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Category: welsh american history

image001.jpg Between the mid 1840s and late 1860s about 5,000 Welsh people, inspired by the Mormon faith, left Wales to start a new life in the far west of the United States. In  Welsh Saints on the Mormon Trail  (Y Lolfa), written by Wil Aaron, the story is told of their journey by ox-carts and on foot from the Mississippi and the Missouri to Salt Lake City, and of their subsequent lives in Utah. 

The book explores a little-known episode of Welsh history. The Welsh Mormons were crossing a continent at a particularly dramatic time in American history. The ‘49ers’ and the Pony Express shared the trails with them. They were passed by the first trans-continental stagecoaches. They saw the beginnings of the Indian Wars and the end of the Civil War. Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickock rode the same trails and Calamity Jane and Crazy Horse have a place in their stories. Part of the Mormons religious responsibility was to keep diaries, and hundreds of these documents describing their adventures are now kept in the Church archive of the Mormon Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Wil Aaron has made good use of this rich resource and of the Welsh journals and memoirs collected on ‘ ’. 

“This is a book about the grit and steadfastness of ordinary men and women whose remarkable tale deserves a place in the history of the Welsh people,” says author Wil Aaron. 

Professor Jerry Hunter of Bangor University writes, “Here is a volume I shall return to time after time, and I know that others will do likewise. The author has consulted extensive historical resources and has discerningly deciphered them, arousing anew an interest in the story.” 

Wil Aaron’s career has been in television. He has made documentaries and factual programmes for the BBC and HTV in Cardiff and in London. His production company,  Ffilmiau’r Nant , produced many of S4C’s early successes.  

Welsh Saints on a Mormon Trail  by Wil Aaron (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now. BUY IT HERE

Robert Llewellyn Tyler was born in Newport, Wales. He received his BA from University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, his MA from the Unversity of Pittsburgh, and his PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has taught in Japan and Argentina, and at universities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For the academic year 2009-2010, he was the Fulbright Professor at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri. He has been widely published and continues to research Welsh communities overseas.

AmeriCymru spoke to Robert about his latest book Wales And The American Dream

AmeriCymru: Hi Robert and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. Care to introduce your new book  Wales And The American Dream

Robert: I have always been interested in Welsh emigration and the existence of Welsh communities in far off lands. I remember, as a fascinated child, hearing from my father about the Madog legend and the Patagonians who spoke only Welsh and Spanish. I was very fortunate, therefore, to combine a career with the experience of actually living in these distant and not so distant places. I managed to get a teaching assistantship to do an MA at the University of Pittsburgh, where I researched the Welsh historically and met with their descendants socially. I spent a year working in Patagonia and made many new and lasting friendships. I was then lucky enough to be sponsored by the Australian government to research the Welsh who congregated on the goldfields of the state of Victoria and completed my PhD at the University of Melbourne. More recently, a Fulbright year in the USA allowed me to visit Welsh American societies across the country. In addition to a host of wonderful memories, the concrete result of these years has been the publication of numerous articles and two books: The Welsh in an Australian Gold Town and Wales and the American Dream, both of which focus on specific Welsh communities and the ways in which they changed during a specific period of time. Wales and the American Dream addresses the nature of four Welsh communities in Missouri, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Kansas and assesses the accuracy of the image which saw Welsh migrants in the USA as the epitome of the migrant success story as indicated by upward occupational mobility.

AmeriCymru: "The Welsh comprised a distinct and highly visible ethno-linguistic group in many areas of the United States during the late decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth. To what extent do you think that distinctness has been preserved in the 21st century?"

Robert:   The distinctiveness of the Welsh has, as with all national/ethnic groups, been modified over time. The Welsh as a group have lost much of what set them apart for a number of reasons: the small numbers involved in the first place, the movement out of specific industries and locations, decline in religious observance, exogamy (marrying non-Welsh) and, most obviously, the loss of the language. Nevertheless, Welsh Americans today do have a discernible presence in the US and the myriad societies and cultural events that take place regularly across the USA is an admirable testimony to their rich national culture and the determination of Welsh Americans themselves to maintain that culture.

AmeriCymru: The Welsh did not emigrate as a result of natural or socio-economic disasters. There were no potato famines or Highland clearances in Wales. To what extent do you think that the motives and circumstances behind Welsh migration have contributed to Welsh American identity today?

