, Sarah Eaton, and Samuel Jones, members of a Baptist church residing in Llanddewi and Nantmel in Radnorshire… arrived and settled on the banks of the Pennepek (formerly Pemmepeka).
In 1687 the Rev. Elias Keach of London came among them and baptized Joseph Aston and his wife, William Fisher and John Watts.”
With Keach – making twelve – they formed a church in January 1687, and made Samuel Vaus their deacon. Elias Keach, their first pastor, was the son of the famous Benjamin Keach of London, and he returned to England not many years afterwards. He was followed in the pastorate by John Watts, then Evan Morgan and Samuel Jones. Samuel Jones was born in the parish of Llanddeewi, Radnorshire, on July 9th, 1657. He was called to the ministry in 1697 and was ordained on October 23rd 1706. He died on February 3rd 1722, and was buried at Pennepek.
After 1687, changes in circumstances, both in Britain and in Pennsylvania, affected the flow of emigrants. In that year James II issued his ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ and was anxious to have the support of the dissenters in his attempts to remove the disabilities of his Catholic coreligionists. William Penn was on terms of close friendship with James, and was placed in jeopardy by the revolution of 1688, but there was no renewal of the persecution of Nonconformists. Three decades of dogged and determined passive resistance compelled the passage of the Toleration Act in 1689.
At the same time as the religious motives for emigration were lessened political clouds hung over Penn. Between 1692 and 1694 he was deprived of the government of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania itself the Welsh hopes of a separate Welsh-speaking ‘Barony’ were dashed in 1691, when it was ordered that lands in the tract should be laid out to other purchasers, and the political influence of the Welsh was diminished by placing the townships of Radnor and Haverford in Chester County, while Merion was placed in Philadelphia County, so that in both units of administration the Welsh were in a minority. On the other hand the economic advantages of emigration to this peaceful and prosperous colony were becoming more apparent, and good reports must have been flowing back to relatives and friends of the first settlers.
One member of the family of James Morgan, of Vaynor, Nantmel, had left Radnorshire to live at Gwernevel, Merionethshire. This Cadwallader Morgan is said to have been a Quaker who suffered greatly in the persecutions. He went out to Pennsylvania with the second party from Merionethshire, which set out from Mossom, Chester, on the ‘Morning Star,’ in September 1683, and arrived at Philadelphia two months later. He had taken up his lands in Merion. It is probable that he wrote to his father and brothers at Vaynor, Nantmel, or they may have heard good reports from their former neighbors, John Evans and Ellis Jones.
James Morgan bought the claim to 250 acres which his neighbor, Edward Jones of St. Harmon, had purchased in 1682. He set out with his wife Jane, daughter Margaret, and three sons, John, Evan and James, in 1691 and was buried at the head of Bohemia Bay on Chesapeake, Maryland.(13) John, the eldest of the three sons, took up the land, which had been surveyed in Radnor township. He married Sarah, the daughter of John Evans. Perhaps they were united after eight years apart, for they must have known each other before her family left Nantmel. They seem to have prospered; there was a large family, and he acquired three other stretches of land in Radnor, near ‘Morgan’s Corner’ (now known as Radnor). He called these Vaenor, Nantmel Hall and ‘Brui Lion,’ after farms in his native district. The name of Vaenor still persists, and it was stated in 1912 that some of his lands were still held by descendants.
William Davies, from some part of Radnorshire, was probably an earlier arrival. In 1685, he had bought the title to 100 acres originally granted to Thomas Jones of Glascwm who had sailed on ‘The Welcome’ with Penn. In 1687 he bought a hundred acres from Ellis Jones, and later he purchased the lands of Evan Oliver from his heirs. He married Ann, the daughter of James Miles. The decline in the religious impetus behind the emigration is indicated by the fact that neither John Morgan nor William Davies seem to have played any part in the Society of Friends, and in fact William Davies was to become one of the founders and the mainstay of the Church of England congregation which grew up around Radnor in the following years.
