Monthly Archives: March 2013

On Hiatus Until the End of June / Early July, 2013

books2The Book is nearly complete. I need to step away from it, so I can come back in a few months with fresh eyes and make a final edit. Spring is upon us. I have fifteen or so honeybee hives that need my undivided attention until mid-summer. I have had the benefit of these two months (give or take) with an always-on internet connection to be able to research, write the book, and create this website – but now I am headed back into the 19th century; to the cabin in the woods with no electricity; but plenty of solitude and time for contemplation and reflection (if not a regular warm shower.)

It’s been a very productive two months. I drafted and completed the book (or very nearly so.) I built this website to promote it. When I come back in June or July I will pick up where I left off, and I will begin the search for a publisher.

For now, I’m off-the-grid and out-of-touch. If you need to contact me, please leave an email at; jones (dot) c (dot) hall (at) gmail (dot) com. Use the word “stumbling” in the subject line. I will respond to you when I am back to civilization, in late June or early July, 2013.

Feel free to post comments on articles that you found useful or insightful. I would love to have your feedback.

Musings on Nicotiana Tabacum

17th century tobacco smoker

My Jacobean ancestors made me do it.

Some of the Jones’ have “the book gene”, while others among us have “the Wanderlust gene”. Those two are pretty much mutually exclusive as far as I can tell. But there’s at least one more gene that is indiscriminate – it’s an equal opportunity expression of “bad men made worse.”. It can express “on” in any of us, without warning, and with the gravest of consequences.

You know how the American Medical Association says that alcoholism and drug addiction are “diseases”?  What they are really saying is that the predisposition towards getting “addicted” to these substances is genetically predetermined. Once upon a time this was a radically controversial theory. It was once believed that people who had drinking or drug problems were considered of weak moral character; they were just plain bad people. Today we know better. (At least some of us know better.)

I’m no geneticist, but I know a little bit of the biochemistry of the human condition; production of dopamine and how it interacts with receptors in the brain, as well as other chemicals released by our nervous systems to either bring-on or reduce anxiety, hunger, fatigue, you name it. We’re all just a big old bundle of complicated chemical and protein processes going on inside us all the time. From time to time our genetics reveal that some of us are genetically predisposed to chocolate, some to booze, and some to the evil weed… Nicotiana Tabacum.

You know when you go to the doctor they take a family history to assess your risk of every-friggin-disease-imaginable? Well, if you are a Jones or Crews (or a Crew or a Crewe) whose people hail from the general vicinity of Virginia, let me give you a little family history that will show you what your risk is of becoming instantly addicted to tobacco actually are.

The Crews’ History with Nicotiana Tabacum
Your earliest ancestors in America came here in 1607 and almost as soon as they got off the boat they started growing some of the best damned tobacco the world had ever smoked. They sold the stuff all over the planet, addicting poor saps from Australian Aboriginals to Eskimo’s to Queen Elizabeth I. They became exceedingly wealthy off the stuff, but more to the point; they used it themselves to an extreme that today seems outlandish. They smoked constantly! Mostly from pipes, but they also piled it in bowls and lit it and just let the smoke fill the rooms in their homes. Can you imagine?

Yeah, me neither. So… the Crews ancestors all became tobacco farmers (and tobacco addicts.) They kept up that line of work, as well as their smoking habits, right up through the late 20th century. That’s a ridiculous 300+ year, generation-upon-generation, bit of genetic engineering that created offspring ever more susceptible to the addiction. With the exception of my grandmother (a woman of Temperance to the extreme if ever there was one), every single one of my “Crews” relations (as well as their offspring) smoked cigarettes. Including my mother – while she was pregnant with me. (Hey, they just didn’t know…)

Oh – wait – I almost forgot. All those Crew’s line relations? They suffered with and died from some pretty predictable diseases; emphysema, lung cancer, cardiovascular problems. Pretty stuff.

Jonesing for a Smoke
The Jones line was not much smarter. I know this about my immediate Jones lines’ history:
– Thomas Ellis Jones smoked cigarettes most of his life. He died of a heart attack at 68 years old. Too soon!
– His father, William Ellis Jones, smoked cigarettes most of his life. He died of a heart attack at 52 years old. That’s too young.
– His father, F. Ellis Jones, smoked; whether pipe or cigs, I do not know. He died of some serious lung ailment at 35 years old. Sobering.
– His father, William Ellis Jones, smoked a pipe. He survived getting shot in the Civil War, and then lived to ripe old age of 72 years old. (This guy had the best luck of anyone, ever, in all my family histories. Fate loved this man. His life story is simply amazing. Son-of-a-gun should have passed some of that mojo to me!)
– His father, Thomas Norcliffe Jones, smoked a pipe. He died of unknown causes at 67 years old.

I grew up in a house filled with cigarette smoke. I absolutely reviled the things. Nothing in the world was as unappealing to me as the smell of cigarettes. One of the highlights of getting out on my own was getting away from the cloud that hung over everything – and stank up everything I owned.

In college I was a bit of an athlete; raced bicycles, swam laps, worked out. I took my health quite seriously. Ate really well (as well as a poor kid in college can eat.) I was never tempted by peer pressure to smoke or over-indulge in alcohol, use drugs. It just wasn’t in my plan for my life.

A few years after my first marriage broke up, and when things at my job were going really rough (I was damn near thirty years old!), a friend (who smoked), exasperated at how high-strung I was, lit a cigarette up, put it in my hand, and said “Just try it… it’ll calm you down. You need it.”

He was right of course. It did calm me down. Almost instantly. Made me feel a lot better. (They call that “oxygen deprivation”. It’s a natural chemical thing your brain does – inducing a slight sense of euphoria – because your brain thinks you’re about to suffocate to death and it doesn’t want you to suffer while you die.)

From that moment onward I was addicted. It was just that fast. It wasn’t a choice I made. It isn’t weakness of character. God knows, I have overcome some really hard stuff in my life – but this affair with Nicotiana Tabacum is one nasty affliction I cannot cure. (And I have tried all the so-called cures.)

I got the “book gene”. Happy about that.  Got the “Nicotine gene” too. And it stinks.

Just don’t start. Don’t even think about it. You don’t know what’s in your genetic soup.


Clay Pipe stems from Jamestowne, VirginiaDid You Know? Clay Pipe stems and bowls discarded by Jamestown settlers can help date an archeological site.  Over 50,000 have been found by archeologists at Jamestown.
(That covers the Crews and Beheathland ancestors.)


From Marionethshire in Wales, very near where our Jones ancestors hail from, we have this:

Perhaps the most singular Will was that of a woman named Margaret Thompson who died more than a century ago.  She was a noted snuff-taker, and left behind her a Will, redolent from first to last with the fragrant dust with which the good woman had been accustomed to regale her nose during life.

The following is a copy of it:

“In the name of God Amen, I Margaret Thompson being of sound mind etc. do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following:   I desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trusty servant Sara Stewart, to be put by her, and by her alone, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for the purpose, together with such quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my Deceased body; and this I desire the more especially as it is usual to put flowers into the coffins of departed friends, and nothing can be so fragrant and refreshing to me as that precious powder.

But I strictly charge that no man may be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and as it is necessary to carry me to my burial which I order in the following manner:  Six men to be my bearers who are known to be the greatest snuff takers in the parish of St. James, Westminster.

Instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff coloured beaver hat which I desire to be bought for the purpose and given to them.  Six maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff to take or their refreshment as they go along.

Before my corpse I desire the Minister may be invited to walk and to take a certain quantity not exceeding one pound to whom I also bequeathe five guineas on condition of him doing so.  And I desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse and to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scotch snuff to the ground and upon the crowd who may possibly follow me to my burial place on which condition I bequeathe her £20.  And I also desire that the least two bushels of the said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.”

The Jones Family Wanderlust Gene

The Wanderlust Gene at play.

The “Wanderlust Gene” at play.

In our family there is this well-known “gene”. My father and I called it “the book gene”. It’s been closely associated, at least in my family, to the name ‘William Ellis Jones’. This is due to the fact that we have at least three accomplished men of that name in the family; William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf), the Welsh bard; William Ellis Jones, the Civil War diarist, historian, editor, and publisher; and William Ellis Jones, the playwright and poet.

My father said “the gene” skipped a generation, just like the name skips each generation as it has pretty consistently since about 1730-something. He named his son according to this tradition in a firm belief that the gene would latch on and his son would become the next great author or great something in the family. (My brother is pretty damn great in every way that matters. He didn’t need the name to get that way. He did it all by himself.)

After all my research and pontifications on this Jones family of ours, I can now say with reasonable certainty that the name itself has nothing to do with whether you get “the gene” or not. The gene doesn’t follow sentimental or prejudicial naming preferences. It goes wherever the hell it wants to go. Sometimes it even goes to girls.

