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The Welsh in America

The Welsh in America: Letters From the Immigrants

edited by Alan Conway
Copyright Date: 1961
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Welsh in America
    Book Description:

    The Welsh formed a small but significant part of the great migration from Europe to the United States during the nineteenth century. In this volume they tell their own story in letters they wrote from America to their families and friends back home. The letters are highly readable, written, for the most part, in vivid and entertaining style which reveals the Welsh as an unusually literate people. The 197 letters are arranged chronologically and geographically, starting with letters that tell of the voyage across the Atlantic. Once in America, the immigrants described their experiences in the farming country of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and some of the other midwestern states. Later, as the frontier moved west, they wrote of their efforts to establish exclusive Welsh settlements on the Great Plains. From the industrial centers there are letters from coal miners and iron and steel workers. The fortune seekers who went to California in the gold rush or to the mines in Colorado are also represented. Still others tell of their search for salvation in the Mormon Zion of Utah. For each chapter or group of letters Mr. Conway has written an introduction giving the general background of the region or period and relating it to the Welsh settlers. Thus the events chronicled and the views expressed in the letters become significant in the history of the times. The majority of the letters were written in Welsh and they appear here in translation. Some were obtained from the files of old newspapers or denominational magazines; others came from the collections of the National Library of Wales or from individuals.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6199-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Preface
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
    A. C.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    For over three centuries America has been the refuge for the political rebel and the religious nonconformist; it has also been a land of opportunity for the ambitious but socially unprivileged of the Old World. It was not until the nineteenth century, however, that the exodus from Europe reached its peak. In little more than a century thirty-five to forty million people uprooted themselves and crossed the Atlantic in search of land, better opportunities and the political freedom denied them in many European countries. The pure metal and the dross of the Old World fought for space, light, and air...

  5. Crossing the Atlantic
    (pp. 14-50)

    By modern standards crossing the Atlantic in the nineteenth century was incredibly primitive. Particularly was this the case before the late 1850’s when sail began to give way to steam. The Atlantic sailing ships were not designed primarily for the purpose of carrying large numbers of emigrants. The steerage quarters were generally little more than five or six feet in height; ventilation and light were almost totally lacking, apart from that provided by lanterns which increased the danger of fire particularly in rough weather; the air was foul and when the hatches were battened down during a storm virtually unbreathable;...

    (pp. 51-93)

    Even before 1763 when King George placed his paper barrier along the crest of the Appalachians, the pioneers had been probing into the eastern fringes of the Mississippi Valley. With the securing of independence, the land lay open; and by the turn of the century settlements were established in Kentucky and Tennessee by settlers from Virginia and the Carolinas, in Ohio by those from Pennsylvania, and in central and upper New York state and the Great Lakes region by those from the older New England states. Despite the attraction of new land north of the Ohio River, settlement was slow...

  7. Farming in illinois, wisconsin, iowa, and tennessee
    (pp. 94-117)

    As settlement stretched westward of the Great Lakes, the farmer was faced with the new problems presented by areas virtually devoid of timber. The advantages of no longer having to girdle trees and uproot stumps before plowing could begin were offset by the increased toughness of the prairie soil and the shortage of wood for building, fencing, and fuel. Nevertheless, Indiana and Illinois proved attractive and from the 1830’s Illinois in particular, together with Chicago, flourished. Although Wisconsin reached statehood thirty years later than Illinois it also proved attractive from the 1830’s onwards not only to migrants from the eastern...

  8. Farming in missouri, kansas, nebraska, and texas
    (pp. 118-156)

    Until after the Civil War when the railroads, barbed wire, dry farming, and technological improvements in agricultural machinery made the cultivation of the Great Plains a practical proposition, it seemed as if westward expansion had ground to a halt at the 95th meridian in face of the natural obstacles of the Great American Desert. Some settlement had taken place in Kansas in the 1850’s but it was not until after the war that increasing numbers of migrants moved into the central areas of Kansas and Nebraska. Land speculators took the lead in encouraging the farmer to move on to the...