A map of the Welsh Tract in 1690 notes that there were then forty families living in Radnor Township. In 1693 valuations of the properties of eighteen of the more substantial settlers were drawn up, probably in connection with a tax of ‘one shilling in a hundred towards the taking of wolves.’ At least seven of these were Radnorshire men. David Meredith was taxed on the township’s highest valuation of £70. John Morgan, assessed at £32, William Davies at £31, Samuel Miles at £33, his brother Richard at £34, Stephen Bevan (or Evans) at £45 and John Evans at £45, make up the rest of the known Radnorshire contingent.
It seems likely that before the end of the century all the land in Radnor Township had been taken up, and had been consolidated into farms, and that a considerable amount of progress must have been made with the clearing of the land, and the building of more comfortable houses and buildings. In 1701 the Welsh settlers had to present their deeds and have their lands re-surveyed. This disclosed that most of them had enclosed more than they had deeds for, and the overplus had to be paid for. Some grievance was felt against Penn’s agents on this account, particularly by those who had lost money by subscribing to the abortive Susquehanna Land Company.(14)
Few, if any, of the members of the Radnorshire ‘Charter Party’ which set out in 1698 aboard the ‘William Galley’ from Carmarthen obtained land in Radnor Township. For their five pounds a head the sixty or more passengers were safely delivered to Philadelphia.(15) Those who were Quakers registered their certificates, and some of these are on record, and provide further particulars; Evan Powell was a weaver, and he and his wife Gwen had come from Nantmel; Thomas Powell and Edward Moore were from Llanbadarn fawr; Lumley Williams was from Radnor Borough; John Roberts was a blacksmith and widower from Nantmel; William Smith was also from Nantmel, and Anne Lewis was from Rhayader. Edward Moore is said to have become a freeholder in Chester County, and Lumley Williams is said to have become a freeholder near Philadelphia, but died unmarried.
Part of the inspiration of the ‘Charter Party’ may have come from the visit to Radnorshire in 1697 of Hugh Roberts who had been the leader of the Merionethshire party with which Cadwallader Morgan had gone out in 1683. He called on Roger Hughes of Llanfihangel Rhydithon, whose lands had been laid out in Radnor Township, but who seems never to have visited them. Next Hugh Roberts met Edward Jones and David Powell at a place noted in his journal as ‘Llanole,’(16) and it seems likely that this was the David Powell who in the following year was the co-charterer of the William Galley. Roger Hughes did not go with them, and in the following year he disposed of the remainder of his land in Radnor Township to Thomas Parry, a weaver, of Henllan, Llandelwedd. His family had a certificate from the Radnorshire Friends Quarterly Meeting dated 5.5.1699. Another Friend, Hugh Lloyd, a widower and laborer of Llandeilo graban, probably went over in their company.
Two members of the ‘Charter Party’ are known to have become associated with the Church of England group. James Price (or Prise) and his wife Susannah bought 140 acres in the township of Newtown, adjoining Radnor. They attended the services which were held once a fortnight at the house of William Davies, when the Rev. Evan Evans, who had been sent out as a missionary to Philadelphia by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, preached to them in Welsh. In 1704 the congregation petitioned the S.P.G. for a minister of their own “who understands the British language… there being many ancient people among those inhabitants that do not understand the English… A sober and discreet person… might bring in a plentiful harvest of Welsh Quakers that were originally bred in the Church of England.”(17)
In 1712 this was renewed in a petition for the Rev. John Clubb to be appointed “missionary for his countrymen the Welsh at Radnor.” When this was finally granted in 1714 the members met and “heartily engaged themselves to build a handsome stone church.” In the following year they erected the building which stands as “one of the most interesting historical landmarks of Pennsylvania.” The church itself was just inside the boundary of Newtown, near its junction with Easttown and Radnor. The settlement of Radnor had been mainly accomplished by the Quakers, and even by 1730 there were few members of St. David’s Church, as it was called, in that township. Most of the members came from the other two townships, which had been more recently settled. In the quiet grave-yard can still be seen the gravestones of James and Susannah Prise, who died in 1735 and 1733 respectively, leaving £72 and a Welsh Bible to their three daughters.