I think my father realized this long before I ever did. It’s why he started sending me the documents, the photos, and the books. It’s why he reached out after all those years of distance. He saw the “book gene” in me and he somehow knew that I was going to carry all this nonsense forward – if anyone chose to carry it at all.

Lord, I do digress….

In researching the family history, I discovered another gene; one no less curious and awesome and inspiring than the “book gene”, upon which all this family insanity is founded.

I wish I had my father here with me to discuss this with. Lacking him, you’ll have to do. You won’t be nearly as excited as he would have been. But never mind, here we go…

It’s the “Wanderlust Gene”. (Smile. I like that name.)

It occurred to me as I researched and wrote the accounts of so many of my ancestors who lived across nearly three centuries, that most of them had this absolutely pure loyalty and lifelong bond to their homeland of Wales. So much so that they were willing to endure just about anything – censure, shunning, even jail – to defend and improve Wales, the Welsh language, and the general condition of the Welsh population. But – oddly – there were a few others in the very same family who could not wait to shake the dust of Wales off their soles and see what adventures the wide world had to offer.

Richard Evan Jones and Lewis Evan Jones were just such young men as I describe. At sixteen years old Lewis left Wales and signed on-board a frigate, destined for Constantinople. He saw the greater part of Europe and America before returning to Wales to fetch his younger brother; the two of them heading out for the port city of New Orleans.

If you have children, can you imagine your sixteen year old boy having the maturity and sense of things to safely conduct himself across half the known world, and then establish himself successfully and profitably in a new country? I would imagine not. But that’s just what Lewis and Richard Jones did – quite on their own without a soul in the world to guide them except their genetic sense of adventure and survival. (There may be a few Roman Centurions in our genetic pool, after all.)

My brother, just like Richard and Lewis, left home at sixteen years old. He’s been from Japan to the South Sea Islands, from one end of Mexico’s California, all the way up to Vancouver, British Columbia.

When he was a kid (his teens and twenties) my brother liked to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, just for the thrill of it. He got his pilot’s license to fly those same airplanes as soon as the law would allow. He’s surfed giant waves from Hawaii to Fiji to Baja (and still does every chance he gets.) And at fifty years old he successfully ascended Mt. Rainier with a group of twenty-something’s coughing and wheezing behind him. He’s hiked the Cascades and cycled from Mexico to Los Angeles. He hand-builds Galileo type telescopes in his spare time, because he loves to study the stars, the planets, the cosmos. He wanted to be an astronaut when he was a boy, and I’m still not quite sure why he didn’t pursue that. His adventurous spirit is without known limits. Today, in his mid-fifties, he’s still tempting avalanches along the crazy-difficult ski runs not far from his home.

He’s made his way, wholly independent of his East Coast family or ties to any particular place, lo these forty years. What’s more, he’s thriving! He loves the adrenaline-charged life of the barely tethered, adventure junkie.

Not me. I got the “book gene”. I write. I read. I pontificate. I piddle in my garden and mess with my honey bees. I like to talk to my chickens, and when I’m really feeling adventurous, I carry an old worn copy of Thomas Harriot’s escapades in Virginia and take a long walk through the grove on my property. I have traveled extensively (not as extensively as my brother.) From my perspective the best part of any trip I ever took was when the plane’s wheel touched down on home soil.

Thomas Harriot, (explorer, writer, astronomer, genius, friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, etc.), and my brother were kindred spirits. They would have reveled in one another’s company. I would love to be the third-wheel at their introduction, just listening to them recount every detail of their adventures in the world. Two fearless minds discussing the as-yet undiscovered opportunities awaiting us in the cosmos. Good Lord what a conversation that would be to record for posterity!

Lewis Evan Jones and Richard Evan Jones were just like my brother. Adventurers. They knew no fear. They were not sentimental. This is a recurring gene in our Jones family history. It’s not as common (I think the bio-science-PhD-types call it “recessive”), and not as well documented as the “book gene”; but it’s no less real.

Without this gene extant in our family line, I would not be here today, writing these lines. Thomas Norcliffe Jones got the “Wanderlust Gene” gene – though perhaps in somewhat of a lesser full-on expression than my brother, Richard, or Evan. He got it none the less. As a result I am here to pass along this small observation about my family, its genetic eccentrics, and how we all came to be precisely who, what, and where we are – and may yet be.

I hope the current and future generations are paying attention. Their genes are making some pretty important decisions for them (which is just as it should be. Don’t fight it!)

I’m not done yet with this whole line of Genetic Predestination, Genetic Memory, Genetic Conundrum thing… There’s more to come and this one stinks!

Musings on the Jones Family Genetics

Cader Idris Snowdonia

Cader Idris, rising over Snowdonia.

Over the course of the last two months, while I have spent every single day, 16 to 18 hours of it, up to my ears in this project, I’ve made some silly discoveries that I think are worth sharing. But first I have to give you a bit of background concerning my rather strange spiritual, chemical, and biological “philosophications”. (Yes. That is a new word. I just invented it. Somebody notify Webster’s, Please!)

Here’s the thing. It is my most ardent, indisputable belief that genetics determine far more about us than the color of our eyes, our hair, our height, build, etc. So what? You say. That’s nothing new.  The bio-smart-type-PhD-people are making that fact more and more obvious every day.

Not the way I see it.

I believe that our genetics include far more than a digital on-off switch for predisposition to disease, right or left-handedness, or an ability to dunk a basketball. I’m going way farther than that. I think our genes include (encode) actual memories, and emotions.

Let me tell you why I believe this. (It’ll take me a minute. Be patient I’m a story-teller. Don’t rush me.)

The first time I ever traveled abroad was 1997. I had to go to Sweden  for several weeks for something related to my job.  My flight was an American Airlines jet out of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The route used to be called “The Nokia Breakfast Club”, because it left at some silly hour like 7:45 in the evening, and flew all night into an early morning arrival at Gatwick before we changed planes for the “All-Seats-Smoking-All-the-Time”, SAS Airlines leg into Stockholm (arrival about 10:00 a.m.)

Most of the flights’ occupants were employees of Nokia Telecom; the company then having headquarters in Raleigh and in Stockholm. They drank copious quantities of alcohol all night long, then woke up rearing to go to work, probably still a bit drunk, with just a few hours’ sleep. (You have to know a few Swedes to fully appreciate this. They are amazing drinkers. And they get up way too early, and are happy about it. But I digress.)

So I’d never been anywhere except California, Mexico and Hawaii before that trip. (All of them excellent vacations, by the way.) I was a little apprehensive and excited to finally get a chance to head off to an exotic, European destination like Stockholm, Sweden. In prep for the trip I boned up on my tourist Swedish, planned a few hoped-for side trips (assuming the work schedule permitted them – it didn’t) and boarded my plane with too much baggage in-tow (newbie mistake.)

We encountered some weather late in the flight and the pilot had to change our course a bit. Not long after sunrise, he came on the intercom and announced that we were about to fly over the west coast of Wales – across Snowdonia (a place I had never heard of before) – and if I looked to my right I would be able to see Cader Idris rising up, still capped with snow even though it was already April.

I lifted the shade on my tiny porthole window (I had been trying to sleep, despite the snoring Swede next to me), and I leaned forward to see what I could see. At first all I saw was blue water beneath us. Then a coastline and a small city near the shore… we were flying lower that I thought we should have been… and then a river a valley below and lovely rolling hills, and green, green pastures, and Oh-My-God!look at those mountains… I can see little thatched-roof houses down there… and churches with graveyards… and garden patches… oh, look at the sheep… there’s a black one!…look at that mound… that’s an ancient burial site… and there… there… that house. That little town there… the streets look so familiar the way they are laid out…. the chapel there, with the little wall around it…

And suddenly my stomach was in my throat and my chest was heaving and my eyes were full of tears – and I didn’t want my eyes to be full of tears because I wanted to see what was below because I missed it so much and it was home and then… it was gone.. behind us. I could breath again… as the mountains flattened out and the hills receded… and we were over England. My breathing returned to normal. The tears withdrew from my eyes. My pulse slowed and I recovered myself… and I shook my head and I laughed and I said to myself, “What in the hell was that?”

That was ten years before I had even an inkling of a clue about my Welsh ancestors and their absolutely passionate attachment to their homeland. More specifically their native attachment to the Mawddach Valley that I had just flown over, and the tiny hamlet of Dolgellau with it’s little houses and odd streets, and its little chapel and it’s little wall all around. My ancestral home. Going back at least a thousand years.