  9. Farmingʼs Last Frontier: OREGON AND WASHINGTON
    (pp. 157-163)

    Oregon achieved statehood in 1859 but another thirty years elapsed before Washington, the child of the Northern Pacific Railroad, had sufficient people to justify similar status. Both areas after the Civil War found much of their prosperity in cattle and then sheep-raising. The advent of the farmer marked a decline in both industries but the process was not completed until the railroads provided the transport needed by the agriculturalist. For long, agriculture clung closely to the waterways around Puget Sound and to the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Wheat was the most important of the early crops and had not been...

  10. In American Industry: Coalmining
    (pp. 164-210)

    Before the middle of the nineteenth century American industry was still very much in its infancy and limited to local markets due largely to a lack of cheap transport. Often it was cheaper to import from Great Britain than to buy American products and the demand for tariff protection was a genuinecri de coeurfrom many of those struggling to establish native industries. The one major exception to this generalization was textiles. At the end of the eighteenth century the lack of technical knowledge of spinning and weaving was overcome by the emigration of skilled spinners and weavers from...

  11. Iron and Steel and Tin-plate Industries
    (pp. 211-230)

    Ae early as 1800 the rumor was being circulated that Richard Crawshay, the Welsh ironmaster, was going to erect large ironworks in Pennsylvania and that hundreds of Welsh families would be sent over to take part in the venture. Whether such an undertaking was ever seriously considered is doubtful and it was left to Thomas Cotton Lewis to open the first American mill for puddling and rolling bar iron in 1817, to be followed later by other establishments in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The use of anthracite for smelting iron was developed by David Thomas of the Ynyscedwyn ironworks near Ystalyfera...

  12. On the Mining Frontiers
    (pp. 231-282)

    The news of the discovery of gold in California in 1848 was swiftly spread by word of mouth, by letters, and by the newspapers, and brought from the four corners of the world an avalanche of miners, would-be miners, speculators, gamblers, pimps, and prostitutes in search of wealth from the earth or from the pockets of those fortunate enough to have struck it rich. San Francisco was transformed within months from little more than a village to a city, the streams whose beds held the gold dust were scraped clean, shanties and cabins gave shelter to a brawling, lusty crew...

  13. During the Civil War
    (pp. 283-308)

    Nine tenth of the Welsh were concentrated in the northern states in 1860. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin alone accounted for nearly eighty-five per cent of the total number. In contrast, only two per cent of foreign-born Welsh were living in those states which would form the Confederacy. The result was that when hostilities commenced Welsh opinion in the United States was overwhelmingly in support of the Union. These sentiments were very much those expressed by the newspapers and denominational periodicals in Wales itself. In the United States and in Wales, support for the Union cause was...

  14. In Search of Zion
    (pp. 309-320)

    Before 1846 when the Mormons evacuated Nauvoo and undertook the long march to the West, the Latter Day Saints were simply another if more cohesive sect. The communities at Kirtland, Independence, and Nauvoo were unusual but not of epic proportions and might well have been tolerated by their neighbors had not Joseph Smith’s revelation of the need for plural marriages generated the explosive mixture of moral indignation and envy which forced the Saints into the wilderness.

    Their early appreciation of the value of European converts was later to produce the great accessions of strength which made possible the creation of...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 321-324)

    The epilogue to the story of the Welsh in America can perhaps be given best in the words of the Reverend D. S. Davies, writing from New York in 1872. Although this letter is atypical of those from the emigrants generally, it does foretell with considerable accuracy the future of the Welsh in America.

    What may be of some significance when attempting to explain the rapid assimilation of the Welsh is that at the time when they reached the peak of their strength in the United States, Welsh nationalism and the desire to preserve the Welsh language in Wales were...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 327-329)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 330-332)
  18. Index
    (pp. 333-341)