The zeal of the Church of England (or Protestant Episcopalian) congregation may have spurred the Quakers of Radnor to more activity, for in 1717 they began to build their Meeting House in stone. This too, still survives with little alteration. Plain and simple, like all Quaker Meeting Houses, its high peaked roof gives it an undeniably Welsh air, and provides an interesting comparison with the a meeting House at the Pales, Llandegley, built by the Radnorshire Friends at this time. Before the stone building was erected there is believed to have been a wooden structure on the site and before that there are records of meetings having been held in the homes of John Evans, John Jarman and others.
It is possible that some of the ‘Charter Party’ may have joined the Baptists at Pennepek, who had been strengthened by the conversion of the Miles family in 1697. Griffith Miles took land near Pennepek, and his children’s names appear in the oldest records of that church.(18) In 1698 another party had crossed from Liverpool to settle in the ‘Gwynedd’ tract to the north of Philadelphia, and some of the Radnorshire party may have joined in the settling of this area. A road which leads to it from Philadelphia is still known as ‘The Old Welsh Road,’ and just outside the boundary of the city it crosses the Pennypack Creek near the old church built by the Pennepek Baptists, where anniversary services in connection with its foundation are still held in the summer, though the congregation has for many years met in the city, and is known as the Lower Dublin Church.(12)
Richard Miles, who is said to have been a ‘hearer’ of Henry Gregory, the Baptist pastor at Llanddewi, before emigrating,(19) remained in Radnor for some years after joining the Baptists, and it was at his house that a conference was held in 1706 to ‘adjust some differences in ordinance’ between Pennepek and the Delaware ‘Welsh Tract’ Baptist church. This was formed by a group of Cardiganshire Baptists who emigrated in 1701. Their church building of 1746 still stands about two miles out of Newark, Del.(20)
Pennepek, however, like the Protestant Episcopalians of St. David’s, did not quickly forget its Welsh. The sixth pastor there, Abel Morgan (of Llanwennog, Cardiganshire) published in 1730 his Cydgordiad Egwyddorawl o’r Scrythyrau, the second book in Welsh to be published in the New World. One copy in Wales is known to have carried the following record:
“This book was sent from Pennsylvania for John Bywater, living in the Parish of Llanbister, Radnors, by his uncle, John Morris, being the first concordance that was ever translated into Welsh, in the year 1730.”(21)
John Morris, co-charterer of the ‘William Galley’ in 1698, was apparently still mindful of the relatives he had left behind in his native country.
Interesting light is thrown on the process of emigration in the early days from two sources with Radnorshire connections. An agreement drawn up between William Davies of Radnor and Nathan Evans in 1714 shows that William Davies, who was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1712 and 1714, had gone into business as a shipping merchant, and in it he undertook ‘to bring and transport from Great Britain to Pennsylvania so many of Nathan’s kinsfolk as shall be willing to come over on the said Nathan’s account.’(22) A more personal account is given in the Journal of John Griffiths, who was born at a house called Tyn-llan, in Llandegley, in 1713.(23) This reads as follows:
“When I was about the age of thirteen years a Friend who had lived some time in Pennsylvania being in our parts, and frequently at our house, gave a very pleasing account of that country. I having two uncles and an aunt there, some of whom had before written to encourage our going over thither, my inclination grew very strong to go; though my parents, especially my father, were at first very much against it. But I was as one immoveably bent for going; which, when my parents saw, and that an elder brother inclined to go with me, they at length consented thereto and procured a certificate of our being in unity with Friends.