Robert: Certainly, Welsh immigrants were never "driven from the land" to the extent of the Irish and Scottish Gaels (One of the reasons for the survival of the language). Nevertheless, Welsh emigration was overwhelmingly promoted by economic considerations: the search for a better life in the face of obscenely bad working and living conditions in both rural and in rapidly industrializing Wales. It would be wrong, however, to ignore the quest for religious, linguistic and even political freedom as motives for many Welsh people to seek that better life in the USA, Australia, South America and elsewhere. As regards identity, Welsh immigrants were invariably and successfully portrayed as models of American citizenship by virtue of their national characteristics, standards of social behavior and socio-economic success. I think this belief still holds sway among Welsh Americans today and who is to say they are wrong?

AmeriCymru: Your book investigates the extent to which the "Welsh as a group occupied a privileged position in the occupational hierarchy". Can you give us a few examples of this?

Robert: Take, for example, the iron and steel town of Sharon in western Pennsylvania. The town attracted significant numbers of Welsh workers who were prized for their skills in an industry that had become a major employer in Wales. The US census of 1880 reveals that 73.3% of the 165 Welsh-born men working in Sharon were employed as skilled iron workers (puddlers, rollers, heaters, boilers, roughers and doublers) with only 20.6% employed in unskilled occupations, primarily as labourers in the iron works. The percentages for Irish-born workers were 22.7% and 72.4%. Clearly, Welshmen had arrived with the skills necessary to establish themselves in the burgeoning industry. This was replicated elsewhere, from the slate quarries of Vermont to the coal mines of central Missouri.

AmeriCymru: In your opinion how can Welsh identity or ancestry made relevant to a younger generation of Welsh Americans, third generation and beyond?

Robert: Being no longer part of the "younger generation" myself, I hesitate to advise on this. I think, however, showing young Welsh Americans the vibrancy of Welsh cultural life as it exists in contemporary Wales is hugely important. The young people from Patagonia I knew, during my time there in the 1990s, were invariably astonished by their experiences on their visits to Wales. Until then, their image of Wales was one of chapels, choirs and the "respectable" aspects of eisteddfodau. These admirable aspects of Welsh culture are still to be enjoyed and reveled in; they are now accompanied by the Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and the Stereophonics. I am not for one moment being critical of the images of Wales held by the descendants of Welsh emigrants, wherever they are in the world. They, like the decedents of most immigrant groups, naturally have images of the homeland of their ancestors. While that Wales has not disappeared, it has changed, admittedly, not always for the better. That is why groups such as AmeriCymru are so important.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Robert Llewellyn Tyler? Are you currently working on any new projects?

Robert: Yes, indeed. I've just finished an article on the Welsh community in San Francisco and about to begin another on Martins Ferry, Ohio. Next, I will be recommencing an ongoing project on the Welsh in Pittsburgh, which I hope to publish as a book in 2017. Working title: No Mean People: The Welsh in Iron City, USA.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Robert: I have always felt privileged to be Welsh. This is in no way intended to imply a sense of superiority. Welsh people, at home and aboard, have been well represented in all elements of society, from the cultured and upstanding to the downright dissolute. Nevertheless, the Welsh contribution to the world has frequently been downplayed or overlooked entirely, particularly by those who, for the moment, govern us. Any national community that can produce an institution, overwhelmingly patronized by working people, like the eisteddfod, is to be lauded. No Mean People, indeed!


By AmeriCymru, 2015-02-26

"It is a story of conflict and conciliation, of antagonism and integration, of greed and generosity.”

This is how Cerys Matthews begins her voice ­over of the first video in The Dragon and the Eagle / Y Ddraig a’r Eryr, an enhanced eBook on Wales and America. Published digitally by Cardiff­ based Thud Media, the English language version was launched on August 30 at the North American Festival of Wales in Minneapolis by its author/producer Colin Thomas.

The term ‘app’ understates what a breakthrough this is in Welsh publishing. For the first time in Wales, history is being related by means of video, music, interactive maps and text in a single digital product.The project tells the often ­dramatic story of the way that Welsh emigrants became Welsh­ Americans and how they maintained their distinctive identity over four hundred years.

It includes some forgotten Welsh ­American heroes – farmer Cadwalder Morgan who spoke out against slavery, missionary Evan Jones who stuck with the Cherokee Indians during their ‘Vale of Tears’ exile, and miner’s wife Mary Thomas who played a leading role in a bloody strike in Colorado.