That was genetic memory. When I saw that landscape, that snow-capped peak, those tiny little villages down in the winding Mawddach Valley; some gene inside me suddenly clicked on and I knew I was home. If only – unfortunately – 15,000 feet above it and passing over within minutes. Something in my body recognized it – reacted to it viscerally– with a pulsing energy and power that still moves me to tears to this very day.

Scientists and psychologists can tell me any stories they want to tell me (they used to treat menstrual cramps with electro-shock therapy, you’ll recall) – but I know this was ancestral memory. A memory encoded into my DNA as clearly and as unmistakable as my height, my build, the cut of my jawline; and my inexplicable predilection for books.

But there is more. There is more than one weird gene in this family of ours. I’ll let you in on all of them if you care to follow along.

Next stop; the “Wanderlust Gene“.

Josiah Thomas Jones (1831 – 1848) – Bibliography

Josiah Thomas Jones (1831 – 1848), printer of Merthyr-Tydfill and Carmarthen

Catalogue at the National Library of Wales, during the tenure of William Ellis Jones, from 1830 to 1848:

1] Author: Josiah Thomas Jones (1799-1873), editor, Edward Parry, editor.
Title: Y wawr-ddydd (The Sunrise)
Subject Matter: A monthly Welsh language religious periodical for children that mainly published articles on religion, the natural world and temperance. The periodical’s editors were the minister and publisher, Josiah Thomas Jones (1799-1873) and Edward Parry.
Description: 13 cm, Illustrated
Imprint: Not indicated

2] Author: Robert Thompson Crawshay (1817-1879), , Daniel J. Evans, Pennsylvania, (c.1840),  Lewis Hopkin, (c.1708-1771), Goch Iolo (1345-1397), John Miles, Merthyr Tydfil, (1838), Rowland Thomas (1789-1856), William Walters (c.1837), Gwir Iforiaid
Title: Idris Ddu’: Cerddi a thraethodau (Idris Black: Poems and Essays)
Subject Matter: A volume containing poetry and essays mostly in Welsh, 1830-1856, by Rowland Thomas (‘Idris Ddu’, 1789-1856) of Merthyr Tudful, co. Glamorgan, and transcripts by him of poetry by contemporary local poets. Many of the compositions were entered for competition at eisteddfodau held in Merthyr Tudful, Aberdâr, Hirwaun and elsewhere and reflect the culture and radicalism which flourished in the area during the mid-nineteenth century.
Description: 437 pages
Imprint: Not indicated

1] Author: Uncredited
Title: Diddanwch i deulu Seion (Consolation to the family of Zion)
Subject Matter: Hymns
Description: 112 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd yn ‘Swyddfa Stanhope’ gan J. T. Jones

1] Author: James Jones
Title: Swp o ffigys addfed (A Batch of Ripe Figs)
Subject matter: Religion, Catechisms, Religious education of children,
Description: 32 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1832

1] Author: William Burkitt, 1650-1703
Title: Drych anffaeledig, neu, Fywyd santaidd a rhinweddol yr Arglwydd Iesu Grist (Infallible Mirror, or, holy and virtuous Life of the Lord Jesus Christ)
Subject Matter: Religious
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1833

2] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795-1848), editor
Title: Trysorfa yr ieuenctid (The Treasury of Youth)
Subject Matter: Religion, Sunday Schools, Periodical
Description: 15 cm
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1833

3] Author: John Elias (1774 – 1841)
Title: Copi o lythyr a ddafonodd y Parch. John Elias at olygwr y papyr newydd a elwir y ‘Record,’ ail argraffiad o’r hwn a ymddangosodd yn newyddiadur Bangor, Mawrth 12, 1833 (Copy of a letter to the editor of the ACPC called the ‘Record’, which appeared in this newspaper Bangor, March 12, 1833, from Rev. John Elias)
Subject Matter: Church of England, Church of Wales, Establishment and Disestablishment, Religion, Letters
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1833

1] Author: Caledfryn (1801-1869)
Title: Darlith ar droddodiadau yr hynafiaid (Lecture on our Druidic Ancestors?)
Subject Matter: No remarks
Description: 40 pages
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, Printer, 1834

2] Author: Owen Owen Roberts (1793 – 1866)
Title: Y bugail, neu, Flaidd yn rhith dafad (The Shepard, or the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing)
Subject Matter: Tithes, Church and state, Imaginary conversations, Church of England
Description: 16 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1834

3] Author: J. Griffiths (Tyddewi), E. Evans (Abermaw)
Title: Dau bwnc a gyfansoddwyd i’r Ysgol Sabbathol (Two Subjects for Sunday School)
Subject Matter: Religion
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1834

1] Author: William Burkitt, (1650-1703), Josiah Thomas Jones, of Caernarfon, translator.
Title: Nodau eglurhaol, gyda sylwadau ymarferol ar destament newydd ein Harglwydd Iesu Grist (Expository notes with practical observations on the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.)
Subject Matter: Religion
Description: 882 pages
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

2] Author: Uncredited
Title: Y Seren ogleddol (The Northern Star)
Subject Matter: Religion, Periodical
Description: 22 cm
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

3] Author: Peter Williams (1723-1796)
Title: Sylwadau ar y Bibl Sanctaidd (Commentary on the Holy Bible)
Subject matter: Religion
Description: 628 pages
Imprint: Josiah T. Jones, Printer, 1835

4] Author: Caledfryn, 1801-1869, Eisteddfod Frenhinol Beaumaris (1832)
Title: Awdl ar ddrylliad yr agerddlong Rothsay Castle, gerllaw Beaumaris, Awst 17, 1831 (Ode on the wreck of the  Rothsay Castle, near Beaumaris, August 17, 1831)
Subject Matter: Shipwrecks, Seafaring life, Rothsay Castle (Steam packet), Eisteddfod Beaumaris
Description: 24 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

5] Author: James Silk Buckingham (1786 – 1855)
Title: Areithiau J. S. Buckingham, Ysw., aelod o’r Senedd tros Sheffield (Speeches J. S. Buckingham, Esq., Member of Parliament over Sheffield)
Subject matter: Temperence
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

6] Author: Satan
Title: Yr araith satanaidd ar eglwysi sefydledig a degymau (The Satanic Speeches at Established Churches Regarding Tithes)
Subject Matter: Religion, Tithes, Church of England, Church of Wales, Establishment and disestablishment
Description: 14 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

7] Author: Publicus
Title: Traethawd (An Essay)
Subject Matter: Religion, Tithes, Church of England, Church of Wales, Establishment and disestablishment
Description: 32 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

8] Author: Publicus
Title: Traethawd ar hanes y degwm pabyddol a phrotestanaidd (An Essay on the History of the Protestant and Catholic Tithe)
Subject Matter:
Description: 32 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

9] Author: Owen Owen Roberts (1793 – 1866)
Title: Y parchedig gecryn penchwiban (The Wayward Reverend)
Subject Matter: Church of England, Satire, Welsh, Controversial works, Religion
Description: 16 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd dros yr awdwr gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1835

1] Author: Harry Jenkins
Title: Cwynfan y galarus (Lament of the Bereaved)
Subject Matter: Welsh Poetry
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1837

2] Author: Baptist Wriothesley Noel (1798-1873), J. Thomas (Myfyriwr), (fl.1837)
Title: Undeb yr Eglwys (Church Union)
Subject Matter: Religion
Description: 24 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1837

1] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795-1848), editor., Josiah Thomas Jones (1799-1873) editor.
Title: Y gwron Cymreig (The Welsh Hero)
Subject Matter: A monthly Welsh language politically radical newspaper circulating in South Wales. The newspaper’s main contents was Welsh, British and foreign news. Amongst the newspaper’s editors were the poet William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf, 1795-1848) and its proprietor Josiah Thomas Jones (1799-1873). Associated titles: Y Gwron Cymreig (1852)
Description: 60 cm (one sheet), Illustrated
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1838

2] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795-1848)
Title: Y gan fuddugol, ar arwyddeir yr odyddion, sef cyfeillgarwch, cariad a gwirionedd (Oddfellows – friendship, love and truth)
Subject Matter: Ballads, Songs, Friendly societies, Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Description: 8 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1838

3] Author: Uncredited
Title: Cân o hanes hen wr y coed (Song of the Old Man in the Tree)
Subject Matter: Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, 1838

4] Author: David Jones, of Llanybydder (1803-1868)
Title: Cân newydd (New Songs or New Poems)
Subject Matter: Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1838

5] Author: Evan Williams (1808 – 1860)
Title: Cân o folawd am ymdrechu i ddysgu’r Beibl (Song in Praise of Learning the Bible)
Subject Matter: Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, 1838