There being a family of Friends living in the compass of our Monthly Meeting also going over in the same ship, we were delivered under their care; and in the year 1726 we embarked at Milford Haven on board the Constantine, galley of Bristol, Edward Fry master. We had a passage of about eight weeks from land to land. We were about eighty or ninety passengers, amongst whom three children were born whilst on board, and none of us were removed by death.
My uncle John Morgan, who lived about twelve miles from the city of Philadelphia, having heard of our arrival, came on board and conducted us to his own house, where I continued for some time. My brother, being a weaver, settled at my aunt Mary Pennel’s, following his trade.”
John Morgan, who had arrived in Radnor after that sad voyage of 1691, died at the age of seventy-five in 1744. A Welsh writer ten years later commented on the longevity of his fellow-countrymen in their new home. Their preference for land with good water had shown remarkably evident benefits in long lives, so that although they had not been a tenth of the original settlers there were more old people left among them than among all the other adventurers. Their circumstances compared favorably with those of the Dutch and Germans, and he wrote: “Most of the Welsh, being Quakers, do not bustle, change and shift their habitations and business like the other inhabitants, but persevere in their happiness.”(24)
This picture of a very settled and placid community may have applied to some of those Welsh Quakers who remained in the Society of Friends and helped to maintain their basic principles, and to demonstrate their value to the world, but it does not fit in with the activities of the Baptists and Episcopalians, and it takes little account of the activities of the later arrivals from Wales who were prominent in the human tide which crept further and further into the interior of the continent. It is said that not may yeas after the Welsh had settled the three original townships of Merion, Haverford and Radnor, “their number was so much augmented as to settle the three other townships of Newtown, Goshen and Uwchland. After this they continued still increasing, and became a numerous and flourishing people.”(25)
Newtown and Goshen were parts of the original ‘Welsh Tract,’ as also was Tredyffryn, in the Great Valley region, north-west of Radnor, where settlement had gone far enough fro the township to be organized in 1707. Richard Miles’ family moved there and founded the ‘Great Valley’ Baptist church in 1711. Not long afterwards Joseph Eaton, of Pennepek, helped to set up a Baptist church in Montgomery, among the Gwynedd settlers. The Episcopalians also extended their activities from St. David’s and by 1725 their church of St. Peter’s, Great Valley, was well enough established for stone construction to begin.
It is curious that while the Congregationalists seem to have been strong in Radnorshire at this time, it has not been possible to identify any of them among the emigrants. The oldest Welsh Congregational church in the area, founded in 1710, is the Delaware ‘Welsh Tract.’(20)
Uwchland lies outside the original ‘Tract’ sixteen miles west of Radnor township, and three miles to the north of Uwchland lies Nantmeal, on the Conestoga road. It has not, so far, proved possible to follow up the story of the later emigrants in detail, or to discover which of the settlers transplanted this name from Radnorshire. Further penetration along this route had occurred by 1718, when William Davies and his family were playing a prominent part in the establishment of a new settlement, fifteen miles west of Nantmeal, which was known at first as Conestoga, and when Lancaster County was organized, became the two townships of Caernarvon and Robeson. Here in 1730 the Episcopalians built a church of squared logs and gave it the name of Bangor, and altogether they set up four churches at about this time.(26) In the meantime the Baptists of the Delaware and Pennepek churches were beginning to organize a series of daughter churches which spread out into other parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and North and South Carolina.(27)
For many years the Welsh succeeded in keeping their language alive, but the last missionary to officiate in Welsh in St. David’s was Griffith Hughes, who was there from 1732 to 1736.(26) In later years several attempts were made to establish new Welsh-speaking communities, but none proved to be successful. Professor Dodd’s verdict is that “the Welsh made their most significant contribution to the development of the U.S.A. in their dispersion rather than their concentration… in association with Ulstermen, Germans and others, more often than with the settled English Puritans of New England, or the English and Scots planters of the South.”
