“IN AULD LANG SYNE”
Some Welsh History in Ironton, Ohio
Ironton Register 20 March 1890
Submitted by Martha J. Kounse
In your issue of the 20th of February, I noticed the account of a birthday supper given to one of our older citizens, and saw the names of many of the active business and professional men of Ironton in its beginning and to its majority. Many recollections of the little town came to mind and I was busy for an hour in calling up old friends, old scenes and old times.
It was in ’51? That my father came to Ironton, and in the summer of that year with my mother and brothers, I came on lastly from Philadelphia, but originally from Swanseanin South Wales. At that time but a very little of what is now known as Ironton was build. The rolling company then were mostly, if not all, Welsh, and very industrious, moral and religious people they were. Among them were Thomas MORRIS, John LEWIS, Wm. LEWIS, John PRITCHARD, David PRITCHARD and Evan M. DAVIS. Their first house of worship was the frame school house where Major Jere DAVIDSON now lives, and it was there I learned the Welsh alphabet and the doctrines of independence and liberty in matters of religion, so dear to my people. We were from the same land, but still were strangers, and I remember many a time hearing “Pyrd daethoch chwi” or “hen wlad?” answered by “yr haf diweddaf”, or “dwy flynedd ‘nol.” Though several parties I have named had been in this country then nearly a score of years.
Nearly all the mill workers and skilled laborers lived in the western part of the town and gave it the name of Welshtown. It was by their subscription that the wells were dug and pumps put in them to supply that part of town with water. They were devout in principle, and the Sabbath day was virtually a day of rest to them all, and any breach of discipline by the younger people was roughly commented on, and handled without gloves in church meeting. Oh, how they could sing, and those hymns they sang resounded with praise and thanksgiving for freedom and plenty, after their escape from the land of religious tyranny, where they paid tax to sustain preachers they never went to hear. But above all were their voices lifted to praise God for a Redeemer. So full of rapture were the songs and prayer, in my native tongue that I remember thinking when a little boy, that while God loved everybody it was the Welsh he loved the best. William LEWIS, Professor’s brother, was the chosen singer of the united Welsh people in those times.
The younger men were very fond of dogs and guns, so that when the mill stopped or there was a turn off, they would join in a big hunt all over where East Ironton now is, and frequently shoot squirrels in a grove near where the Norton residence now stands. When Sunday came, the guns were laid aside, but frequently the dogs would follow to the place of meeting and more than once have I seen the deacons have to chase them out in order to stop their fighting in time of worship.
No sooner were these good men and others from their land established than three churches were built to advocate their doctrines and proclaim the blessed gospel of peace in their native tongue. It required sacrifice and effort and I am told that some of the good women did without butter on their tables in order to meet the bills on these churches. Then the great meetings “cwrdd cwarter” and “cymania” would come and about a dozen of the best preachers would attend and every house was full of visitors. The “Te” and the “teisen” and meeting of friends from the old native land all were full of interest beguiling the hours until the family prayer was often said when I was unconscious in sleep. Oh, how happy were those days and what a loving warm hearted people they were. Among the ministerial, visitors I remember a noted orator, Rev. Samuel ROBERTS, who took for his text “y llinyn coch,” or a “red string.” And men and women were lost to all their natural thought by the thrilling eloquence, the deep paths and the striking ideas of his splendid discourse. His voice was not loud nor his manner, passionate, but he held his audience spell bound till even the time was gotten and the Sunday dinner (always prepared on Saturday) was quite out of mind.
In the summer of ’58 a large number of the Welsh citizens of Ironton were afflicted with dysentery and many of them died. It was during the continuance of this disease that Dr. John MORRIS became so noted for his success among my people, that of the many cases he had, not one of them was lost, and this accounts for his great popularity among us now.
The older people have passed away, Kelley’s and Woodland cemeteries contain their precious dust, but their happy spirits have triumphed in the faith. As they used to sing:
“Bydd melys lanio draw
Nol bod odon I don
Ac mi ro ffarwed maes o law
Pr ddaelar bon.”