6] Author: Fardd Eben (1802-1863), William Williams (1717-1791)
Title: Y Cyfamod Disigl : o Blodeu’r gan / Y farn a fydd / gan Ebenezer Thomas (The unshakeable Covenant: by Ebenezer Thomas)
Subject Matter: Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, 1838

7] Author: Richard Jones, of Wern, Llanfrothen, (c.1771-1833), Evan Evans
Title: Esponiad cyfeiriadol, beirniadol ac ymarferol ar bum llyfr Moses (Subject matter has to do with the five books of Moses)
Subject Matter: Religion
Description: 308 pages
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1838

8] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795 -1848)
Title: Trysorfa grefyddol Gwent a Morganwg (The Religious Treasury of Gwent and Glanmorgan)
Subject matter: Religion, Gwent, Glanmorgan, Periodical
Description: 18 cm
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1838

9] Author: Evan Evans (1804 – 1886)
Title: A duoglott guide for making temperance drinks
Subject matter: Temperence, Beverage Recipes
Description: 95 pages
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, Printer, 1838

1] Author: Ann Saville
Title: Cofiant am Henry Jenkins, o Ellerton ar Swale, Sir Gaerefrog, yr hwn a fu byw dros 169 mlynedd (Memoir of Henry Jenkins, of Ellerton on Swale, Yorkshire, who lived over 169 years)
Subject Matter: Longevity, Traditional medicine, Physicians, Henry Jenkins
Description: 110 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1839

2] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795-1848)
Title: Cân o goffadwriaeth am y Parch. John Williams, Cenadwr Cymdeithas Genadol Llundain, i Fôr y Deau, yr hwn a laddwyd yn Ynys Erromanga, Tachwedd 20fed, 1839 (Story of remembrance for the Rev. John Williams, Cenhadwr Genadol Society of London, the Sea Beau, who was killed in Erromanga Island, November 20, 1839)
Subject Matter:
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1839

3] Author: William Ellis Jones (Cawrdaf) (1795-1848), editor
Title: Trysorfa grefyddol Gymreig (Welsh Religious Treasury)
Subject Matter: An irregular Welsh language religious periodical circulating among the Congregationalists of south east Wales. The periodical’s main contents were religious articles and poetry. The periodical was edited by William Jones. Associated titles: Trysorfa Grefyddol Gwent a Morganwg (1838)
Description: 18 cm
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, 1839

4] Author: Edward Williams (“Bardd” Glas Morganwg) (1770-1854)
Title: Perllan Gwent (Gwent Orchard)
Subject Matter: Welsh Poetry
Description: 72 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1839

1] Author: Thomas Harris (Thomas Ddu), d. 1855
Title: Can ar enedigaeth, marwolaeth, ac adgyfodiad Crist (The birth, death, and resurrection of Christ)
Subject Matter: Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

2] Author: Edward Jones
Title: Can newydd, yn rhoddi hanes y modd y llofruddiodd Frances Bennet, a Thos. Yapp (A New Story; giving the account of the murdered Frances Bennet, and Thos. Yapp)
Subject Matter: Murder, Women, Infanticide, Frances Bennet, Thomas Yapp, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, Caerfyrddin, 1840

3] Author: John Evans, of Merthyr
Title: Can alarus am lofruddiaeth dybiedig Ruth Jones (Mourning for the presumed murder of Ruth Jones)
Subject Matter: Women, Murder, Ruth Jones, Carmarthenshire, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

4] Author: Evan Breeze (1798 – 1855)
Title: Can newydd, yn gosod allan ymdaith y saint i Galifornia yn nghyd a’u dymuniad am ddychwelyd yn ol i wlad eu genedigaeth sef Cymru (A New Story of an expedition that set out with the guidance of the Saints to California, and the immigrants desire to return to their country of birth, Wales)
Subject Matter: Mormonism, Immigration, Colonization, California, Daniel, United States, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

5] Author: James Thomas
Title: Can newydd er coffadwriaeth am ferch i ffarmwr enwog o King’s Court plwyf Headland yn swydd Gaerwrangon (A New Story in memory of the famous farmer’s daughter of King’s Court, Headland Parish, in Worcestershire)
Subject Matter: Pregnancy, Illegitimacy, Infanticide, Female Domestic Servants, Hanging, Thomas Morton Williams, Elizabeth Morton Williams
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

6] Author: Oliver Howell (Mynydd Triphlwyf)
Title: Caniad newydd o ddiolch am flwyddyn ffrwythlon a chynhauaf da (A New Story of Thanksgiving for a good harvest and fruitful year)
Subject Matter: Harvesting, Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin

7] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Can alarus (The Mournful)
Subject Matter: Cholera, Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

8] Author: Thomas Harris (Thomas Ddu), d. 1855
Title: Carol nadolig (Christmas Carols)
Subject Matter: Christmas, Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

9] Author: Dafydd Owen (1751 – 1814)
Title: Can yn dangos fod Crist yn Dduw yn gystal ag yn ddyn (Proof that Christ was God as well as Man)
Subject Matter: Socinianism, Trinity, Unitarianism, Jesus Christ, Religion
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

10] Author: Levi Gibbon (Dryw Dall) (c.1807-1870)
Title: Can newydd, am werthfawrogrwydd golwg naturiol (A New Story of Natural Value and Prominence)
Subject Matter: Blindness, Religio, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

11] Author: Evan Williams (1808 – 1860)
Title: Can o folawd am ymdrechiad i ddysgu y Bibl, ynghyd a pharch iddo, ac enwau y rhai a’i hysgrifenodd trwy ysbryd Duw  (A song of praise: To learn about the Bible, together and to respect Him, and the names of those, who by the spirit of God…)
Subject Matter: Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

12] Author: Levi Gibbon (Dryw Dall) (c.1807-1870)
Title: Can alarus am y golled sydd ar y tato trwy’r wlad yn gyffredinol (The mourning for the loss of the potatoes and the loss of the country as a whole)
Subject Matter: Potato Famine, Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

13] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Can newydd, yn gosod allan llwyddiant gweddi a’r angenrheidrwydd o’i harferyd (A New Story of How to Use Prayer to Fight for Success)
Subject Matter: Religion, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

14] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Can newydd, gwr ar ei daith (The new husband on his journey)
Subject Matter: Religion, Fall of Man, Joy, Welsh Ballads
Description: 8 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

15] Author: Richard R. Williams (1790 – 1862)
Title: Can newydd, yn gosod allan hanes George Martin, yr hwn a lofruddiodd chwech o ferched, gerllaw Paris, yn Ffrainc, a’r hwn yn y diwedd a amcanodd ladd ei wraig ei hun, yn seithfed (A New Story that sets out the tale of George Martin, who murdered six women, near Paris, France, and then he killed his own wife, his seventh victim)
Subject Matter: Murder, Paris, France, George Martin, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, disbound
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

16] Author: Jenkin Davies
Title: Can newydd, yn gosod allan, drueni’r annuwiol, a dedwyddwch y cyfiawn yn y byd a ddaw (A New Story that Describes the Shame of the Wicked and the Happiness of the Righteous in the Afterlife)
Subject Matter: Religion, Heaven & Hell, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, disbound
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, Caerfyrddin, 1840

17] Author: Azariah Shadrach (1774-1844)
Title: Myfyrdod ar y cloc yn taro (Reflection on the Clock Strike / Reflection on the Passage of Time?)
Subject Matter: Meditation, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, disbound
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, Caerfyrddin, 1840

18] Author: John, I. Myhefin Davis
Title: Y tamaid chwerw (The Bitter Bite)
Subject Matter: Bars and Drinking Establishments, Temperence, Welsh Ballads
Description: 2 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin, Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1840

19] Author: Dafydd Evans, of Penryn
Title: Can newydd o hanes Dafydd Williams, Swydd Benfro (Story of David Williams, of Pembrokeshire)
Subject Matter: Death, Superstitions, Religion, Dafydd Williams, Pembrokeshire
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1840

20] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: A new song, composed for the commendation of Maesgwynne Kennel, and their owner, W.R.H.Powell, Esquire
Subject Matter: Dogs, Hunting, Foxes, Rural life, W. R. H Powell,  Carmarthenshire, Llanboidy
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Printer, Carmarthen, 1840

21] Author: H. Harries of Penpompren, fl.184
Title: Am Angau
Subject Matter: Death, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J. T. Jones, argraffydd, 1840

22] Author: Richard Williams (c.1790 – c.1862)
Title: Can newydd, yn rhoddi hanes am garwriaeth a phriodas Henry J. Wilcott, a Harriet Williams, gerllaw Taunton, yn Ngwlad yr Haf, Somersetshire, pa rai a briodasant yn Nghaerodor, fis Gorphenhaf diweddaf (A New Song, giving the story of courtship and marriage of Henry J. Wilcott, and Harriet Williams, near Taunton, Somerset, Somersetshire, which occurred  in Bristol, last month )
Subject Matter: Welsh Ballade, Marriage
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, J.T. Jones, Caerfyrddin, 1840