The significance of the old Conestoga road, and the pioneering work of these early Radnorshire settlers is considerable. This seems to have been one of the first major examples of overland penetration into the interior of North America, in contrast with the essentially riverain nature of much of the early expansion. Its line can still be traced from Lancaster, which became the largest inland city on the continent before the end of the colonial period, right across to Radnor and Merion townships. Later it was superseded by the more direct Lancaster Road, which in 1790 became the first turnpike road to be built in the U.S.A. Over it teams of horses dragged the heavily loaded Conestoga wagons, named after the place where they were first built, on the banks of the Conestoga Creek, which were the models for the great fleets of ‘Prairie wagons’ that in later years rumbled ceaselessly westwards carrying the pioneers to the peopling of a continent. Many Radnorshire people must have begun their journey to a new home over this road, and in these wagons, and the wagons themselves may have owed some features of their design to wheelwrights and carpenters from this country, or from other parts of Wales.(28)
The process of emigration continued steadily in succeeding decades, and for two centuries Pennsylvania remained the main point of entry for Welsh people going over to North America. In 1890, when the number of natives of Wales living in the U.S.A. rose to its high-water mark of over 100,000, 38% of them were living in Pennsylvania. Radnorshire was still probably providing more than its share. In the census of 1891 only 16,191 out of a total of 33,046 natives of Radnorshire in Britain alone, were living in their native country, and it is not unlikely that a similar number had gone overseas.
In spite of the road, Radnor Township, like the rest of the original Welsh Tract, remained a quiet rural area for almost two centuries. In 1834 it was crossed by the Columbia Railroad, but it was not until this was replaced by the ‘Main Line’ of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1860 that the area began to be developed as a suburb of Philadelphia. Its main center is now the town of Wayne, largely developed since 1880, which is called after the locality’s best known son, General Anthony Wayne, an American General in the War of Independence, who is buried in the churchyard of old St. David’s. The recent development of the township has been very rapid. The census of 1950 gave it a population of 14,709, on an area of 14.29 square miles, but it is now estimated to contain twenty thousand people. This is an interesting contrast with Radnorshire, containing also twenty thousand people, but spread over an area of 470 square miles, and which has no more people now than it had when census records began in 1801.
It is a far cry from this prosperous suburban community back to the wooded lands which the Radnorshire Quakers bought for five pence an acre, and the first simple log cabins they built in their clearings; but the main stream which flows through it, and gives its name to a district there, is still called the Ithan, after the River Ithon in Radnorshire on whose banks some of the first settlers must have played as children. Near it stands the Meeting House they built, while St. David’s to the west, and Pennepek to the east bear witness to the important part which Radnorshire settlers played in the establishment of the Episcopalian and Baptist churches in Pennsylvania.(29) They mark the gateway through which many children of Radnorshire’s hills passed to play their part in the opening up of a new continent and a new era.
Browning, C.H. The Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia 1912.
Glenn,T.A. Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania (2 Vols.) Oxford 1913.
Pleasants, H. The History of Old St. David’s, Radnor. Philadelphia 1915.
(See article in Trans. Of Soc. Of Cymmrodorion, 1936, pp. 125-135, by A.O. Evans).
Dodd, A.H. The Character of Early Welsh Emigration to the U.S.A. U.W.P. 1953.
Rees, T.M. History of the Quakers in Wales. Carmarthen 1925.
Williams, D. Wales and America U.W.P. 1946 and The Contribution of Wales to the Development
of the U.S.A. in the N.L.W. Journal, 1942
The Background of Quakerism in Wales and the Border. Radnor and Hereford Monthly Meeting. 1952
Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, Vols. V, XI, XXII and XXVIII.