But it doesn’t ignore those who tarnished the reputation of Welsh­ Americans – dentist Hiram W. Evans, who became the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Llewellyn Morris Humphreys, aka ‘Murray the Hump’, right hand man of Al Capone.The video sections in the project include some of Humphreys’ home movie footage.

The thirteen video sections come from both American and Welsh film archives, much of the Welsh archive generously contributed by BBC Wales, ITVWales and Sianel Pedwar Cymru. S4C Digital and Welsh Books Council also gave funding support to this bi­lingual project.

The Dragon and the Eagle is now available for iOS and Android devices:

● GB iTunes App Store link:­dragon­and­the­eagle/id911462417?mt=8

● US iTunes App Store link:­dragon­and­the­eagle/id911462417?mt=8

The Welsh language version, Y Ddraig a’r Eryr is also available on both iOS and Android:

● GB iTunes (Welsh Language)­ddraig­ar­eryr/id932895503?mt=8

● US iTunes (Welsh Language)­ddraig­ar­eryr/id932895503?mt=8

A bi­lingual trailer/intro is available at and clips or sound  tracks from other sections can be made available for publicity purposes. Colin Thomas is available for interview, Helen Davies for Welsh language interviews and Ben Cawthorne, its designer, for technical aspects of the project.

Colin Thomas was a BBC staff director until he resigned ove rwhat he saw as censorship of programmes he had directed in Northern Ireland. Since then he has produced C4’s history of Wales The Dragon has Two Tongues , directed dramas and documentaries for ITV, S4C, C4 and the BBC and has written the book Dreaming A City on the embattled city of Donetsk. His awards include a Prix Europa, the Jury Award at the Celtic Media Festival and, on three occasions ,the Best Documentary/Drama­Documentary award from BAFTA Cymru. The Financial Times wrote of C4’s The Divided Kingdom that it “bears the name of Colin Thomas as one of its directors, a guarantee of intelligence and scrupulous integrity.” Bill Jones, the Professor of Modern Welsh History at Cardiff University, describes The Dragon and the Eagle as “a very lively, entertaining and informative work; it tells the story of the Welsh in America in an excitingly new and innovative way.”

Colin Thomas

Thud Media

Travels of a Welsh Preacher in the U.S.A.

By AmeriCymru, 2014-02-27


Peregrinations of William Davies Evans During the Later Nineteenth Century

Welsh author Margaret Morgan Jones publishes her great-uncles account of his travels in the USA in 1880. AmeriCymru spoke to Margaret about the book and her future plans.

Buy Travels of A Welsh Preacher in the U.S.A. here

AmeriCymru: Hi Margaret your new book Travels of a Welsh Preacher in the U.S.A is a translation from an 1883 Welsh language original Dros Gyfanfor a Chyfandir. Can you tell us how you became involved with this project?

Margaret:   I became involved with the project of translating Dros Gyfanfor a Chyfandir (Over Ocean and Continent) by Reverend W.D. Evans (my great-uncle) after the author’s direct descendants had traced me down on their visits from the U.S.A. to Wales. Because the book was written in Welsh, Evans’ descendants had no idea what the book contained. On one visit, they put me on the spot and asked me to translate this page and that page, so I told them that I would translate the whole book for them.  At first, it was only an undertaking for the ‘Evans’ family in the United States, but when two friends of mine – Professor Ivor Wilks and Professor Nancy Lawler, read extracts from my translation, they advised me to have it published in book format. I went along with their recommendation and Myrddin ap Dafydd of the publishing company, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, North Wales was happy to accept my work for publication. I was advised to change the title in order to better reflect its content.

AmeriCymru:  What was the purpose of William Davies Evans trip to the States in 1880?

Margaret:   My great-uncle, William Davies Evans,  was born in a cottage in Talsarn, West Wales, on February 23, 1842. When William was 10 years old, his parents and their family emigrated to the U.S.A. After completing his education in Ohio, William returned to Wales in 1872 with the intention of a short stay, but his diary kept filling up with preaching appointments, so he stayed in his homeland for 15 years. In the year 1876, he married my grandfather’s sister, Jane Jones, Penwernhir, Pontrhydfendigaid.  In 1880, he decided to sail to the U.S.A. to gather material for two books he was planning to write.