23] Author: Uncredited
Title: Can y blotyn du (Song of the Black Pauper)
Subject Matter: Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1840

24] Author: Levi Gibbon (Dryw Dall) (c.1807-1870)
Title: Can newydd, am y diwygiad a gymer le ar drigolion y byd, trwy waith y railroad newydd (A New Song, for the revival taking place on the inhabitants of the world, through the work of the new railroad)
Subject Matter: Railroads, Welsh Ballads
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1840

25] Author: Uncredited
Title: Hymnau (Hymns)
Subject Matter: Religion, Hymns
Description: 112 pages
Imprint: Josiah Thomas Jones, argraffydd, 1840

1] Author: John Williams (1796 – 1839)
Title: Hanes rhyfedd anturiaethau cenadol yn Ynysoedd Mor y Deau (The Strange Story and Adventures of the South Sea Islands)
Subject Matter: Missions, Oceania, Polynesia, Religious life and customs, Social life and customs
Description: 272 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd yn Swyddfa y Gwron gan J. T. Jones, 1841

1] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Y bywyd tragwyddol (The eternal life)
Subject Matter: Religion, Sermons
Description: 48 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1842

2] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Almanac, am y flwyddyn 1842 (Almanac for the Year 1842)
Subject Matter: Almanac
Description: 24 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1842

3] Author: David Evans
Title: Marwnad er coffadwriaeth am y diweddar Barch. John Breese, gweinidog yr efengyl, yn heol Awst, Caerfyrddin, yr hwn, ar ol cystudd trwm am saith mis, a hunodd yn yr Arglwydd, ar ddydd Llun, Awst 8fed, 1842, yn 51ain mlwydd oed (Elegy in memorial of the late Rev. John Breese, minister of the gospel in the streets of Carmarthen, whom, after heavy tribulation for seven months, slept in the Lord on Monday, August 8, 1842, at the age 51years)
Subject Matter: Welsh elegiac poetry
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1842

4] Author: Uncredited
Title: Erthyglau a rheolau i’w cadw gan aelodau y Drysorfa Gynnorthwyol, perthynol i Eglwys Heol Awst, Caerfyrddin, a sefydlwyd Ionawr y 3ydd, 1842 (Articles and rules to be observed by members of the Treasury, related to the Church on Lammas Street, Carmarthen, established January 3rd, 1842)
Subject matter: Friendly societies, Eglwys Heol Awst (Carmarthen), Carmarthen, Benevolent and moral institutions and societies
Description: 7 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1842

1] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Almanac, am y flwyddyn 1843 (Almanac for the Year 1843)
Subject Matter: Almanac
Description: 24 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1843

2] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Rebeccayddiaeth (The Rebecca Riots)
Subject Matter: Rebecca Riots, 1839-1844, Protest movements, Toll roads,
Description: 4 pages, Illustrated
Imprint: Caerfyrddin, Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1843

3] Author: Prout, Ebenezer (c.1802-1871)
Title: Hanes bywyd y Parchedig John Williams, cenadwr Cymdeithas Genadol Llundain, i ynysoedd Môr y Deau (The life story of the Rev. John Williams, Cenhadwr Association, Genadol London, Sea Islands to the UAE)
Subject Matter: Missionaries, Missions, John Williams, London Missionary Society, Oceania, Religious life and customs
Description: 140 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd a chyhoeddwyd gan Josiah Thomas Jones, 1843

4] Author: John Jones of Llangollen and Rhyd-y-bont, 1801-1856.
Title: Catecism plant (Children’s Catechism)
Subject Matter: Religion, Religious education for Children
Description: 16 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, gan J.T. Jones, 1843

1] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Almanac, am y flwyddyn 1844 (Almanac for the Year 1844)
Subject Matter: Almanac
Description: 24 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd…gan J.T. Jones, 1844

2] Author: John Evans
Title: Marwnad i’r diweddar Barch. John Edwards, Gweinidog yr Efengyl yn Peniel, Caerfyrddin yr hwn a fu farw ar yr 29fed o Dachwedd, 1844, yn 33ain oed (An Elegy to the late Rev. John Edwards, Minister of the Gospel at Peniel, Carmarthen, whom died on the 29th of November, 1844, in his 33rd year)
Subject Matter: Welsh Poetry, John Edwards
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J.T. Jones, Argraffydd, Caerfyrddin, 1844

1] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Almanac, am y flwyddyn 1845 (Almanac for the Year 1845)
Subject Matter: Almanac
Description: 24 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd…gan J.T. Jones, 1845

1] Author: Rhys, Dafydd, of Cardigan.
Title: Ystyriaethau ar y swydd weinidogaethol, yn ei sefydliad a’i dirywiad (Considerations on the ministerial office of the Church, in its organization and its decline)
Subject Matter: Clergy, Religion
Description: 24 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan J.T. Jones, 1846

2] Author: John Williams of Merthyr Tydfil
Title: Dau draethawd (Two Essays)
Subject Matter: Religion
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan J.T. Jones, 1846

1] Author: David Gravell (1787-1872), Hugh Jones (1800-1872)
Title: Caniadau Sion, neu, Gasgliad o hymnau at wasanaeth cynnulleidfaoedd crefyddol a dyngarol (Songs of Sion – A collection of hymns for use at the service of religious congregations and humanitarian events)
Subject Matter: Religion, Hymns
Description: 408 pages
Imprint: Josiah T. Jones, Printer, 1847

1] Author: Josiah. T. Jones (1799 – 1873)
Title: Hanes y nef a’r ddaear (The Story of Heaven and Earth)
Subject Matter: Geography, Astronomy, Solar System, History
Description: 784 pages, 7 folded leaves of plates (maps), Illustrated
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan J.T. Jones, 1848

J. L. Brigstocke (1828 – 1830) – Bibliography

J. L. Brigstocke (1828 – 1830), printer of Carmarthen

Catalogue at the National Library of Wales, during the tenure of William Ellis Jones, from 1828 to 1830

1] Author: Peter Williams (1723-1796)
Title: Y Bibl sanctaidd sef yr hen destament, a’r newydd, gyda nodau a sylwadau ar bob pennod gan y diweddar Barch. Peter Williams.  (The holy Bible’s old and new testament, with remarks on each chapter by the late Rev.. Peter Williams.)
Description: 1078 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd, ac ar werth gan J. L. Brigstocke. 1829

2] Author:
Title: Nifer gau-grefyddwyr, creulondeb paganiaeth mewn llosgi gwragedd yn India (The Cruelty of Pagan Religions; Wife-burning in India)
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: J.L. Brigstocke, printer, 1829

3] Author: James, Thomas, ca. 1795-1844., Peter, David, 1765-1837.
Title: Trueni y byd paganaidd, a helaethrwydd gras Duw (Pity the pagan world. The abundance of God’s grace)
Description: 22 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan J.L. Brigstocke, 1829

1] Author: Maurice Evans, 1765-1831
Title: Marwnad Mrs. Lloyd (Elegy to Mrs. Lloyd)
Description: 4 pages
Imprint: J. L. Brigstocke, Argraffydd, 1830

2] Author: Dafydd Lewis
Title: Marwnad, neu alarus goffadwriaeth am farwolaeth y Parchedig David Lewis Jones, addysgwr yr Athrofa, yn Nghaerfyrddin, a gweinidog Efengyl Crist yn nghapel Sion, yn mhlwyf Llanddarog yr hwn a ymadawodd a’r bywyd hwn, Medi yr 8fed, 1830 yn 42 mlwydd  (An elegy, mourning or remembrance of the death of the Reverend David Lewis Jones)
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: J. L. Brigstocke, Argraffydd, 1830

3] Author: Davies, William, 1785-1851
Title: Pregeth ar farwolaeth Sior y pedwarydd, a dyfodiad William y pedwarydd i orsedd Brydain Fawr (Sermon on the death of George the Fourth, and the arrival of William the Fourth to the throne of Great Britain)
Description: 16 pages
Imprint: argraffwyd gan J.L. Brigstocke, 1830

4] Author: W. Lewis of Trelech.
Title: Drws gobaith i blant, yn cael ei agoryd yn nyffryn achor  (Door of hope will be opened to children, in the valley of Achor)
Description: 16 pages
Imprint: Arg. gan J.L. Brigstocke, 1830

5] Author: William Ellis Jones (1795 – 1848)
Title: Y bardd, neu, Y meudwy Cymreig (The Bard, or, The Welsh Hermit)
Description: 264 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd gan J.L. Brigstocke, 1830