Journal of the Historical Society of The Church in Wales, Vols. IV & V.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vols. 1, 11, 17 and 37
This essay contains little in the way of original research, but is rather a compilation and analysis from the sources quoted. The bulk of the detailed particulars about the Quaker settlers in Pennsylvania comes from the great mass of source material in Browning’s work, supplemented mainly from the works of Pleasants and Glenn. Certain reservations have to be made, as Browning’s work sometimes appears confused, and contains several mistranscriptions (of which ‘Hamhangobyehogen’ for Llanfihangel helygen is the most spectacular), and Glenn classifies as ‘Church of England’ several people, including Stephen Evans of Llanbister, who took certificates of Quaker membership with them.
Sources other than Browning are noted below.
(1) Dr. T. Richards, The Puritan Movement in Wales. p. 209.
(2) G.F. Nuttall, The Welsh Saints, U.W.P., 1957. pp. 59-68.
(3) E.S. Whiting, the The Background of Quakerism, etc., and
H.D. Phillips in Rad. Soc. Trans., XI, pp. 31-36.
(4) Morgan Watkins’ tract against Powell, The Perfect life of The Son of God Vindicated, etc., published 1659. (Library of Soc. of Friends).
(5) T. Richards, Wales under the Indulgence, 1672. London, 1928, p.9.
(6) T.M. Rees, op. cit., pp. 128 et seq.
(7) Trans. Rad. Soc. XXVIII (1958) pp. 69-71.
(8) This group was led by Peter Price, see Life of Richard Davies (1844 ed.) p.44.
(9) A full account of the ceremony is given in T.A. Glenn, Merion in the Welsh Tract, Philadelphia 1894, pp. 361-2. See also Glenn’s article James Miles and some of his descendants in Peena. Mag., Vol. 37, pp. 240-7. Richard Miles, tailor, married Sarah, daughter of Jane Evans, ‘by Friends’ ceremony at the house of John Evans in Radnor’ on 28.4.1688. See also Note 16 below.
(10) Penna. Mag. Vol. 11, pp. 175-7.
(11) T.M. Rees, op. cit. pp. 128-9.
(12) Morgan Edwards, Materials towards a History of the American Baptists, (1770), Vol. 1. (Extracts, and further information about Pennepek [or ‘Pennypack’], from Dr. R.E.E. Harkness, Chester, Pa.). A more detailed account is given in Minutes from Olde Pennepack Record Books, The Chronicle (American Baptist Hist. Soc.) Vol. 1, pp. 125-9. There almost the entire credit as founders is given to the Radnorshire group, who later had differences of opinion with Keach on the subject of predestination, among other things. John Watts, who succeeded him as pastor in 1692, was married to Sarah Eaton.
(13) Quoted by T.A. Glenn, Welsh Founders, Vol. 1, p. 127, where he traces the descent of this family through a 14th Century David Lloyd of Boultibrook (near Presteigne), back to Rhys ap Gruffydd and the princes of South Wales.
(14) John Evans was a signatory of the Charter of the Susquehanna Company, and the following were among the contributors: Cadwallader Morgan, David Meredith, Samuel Miles, William David, John Morgan and David James. Some confusion arises from the fact that there was another man in Randor sometimes known as John Evans (otherwise Thomas John Evan, or Thomas Jones), who came from Bala as one of the first emigrants. An interesting account of his experiences, written by his son in 1710, is quoted by Browning from the Cambrian Magazine of 1833.
(15) An Old Charter Party, Penna. Mag. Vol. 1 (1877) pp. 330-2, reprinted in Rad. Soc. Transactions, 1958, pp. 66-8.
(16) The diary extract given by Browning is not very clear. Mrs. E.S. Whiting informs me that Edward Jones lived at Talcoed, near Nantmel, which continued for a considerable period as a Quaker Meeting, and that ‘Llanole’ was Llanoley, in Newchurch parish, near Bryngwyn church, which was the house of Ann Thomas, where Samuel Miles and Margaret James were married. There was a Quaker burial ground there. Ann Thomas, when over eighty, and blind, was imprisoned for more than two years at Presteigne, but was reported as ‘contented in her sufferings.’