AmeriCymru:  How widely did he travel within the U.S.?

Margaret:   After arriving in New York, Evans travelled the breadth of the country – from New York to San Francisco. He was sponsored by certain railroad companies during this venture. He walked up to the summit of Pike’s Peak, Colorado and down again, but spent a few days in bed after this!

AmeriCymru:  Can you tell us anything about William Davies Evans later history?

Margaret:   William attended Willoughby School after arriving in Ohio when he was 10 years old. It is assumed that he was educated at home when he lived in Talsarn because he wrote that it was in this school he sat behind a desk for the first time. In 1868 he went on to further education at Delaware University College and in 1870 at The Theological Institute in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1871, he took charge of churches in Youngstown, Weathersfield and Churchill before returning to Wales in 1872. On August 13, 1874, he and another 12 ordinands were ordained as fully fledged ministers of religion at Rhydfendigaid Methodist Chapel, Pontrhydfendigaid. Reverend Howell Powell, New York, was one of the ministers who officiated at this service. In 1883, the book Dros Gyfanfor a Chyfandir was printed by The Cambrian News at Aberystwyth. His other manuscript, Hanes Taleithiau America a’r Cymry Ynddynt   (The History of the United States of America and the Welsh Living in Them) was never printed because he became depressed because sales of Dros Gyfanfor a Chyfandir were disappointing. The reason for this was: he had serialised the content, letter by letter, in the paper Baner Ac Amserau Cymru (Banner and Times of Wales).  In 1886, he uprooted his family from Wales and emigrated permanently to the U.S.A. The following year, he came up with the idea of embarking on a weekly newspaper. He was sponsored by friends in Long Creek, Iowa and Emporia, Kansas and spent almost a year travelling, at his own expense, to persuade people to subscribe to this venture before the launch of ‘Columbia’ on July 4, 1888. He was editor of this paper for 3 years. Afterwards he and his family, moved to Kansas City, where he became a recluse for some time. The lack of Dros Gyfanfor a Chyfandir’s sales was the main reason. However, he picked himself up and according to H. Richards, Otter, Iowa (Y Drych [The Mirror] April 9, 1896) he regained his passion for preaching with more enthusiasm than ever.  When he became unwell, he and his wife retired to Tacoma, Washington. William Davies Evans died on December 16, 1907. Respecting his wishes, his funeral was modest with no flowers and he did not want anyone to write a biography of him.

During the American Civil War, William and his brother, Lewis, were called up to serve with the army of the North. William’s occupation was as a draughtsman. As part of his duty, he once had to go as far south as Chattanooga, on the banks of the Tennessee river. He and Lewis spent an anxious time on Point Lookout, just outside Chattanooga, during this period. All is revealed in the book ‘Travels of a Welsh Preacher in the USA’.

AmeriCymru: W.D. Evans had a sense of humour. Care to share some of the lighter moments from the book?

Margaret:    Whilst waiting for a train on a transfer in Nebraska W. D. Evans holds a conversation with a young lad from the ‘boot-blacks league’. Evans agrees to a ‘shine’, and the boy questions him intensely about the western towns he had visited. Evans in turn responds by asking the boy questions about himself.  The boy tells him that he does not pay a fare for travelling on the train; that he travels on a small seat between the wheels, under the train.  Evans asks: ‘what if you collided with a cow or horse?’ The boy replies: ‘I would be better off than the poor animal’ and so forth.  All very amusing.   

When Evans was in the region of Ashland, Wisconsin, he became unwell and was directed to a respectable and comfortable house. A fellow-lodger was very interested in him after discovering that he had a Welshman as a companion. This man had not met a Welshman for 10 years and took great care of Evans and called on a doctor to see to him. This man asked Evans if he had heard of Twm Chaen Bwlet.  The reply was ‘no.’ ‘Never heard of Twm Chaen Bwlet!’ ‘Have you heard of Tom Sayers?’ ‘Yes,’ Evans replies.  Apparently Twm Chaen Bwlet trained Tom Sayers to be a boxer.  The questions and answers go on and on.  Apparently Twm Chaen Bwlet was this man’s brother.  All very interesting and amusing.