John Evans (1824 – 1828) – Bibliography

John Evans (1824 – 1828), Printer of Carmarthen

Catalogue at the National Library of Wales, for the period of William Ellis Jones employment, from 1824 to 1828

1] Author: Uncredited
Title: Brut y Cymry (Chronicle of the Welsh)
Description 24 pages, illustrated
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffedig gan J. Evans, 1824

2] Author: Uncredited
Title: Llythyr oddiwrth ddwy gymmanfa o weinidogion yr Anymddibynwyr, at yr amrywiol eglwysi a berthynant iddynt (Subject is a letter to various churches)
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : J. Evans, Argraffydd, 1824

3] Author: Alfred Thomas.
Title: On the management of farm-yard manure, to which are prefixed, some observations on the nature and qualities of soils
Description: 30 pages
Imprint: Carmarthen : Printed at the Carmarthen Journal-Office, by John Evans, 1824

4] Author: D.E.
Title: Swp o ffigys, neu, Gasgliad o hymnau : Yr ail ran Mynydd Bach (Batch of figs, or, Collection of hymns , including the second part from Mynydd Bach)
Description: 242 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : J. Evans, 1824

5] Author: Howell, John, 1774-1830
Title: Blodau Dyfed : sef, awdlau, cywyddau, englynion, a chaniadau, moesol a diddanol a gyfansoddwyd gan feirdd Dyfed, yn y ganrif ddiweddaraf a’r bresennol / o gynnulliad John Howell (The Flowers from Dyfed namely, odes, poems, poetry and songs, moral and entertaining composed by poets Dyfed, in the present century / edited by John Howell of Assembly government
Description: 420 pages, illustrated
Imprint : Caerfyrddin : Argraffwyd ac ar werth gan J. Evans, 1824.

6] Author: Hughes, Hugh, 1790-1863.
Title: Brut y Cymry : yn cynwys hefyd hanes darluniol o’r dywysogaeth (Chronicle of the Welsh in history with illustrations of  the principalities)
Description: 24 pages, illustrated
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffedig gan J. Evans, 1824

7] Author: Roberts, John, 1767-1834
Title: Dyscyblaeth plant bychain : neu ychydig o ofyniadau ac attebion yn nghylch deiliaid, dull, a dybenion bedydd; er addysg i blant Ysgolion Sabbothol (Subjects having to do with the education and Baptism of children)
Description: 36 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin : argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1824

8] Author: Cymanfa Anymddibynwyr (1824 : Penygroes, Wales)
Title: Llythyr oddiwrth ddwy gymmanfa o weinidogion yr Anymddibynwyr, at yr amrywiol eglwysi a berthynant iddynt : y gyntaf a gyfarfu yn Mhenygroes, swydd Benfro, ar y Mawrth a’r Mercher cyntaf o Fehefin, 1824; a’r ail yn Aberhonddu, ddydd Mercher a dydd Iau, y 23ain a’r 24ain o Fehefin, 1824 (Subject is a letter to various churches)
Description: 8 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : J. Evans, Argraffydd, 1824

9] Author: Thomas, Alfred of Carmarthen
Title: On the management of farm-yard manure, to which are prefixed, some observations on the nature and qualities of soils : also remarks on the nature and properties of peat, and its qualities as manure
Description: 6 pages, In English
Imprint: Carmarthen : Printed at the Carmarthen Journal-Office, by John Evans, 1824

10] Author: Evans, Daniel, 1774-1835
Title: Swp o ffigys, neu, Gasgliad o hymnau : o waith yr awdwyr canlynol, sef, y Parch. W. Jones, Penybont, S. Efans, Soar, I. Phillips, Bethlehem, Dr. Young, Esgob Cen, W. Wiliams, Pant-y-Celyn, I. Watts, D.D., E. Prys, B. Ffransis, T. Jencins (Siencyn ab Tydfil), A. Shadrach, D. Griffiths, Castellnedd, D. Efans, (athraw ysgol), Mr. I. Efans, Treforys, I.M., I.D., I.D., D.D., D.J., Llanwrda, Parch. M. Rhys, anadnabyddus. Yr ail ran / gan D.E. Mynydd Bach (Batch of figs, or, Collection of hymns of the following writers…)
Description: 242 pages
Imprint : Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : J. Evans, 1824

1] Author: T. Horton, comedian
Title     An elegy, descriptive of the beautiful & romantic churchyard of Laugharne, in the county of Carmarthen
Description: 16 pages – In English
Imprint: Carmarthen : printed by J. Evans, Jun., 1825

3] Author: Baptist Missionary Society
Title: Hanes byr o lafur a llwyddiant cenhadau y Bedyddwyr : yn cynnwys hefyd gofrestr o’r casgliadau a’r tansgrifiadau : a wnawd gan y Bedyddwyr a’u cyfeillion, o fewn i Gymmanfa Orllewinol Deheubarth Cymru, at achos y genadwriaeth, yn y flwyddyn 1824 (A short history of labor and success Baptist messengers; also includes a register ‘s accounting of collections which had been made by the Baptist ‘s friends, within Gymmanfa West South Wales, in the year 1824)
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1825

4] Author: Griffith, James, of Clydey
Title: Parottoad i dderbyn y sacrament o Swpper yr Arglwydd … : at yr hyn yr ychwanegwyd Y Ffordd i fod yn ddedwydd … / a gyfieithwyd i’r (Subject is the Sacrament of the Last Supper.)
Imprint : Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : J. Evans, 1825

5] Author: Evans, Daniel, 1774-1835
Title: Swp o ffigys, neu, Gasgliad o hymnau : o waith yr awdwyr goreu yn eu hoes : ynghyd ag ugeiniau o hymnau newyddion, na buont argraffedig o’r blaen : wedi eu casglu gyda golwg i leshau y cyffredin : ond yn benaf yr ysgolion sabbothol yn y Mynydd-Bach, Treforys, Clydach, Bethel, Glandwr, Felindref, a Chadle, swydd Forganwg / gan D. Evans, Mynydd-Bach. Y rhan gyntaf (Batch of Figs; New Hyms and Collections)
Description: 72 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen]: Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1825.

1] Author: S. Griffiths
Title: Traethawd ar grefydd deuluaidd (An essay on the religion of Teuluaidd)
Description: 108 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1827

2] Author: William Augustus.
Title: Erra Pater, neu, Ddaroganydd yr amserau
Description: 60 pages / Edition 3ydd arg.
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd ac ar werth gan J. Evans, 1827

3] Author: Baptist Missionary Society
Title: Hanes byr o lafur a llwyddiant cenhadau y Bedyddwyr (A short history of the labor and success of the Baptist messengers)
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: John Evans, Argraffydd, 1827

1] Author: Thomas Griffiths.
Title: Cofiant am y Parch. David Davies, gynt o Gastell-Hywel, ganwyd (Memoir of the Revd. David Davies, formerly of Castle-Hywel)
Description: 60 pages, 1 leaf of plates
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd ac ar werth gan J. Evans, 1828

2] Author: Ellis Wyn. At ba un yr
Title: Gweledigaethau y Bardd Cwsg ychwanegwyd mynegiad o’r geiriau mwyaf annealladwy trwy gorff y gwaith (Visions of the Sleeping Bard)
Description: 88 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1828.

3] Author: Evan Lewis
Title: Rhifyddiaeth yn rhwyddach : Rhan 1
Description: 60 pages, illustrated
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1828.

4] Author: S. Griffiths
Title: Traethawd ar grefydd deuluaidd (An essay on the religion of Teuluaidd)
Description: 107 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan J. Evans, 1828

5] Author: John Thomas
Title: The Welsh Interpreter; or, an English and Welsh vocabulary, with familiar dialogues…
Description: 48 pages / 3rd edition – In English
Imprint: Carmarthen : J. Evans, pr., 1828

6] Author:
Title: Ymddiddan rhwng hen wr dall a’r angeu (Discussions on Death with an Old Blind Man)
Description: 12 pages
Imprint: Caerfyrddin [Carmarthen] : Argraffwyd gan Evan Jones, yn Heol-y-prior, 1828

1] Author: Translations, by T. Edwards, “Caerfallwch” and William Saunders of Aberystwyth, of Goldsmith’s ‘Deserted village’
Title: Y dref amddifad (The Town Orphan)
Description: 7 pages
Imprint: Argraffwyd ac ar werth gan J. Evans, 1829

Goronwy Owen (1722 – 1769); Welshman, Poet, Scholar, Friend

AUTHORS NOTE: Since drafting the entry below, new facts have come to light which COMPLETELY DEBUNK several ideas put forth here in. Rather than “erase” or delete my mistakes, as if they never happened (which occurs all too frequently on the net), I have chosen to “redact” them by crossing through the patently false, or overly speculative portions of the text. For more information, please refer to my post “Epic FAIL | Confessions of a highly speculative genealogist“.