(17) H. Pleasants, op. cit. p.41. See alsoM. Clements, The S.P.C.K. and Wales, 1690-1740, pp. 67-71 & 178.
(18) Records of Pennypack, in Penna. Mag. Vol. 11, p. 58-62.
(19) Joshua Thomas, History of the Baptist Association in Wales, 1795 p. 36. The center for the Radnorshire Baptists was Henry Gregory’s home at The Cwm, Llanddewi, the site of which is near the present farm of Cwm-cefn-y-gaer.
(20) Welsh Outlook, Vol. XIV (1927) pp. 242-4.
(21) Trans. Rad. Soc., 1952, p. 55, re letter in Cambro-Briton, 1821.
(22) Given in full in Pleasants, op. cit. p. 344, n.
(23) The Journal of John Griffiths, London, 1799 & 1830.
(24) N.L.W. Ms. 14097, quoted by D. Williams in op. cit.
(25) Proud. History of Pennsylvania, quoted by T.A. Glenn.
(26) Pleasants, op. cit. p. 73 et seq. Presumably some of the settlers that Nathan Evans and William Davies proposed to bring over in 1714 were intended to take part in this settlement. The area around Lancaster is said to be some of the richest farmland in the United States.
(27) A.H. Dodd, op. cit.
(28) Mr. A. Conway, Aberystwyth U.C.W., points out that the credit for the original construction of the Conestoga wagon is generally accorded to the German settlers in this area.
(29) ‘Radnor was pre-eminent among the earlier (Episcopalian) churches’- J.A. Thomas in Journal of Hist. Soc. of Church in Wales, Vol. IV. ‘Pennepek was the mother church of the Baptist churches of the middle colonies’ – E.G. Hartmann, in the centenary booklet of The Welsh Baptist Association of Northeastern Pennsylbvania, 1855-1955. He states that the old Welsh Bible, brought by the founders from Wales, continued to be used in the church until well into the eighteenth century. Writing in 1787 to Joshua Thomas, Dr. S. Jones claimed that their Philadelphia Association was the oldest and largest of the twelve Baptist Associations in America. N.L.W. MS. 1207E, sub ‘Joshua Thomas’. The more spectacular pioneering of Radnorshire Baptists and Episcopalians in Pennsylvania must not, however, be allowed to detract from the merits of those Quakers, who, as supporters of the majority had less scope for such individual distinctions.
Having little scope for checking the authorities I have used, I have troubled many people on both sides of the Atlantic with requests for help and verification of particulars, and have received a great deal of assistance. I owe particular thanks to: Dr. R. Williams, F.S.A.; Dr. T. Richards, Bangor; Mr. Bob Owen, Croesor; Mr. A. Conway, U.C.W. Aberystwyth; Professor A. H. Dodd, Bangor; the staff of the National Library of Wales; Mr. C. W. Newman and the County Library; Miss F. S. Wilding, and Mrs. Evelyn Whiting of Almeley; and in the U.S.A. to Dr. R.E.E. Harkness, Chester, Pa.; Dr. Philip Klein, State College, Pa.; Mr. G. N. D. Evans, Fulbright Scholar at Lehigh University, Pa.; Mrs. Mary Paterson, Swarthmore, Pa.; Mr. George Mitchell, Miss Sarah E. Tongue, and Mrs. Wolfe of Radnor Junior High School, Wayne, Pa., and Mr. and Mrs. Barclay Jones, Radnor, Pa. Through the good offices of Mrs. Whiting in introducing me to Mrs. Patterson and Mr. & Mrs. Barclay Jones we have been able to establish a link between Knighton County Secondary School and Radnor Junior High School in the Schools Affiliation Service of the American Friends’ Service Committee. We hope that this link will provide an interesting and worthwhile means of extending international understanding in the future, as well as providing an opportunity for further investigation of the links between the two Radnors in the past.