Another tale is: when a panel of 12 women were sworn in as jurors in a court of law in Laramie. The case before the jurors concerned one of the ruffians of the West. A divine guidance was asked for before returning the verdict. While the women were sitting on the jury, their maids were in their homes singing:

                Nice little baby, don’t get in a fury

                Cause mamma is gone to sit on the jury.

According to W.D. Evans!

AmeriCymru:  Where can the book be purchased online?

Margaret:   (i)    Click on ‘Books from Wales’   Search: ‘Travels of a Welsh Preacher in the U.S.A.’  Click – No 9 down the list.  Read Reviews.


AmeriCymru:  Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Margaret:   I hope that readers of ‘Travels of a Welsh Preacher in the U.S.A.’ will find the book interesting. Landscapes are vividly described throughout and it is full of accounts of Evans’ long journey and the people he met and their livelihoods. It also contains 41 pictures.

Regarding the lost manuscript of ‘Hanes Taleithiau Unedig America a’r Cymry Ynddynt’ (The History of the United States of America and the Welsh Living in Them).  I discovered 40 of my great-uncle’s Letters to the Press at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. They are all numbered and entitled ‘From Aberystwyth to San Francisco’.  In these Letters, I found material that would have been included in the lost book, had it been printed. I have copied, selected and translated, from Welsh into English, this information.  It is now in book format,  has been accepted by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch and will be released under the title ‘From Aberystwyth to San Francisco’ before Christmas – next November hopefully. The book contains a vivid picture of the lives of emigrants from Wales and other European countries to the United States at the end of the 19 th century.  Different to many books written about this subject, the content was written by someone who experienced life first hand in Wales and America at this time.  Dr David Lloyd, Director Writing Program, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y. has written a very interesting Preface to the book.

The Wild West Show Comes To Wales...

By AmeriCymru, 2013-03-05

When sharp-shooting Annie Oakley and the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody visited Wales at the beginning of the last century, the crowds just couldn’t get enough of them. Pont Books author, Phil Carradice, has always been fascinated by their story and was inspired to write an account of their visit through the eyes of a young street boy. The Wild West Show follows the adventures of a young boy called Sam who finds himself embroiled in a dangerous situation when he witnesses a coldblooded murder…

When Buffalo Bill bursts into town with his band of Indian braves and sharp-shooting cowboys, crowds throng the streets of Cardiff. They all want a glimpse of the world-famous Wild West show. Amongst them, enjoying the colour and excitement, is young Sam Thomas. But it isn't long before he's in danger. Without a home or family to turn to, who can Sam trust and where will he find a place to hide?

This adventure story is sure to keep the readers engaged with its many twists and turns and Sam’s survival is uncertain until the very end of the novel. The book also includes a section entitled For the Historical Record for those interested in learning a little more about the history that inspired the author to write The Wild West Show.

Phil Carradice is a freelance writer, consultant and broadcaster. He regularly holds creative writing workshops in schools and colleges. A former teacher and headteacher, he hails from Pembroke Dock, but now lives in the Vale of Glamorgan. Phil has a strong interest in history and writes a regular blog for the BBC Wales website – Phil Carradice on BBC Wales

The Wild West Show is available from all good bookshops and online retailers.

For more information, please visit

Welsh Cowboys and Outlaws: Dafydd Meirion

By AmeriCymru, 2008-06-04

Screenshot from 20210304 103744.png This, admittedly rather slim, volume is an absolute gem and deserves to be much more widely known. On the back cover the author enquires:-"Did you know, that at one time, many of America's most infamous criminals were of Welsh descent?" Not a proud boast perhaps but nevertheless there is some fascinating material here on the James Brothers and lesser known but equally malevolent scoundrels like Issac Davis.

Fortunately the book does not concern itself solely with these superstar desperadoes, colorful though they may be. There are short sections here on Welsh cowboys, ranchers, prospectors, miners and railway workers all of whom played their part in the building of the West.

The real strength of this volume is that it treats of characters who did not make it into the history books. You will find no Wikipedia entry for John Reynolds Hughes who single-handedly tracked and subdued two gangs of murderous cattle-rustlers before deciding to do it professionally and joining the Texas Rangers. Likewise, history does not record much about the exploits of Jack Farmer - railroad pioneer, who successfully treated his rheumatism with Kentucky Bourbon whilst surveying in the Rockies.

Published by Y Lolfa at $12 (approx) this book is an excellent introduction to the Wild Welsh in the old West.