An Apology
It’s not my habit to begin any endeavor with an apology; however this effort demands it.

First; I never intended to delve too deeply into the life of Goronwy Owen, as I contemplated what should be included in this book. His life and work was to me, too complicated, too important, and too well-documented for a novice like me to even attempt it. But try as I might to leave Goronwy in the mists of epic Welsh myth, Goronwy would not leave me alone. He and his kept coming back to haunt just about every era and every other personality I touched upon as I researched and put together the drafts of my project.

Right from the beginning of my little biography of Goronwy Owen, I start with my right hand tied behind my back. Owen’s history is a complicated one, and an important one to those who care deeply about the Welsh language and its literature. He, along with his patrons and closest friends; Lewis Morris, Richard Morris, and William Morris, are largely responsible for the Renaissance in Welsh letters that began in the 18th century. That said, almost all of their correspondences, as well as the vast majority of the poetry they created, remains un-translated from the Welsh into English – and I remain wholly ignorant of Welsh.

As I contemplated this project, I struggled within myself as to whether it was even appropriate to conceive it, given my ignorance of the language this man loved, lived for, and eventually died with as his sole companion. I considered it an arrogant and conceited thing to do, to try to write anything about him when I can not read a word of anything by him. Yet as I write about my ancestors and I piece their stories together, I keep coming back to Goronwy Owen and he keeps coming back to me.

He’s a seminal figure in my own family’s drama from Merioneth, Wales to Virginia. As I turned to my resources on Owen, I found they were often contradictory, piecemeal, disorganized, and basically just difficult to get through. I had to take the story apart and put it back together in order to understand it completely. The result is what you see – as imperfect as it is – I hope it will provide a side of the story that the man himself never had an opportunity to tell.

I beg your pardon for the incompleteness of this effort.


Goronwy Owen is considered by a great majority of Welsh scholars to be the most gifted poet and linguist of the 18th century; perhaps of all time. He, along with his patron and friend Lewis Morris, almost single-handedly rescued the Welsh language and the Welsh bardic tradition from extermination. The then-fragile language faced determined and well-armed enemies charging from every direction, including; the Church, which enforced English in its services, records, and schools, and thwarted all opportunities for Welshmen to excel in its ranks; the Government, which conducted all official business in the country in the English language exclusively; from a struggling population who too easily dismissed their own heritage for the expediency of progress, adopting English or ugly “Wenglish” hybrids which were no real language at all; and finally (perhaps worst of all), from forgers and inventors, who lacking any genuine knowledge of the antiquity or etymology of the tongue, invented a false one along with fake literature to support their fiction.

Goronwy Owen; an impoverished ne’r-do-well from remote Anglesey in the far north of Wales, thwarted the English and Welsh Church, thwarted the English Government, thwarted those without a vision for Wales, and thwarted the forgers.  Unfortunately he never knew of his success. He never knew that he became a hero and a legend among Welsh patriots and literatures. Since his death in the 18th century, his story has devolved into something almost mythic.

It’s the purpose of my small biography to leave the mythic behind; let the flowery prose of admirers of his poetry have that part of his story to themselves. I simply want to lay out a coherent account of what the man did with his life, how he did it, and what became of him and his descendants. That’s the best I can do.


Red Wharf Bay, Wales, Anglesey

This is the tidal flat near Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf. Image courtesy of http://www.

Goronwy Owen’s Youth
Wales is a remote country. Anglesey is more so. It’s an island on the far northwest coast of the country, separated from the main by the Manai Strait in the south, and by the Irish Sea on the west, north, and east. In the east central part of the island there is a small village known as Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf. It sits just inland from the coast, and very near a great tidal sand flat that is among the most beautiful and unique spots on the planet. Behind the village the coast rises quickly skyward and Anglesey’s many mountains and forests create a scenery that has inspired poets for centuries. It’s a truly magical place near where, according to myth is one of the places where King Authors Round Table met.

Goronwy Owen was born in this magical place on New Year’s Day, 1722. [1]

His mother was named Sain Parri, and according to the old-Welsh custom, she kept her maiden name her whole life. What we know of her is passed down to us in fragments in letters written between Goronwy Owen and his friends. The glimpses we capture paint a picture of her import in her son’s life. We know that she was well-educated, at least as far as was common in those remote days. She could read and write well, and she was a strict instructor in educating her son in his letters, his early habits of diction, and in his grammar.

More than this though, she was his most ardent supporter and defender. She was his sole source of love and tenderness in a world that very early, showed Goronwy its cold, hard edge.

His father was named, according to the old Welsh style, Owen ap Goronw; i.e. Owen, son of Goronw. In this we have a bit of our poets’ genealogy; he was named after his grandfather.

Like Goronwy’s mother, the little knowledge we have of his father is captured only in fragments snatched from letters. The information they reveal is not kind to the man’s memory, but it’s probably truthful. All sources are universal on their opinion and character of the man, and so we must pass him forward as he comes down to us.

First, Owen was a renowned drunk. This tidbit is especially revealing in that it comes to us from a time, place, and a people who adored their malt and their rye almost as much as they loved their children. That his abuse of drink was recorded at all is an indication that he really abused his drink. But this is not all. Owen was an abusive man, paying respect to no one, on no account at all. He abused his son, and on more than one occasion Sain Parri was seen putting her small body between the big man and the little boy.

Burial Site, WalesIn those days the only bards in Wales were “tavern bards”. The great Eisteddfod’s of old were fast asleep, not to be roused again for another century. The hero warriors of Wales were all but forgotten; dust in their graves, littered about the countryside, their stones un-deciphered and their treasures un-suspected.

The only place that a poet could find an ear willing to bend to the lilt of a rhyming meter was inside the tavern, with a pint of grog in his right hand and another drunk bard hanging on his left. The bards congregated in taverns, and there they whiled away the wee hours weaving rhymes and puns of witty rejoinders that thread by thread, kept the flickering flame of the Welsh language from being snuffed out.

Owen Goronw made a regular performance of his talents in just such a way. He was reported to be a skilled tavern bard who entertained the tavern crowd while entertaining himself. He may have been an abusive drunk who barely pretended to support his family, but it’s certain that he gave his son the gift of poetry – even if he did it contemptuously and accidentally.

The Morris Family
No mention of Goronwy Owen can begin without the introduction of the Morris family. Shortly before Goronwy Owen’s birth, Richard Morris (Morys ap Richard Morys) and his wife Margaret Owen (Margaret ab Morys Owen of Bodafon y Glyn), a family of noble Welsh lineage and substantial income, moved into the neighborhood of Penrhos Llugwy. They took up residence in the premiere house in the parish; Pentref Eiriannell, establishing themselves as the ranking family in the community. There they reared and educated their children. Most notable to our story are the three sons; William, Richard, and Lewis Morris.

Some sources claim that Sain Parri, Goronwy Owen’s mother, was related to the Morrises. Others state that she was a maid servant in the household. It’s possible that she was both, or neither. What is certain is that the Morris family “discovered” Goronwy Owen when he was very young, and they took him under their collective wing.

Lewis Morris (1700 - 1765)

Lewis Morris (1700 – 1765) – This portrait was captured when Lewis was in his early-40’s.

Lewis Morris was born on March 2, 1700. He would have been in his twenties by the time young Goronwy Owen came to his attention. Given the gap between them in age, it’s unlikely that their early relationship was that of boyhood companions (as some have suggested.) By his twenties Lewis Morris was already an accomplished; some would say brilliant young man, well on his way to fame and greatness. It seems that the young Goronwy in some way distinguished himself to Lewis and the rest of the family. It’s likely that the distinction was born in the heart of Lewis’ mother, Margaret.

Decades after Goronwy Owen left Anglesy, upon learning of Margaret Owen’s death, Goronwy wrote an elegy to her memory that her sons cherished and that Welsh scholars place amongst his finest poetical work. In his letters to the brothers, he mourns Margaret’s loss as a son would. His exile from her was sharply felt by the poet, and her permanent loss was a blow. But I’m getting ahead of our story.

If Margaret was Goronwy Owen’s first “sponsor” in the Morris family, it was likely due to her pity and empathy for the boy. He dressed in rags. He was thin and always hungry. It was well-known that his father harassed him interminably, and that his mother, through her labors outside of their home was the sole support for the family. And yet, the boy was bright, energetic, humble, and grateful for any small attention paid him.

