The Welsh In America (Part 2)


In the 17th Century, many Welsh people were driven from Wales by Charles II who had an intolerance of Welsh religions. Quakers and Baptists were particularly singled out. Historians have suggests that is was so bad that whole communities began leaving Wales. For instance, in Bala, North Wales, members of the Quakers were threatened with being burned to death! And so they emigrated to Pennsylvania State, USA around in the late 1600s and right on the heals of the Quakers, Welsh Baptists started to arrive in Philadelphia. Things had grown to be pretty bad in Wales at the time...

Giovanni-Paolo-Marana-Espion-turc MG 9438It seems that it had all began after the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 when King Charles II who had been reinstated as King of England, stirred up a lot of religious intolerance.  Parliament decreed a much stricter adherence to the laws of the Church of England, and began persecuting those that chose to follow other religious denominations. This brought about a rebellion of the followers of many other religious practices, and Parliaments’ answer was to legislate against them. But this only made things worse with the other sects such as the Quakers and Baptists, refusing to be controlled in this way. This was happening all over the Kingdom, but many of the Welsh were certainly not going to be coerced in this way, so they began abandoning their homeland.

Around the end of the 18th century, one of the first Welsh colonies of Baptists was established in Cambria, Pennsylvania and the Welsh culture and Baptist religion was established there by one Morgan John Rhys, an evangelical Baptist minister from South Wales. The Welsh language was used and adhered to by the inhabitants. Pennsylvania was originally called New Wales, but the King renamed it Pennsylvania – Pen means ‘head’ in Welsh. Cambria is the Latin word for Wales, and was derived from the Welsh word Cymru, also meaning Wales.

By the 19th century many from South Wales were emigrating to America that was looking for skills honed in the coalfields of the Valleys of South Wales. Wales had an abundance of skilled workers in mining and metal work that would assist America with its rapidly expanding industries.

However, in comparison to other nationalities, Welsh immigration was quite small in America, but they certainly seemed to have left quite a strong legacy there with many famous Americans that included Presidents, Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), James Monroe (1817-1825) and Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), who all had Welsh Immigrants in their family trees.

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