Our principal biographer, Rev. Robert Jones recounts the following:

“…he became an especial favorite of Mrs. Morris, who gave him bread-and-butter, with honey and treacle on it, and, when he left; presented him with a penny for pocket-money, paper for his school exercises, and some good advice seasoned with the pleasant prediction, ‘that he would one day make a fine fellow of a parson.’ Grateful for the kindness, he… turned round and said, “If I were a little dog, O how I would wag my tail!’”

When Goronwy Owen was a small boy he attended one of Griffith Jones’ circulating schools in the nearby hamlet of Llan Algo. There he excelled most impressively, and was encouraged by his masters to continue his studies. Unfortunately Sain Parri’s household was extremely poor and while she did what she could to encourage and support her intelligent son, she was limited in her ability to send him forward.

It’s at this point in Goronwy Owen’s life that his friends become sponsors and patrons. Against Owen Goronw’s wishes, and in spite of violent outbursts against sending the boy away to school, Goronwy Owen is advanced to the Grammar School at Bangor in 1737 (across the Manai Strait, on the mainland.) There he learns his Latin and Greek, his classics, his mathematics, and his catechisms. Bangor is a renowned institution established in 1553 to serve the gentry and wealthy merchant classes of Anglesey and Gwynedd. Under the careful instruction of the schools’ headmaster, Edward Bennet and his assistant Humphrey Jones, Goronwy Owen becomes a true “classical scholar”.

He excels at school. He drinks it up like a thirsty man in a desert. He becomes a sponge for liquid knowledge and flowing contemplation. He was pronounced a prodigy at this early stage in his career. He had not quite yet earned the title of genius.

At Bangor, Goronwy is introduced, for the first time in his life (excepting the Morrises), to a better class of people than he’d ever known before. He develops friends and social contacts who show him opportunities and ambitions he could not have previously dreamed of. His imagination flowers and for the first time, he begins to see a future in these occupations which busy his mind day and night.

Welsh poetryLewis Morris takes the boy under his personal instruction during these years. He teaches him the complex rules of Welsh poetry. He gives him his first real books. He pushes him, and he is surprised – pleasantly surprised – at what the boy pushes back at him. In these early years the two become verbal and literary sparring partners, each one daring the other to greater skill and curiosity in how far they can go. A deep friendship and commitment develops that will last for decades.

Unfortunately there is no sweet without the sour. About the time that Goronwy finishes his studies at Bangor in 1741, his mother Sain Parri dies. Letters passed between the Morris brothers (Lewis and William are still in Anglesey, Richard is in England) express their deep sadness at her loss, and their concern for Goronwy’s future without her solid foundation of moral support. Their concerns were not without merit.

Long Hard Path
Goronwy returns home from Bangor. He’s just eighteen years old. His mother is not yet cool in her grave and his father has already moved another woman into the house. Gorowy is lost. He’s broke. He has no skills except his poetry, his Latin, and the magic in his mind – but these things don’t put bread on the table or coin in his pocket. These are the first minor notes forming a repetitive chord that echoes throughout his life. At this stage though, Goronwy is still energetic and hopeful. He rallies himself and throws all his ambition into attempting to find something that will utilize his education, while paying his way in the world.

Pwllheli - In the late 19th century.

Pwllheli – In the late 19th century.

Goronwy applies and (probably with the assistance of Lewis or Richard Morris) is accepted to become one of the “Masters” at the Grammar School at Pwllhelli on the west coast of Wales, about 30 miles as the crow files from his home in Anglesey. The journey by sea or on foot (most likely) probably took several weeks to accomplish. He would have arrived hungry, haggard, and penniless, but we know that he did arrive and that he taught at the school for about three years between 1741 and 1744.

While he was there, I believe he met and befriended my two ancestors William and David Ellis Jones; two country boys from the hamlet of Dolgellau in Merioneth, about twenty miles from Pwllhelli (a world away as far as they were concerned.) The relationship that he formed with them must have been similar to the one that he had with Lewis Morris; one of mentor, tutor, and friend. I know he must have made a profound impression upon them that changed the course of these two young men’s lives; as well as the lives of their children and countless descendants.

That Goronwy Owen remained in contact with these two over the years of his life is without doubt in my mind. There exists no fixed record of it except in one single line in my family history that alludes to a greater fact, backed up by too many coincidences to ignore. But once again, I am side tracked.

Advanced Degree at Jesus College, Oxford
By 1744, when Goronwy was about twenty-one or twenty-two years old, the monotony of teaching propelled him to contemplate the benefits of an advanced degree in his education. Prior to going to Pwllheli he had attempted to gain a scholarship in order to attend Jesus College at Oxford. His initial efforts failed, but he obviously kept up his entreats while employed at the school. Perseverance paid off; by 1744 we find him at Oxford.

Curiously, some of his lighter biographers doubt the voracity of this fact. Apparently the records at Jesus College are not all they should be; as it appears by the record that he was accepted by the school but that he never actually attended except for a few days in 1742. A more careful examination of his history – specifically his correspondences between Lewis, William, and Richard Morris – show that between 1744 and the end of 1745 he was in full attendance at Jesus College, and that he was successfully ordained a minister in the Anglican Church. [3] More to the point, however, is that he was an employed Anglican minister for almost twenty years. The Church of England didn’t give orders to drop-outs. Advanced degree in religion was required for service.

Servitor at Oxford

Servitor at Oxford; 18th Century

It’s without question that Goronwy received a scholarship. He probably held a servitors [4] position while he attended to his studies. It’s also very likely that the Morris brothers, Lewis in particular, helped him with expenses and pocket money while he earned his credentials. With these credentials in hand, he put himself on the path of a career in the Anglican Church.

He could not have chosen a more difficult, less rewarding path, had he hand-forged an iron spade and then dug his own grave with it.

Career in “The Church”
The Church of England and its sister, The Church of Wales, was a powerful and very determined body politic. During the eighteenth century “The Church” was determined to wipe any evidence of Welsh culture; their customs, habits, and their language, off the face of the Earth. In Wales as in England, the Bishops were all Englishmen. The schools were all head-mastered by Englishmen. The services were all conducted in English. All records were kept in English. And every important appointment to every curacy and vicarage in the country was an act of political nepotism of the English bent.

In 1745, after much searching, Goronwy Owen was appointed to a curacy (parish pastor) in Llanfair, Anglesey – his hometown. He knew the vicar there and the position was in service to his old neighborhood; a community who knew and admired him for all he’d overcome and accomplished – and for the fact that he was their own.

The appointment took place when the Bishop of Bangor (who oversaw Anglesey) was out of the country. As soon as the Bishop (an Englishman) returned, he informed the local vicar that the curacy had already been promised to “a friend of a friend” and that the Welshman would have to vacate post-haste. This was a bitter blow. It was just one of many more blows that our poet would endure as his career in the Anglican community progressed.

With the ever-dependable assistance of the Morrises, Goronwy was finally appointed to a minor curacy at Ostwestry in Denbeighshire. The place was located on the western edge of England, near the Welsh border. Most of his parishioners were English or Welshmen who had thrown off their Welsh roots. He was an alien there and they considered him as such. He was made a master at the Grammar School where he taught Latin and Greek and the Catechism to his young scholars. But there were unfair difficulties; his master was a tight, mean, ignorant man who hated Welshmen and apparently Goronwy in particular. This was no place for a Welsh poet.

Despite his unhappiness at Ostwestry, he did manage to find a bride. Her name was Elin Hughs. She was of Welsh heritage, her father having been a moderately successful ironmonger and alderman, but she knew only a little of the language. They were married at Ostwestry in 1747 and seemed happy enough. But soon after their marriage Goronwy was determined to vacate the place for a better situation.

Uppington | Donnington

Uppington | Donnington

In 1748 he believed he had found just the one. The curacy at Uppington (frequently referred to as Donnington), also in Denbeighshire, became vacant. He applied for it and won it, but it was not all that he had hoped for.

First, the salary was tiny; just 26 pounds per year.

The neighborhood had its local dilemmas – most notably a sophomoric competition between the two local Squires. Squire “Boycott” and Squire “Lee” were constantly attempting to out “Squire” the other, with their competitiveness bleeding over into the local parish church. Most vexing to Goronwy was that they each attempted to win his loyalty by inviting him to elaborate dinners – on the same Sunday at the same time. They continually put him in a position of having to choose. To further complicate matters, Squire Boycott offered as part of the curacy package, a small plot of land for a garden and cow. As soon as it became apparent that Goronwy’s loyalty would not be divided to Boycott’s preference, Boycott withdrew the land, the cow and the garden, thereby depriving Owen’s small but growing family a substantial source of nourishment and comfort.

Goronwy’s small income proved a trial for the family, with little relief from the generally impoverished neighborhood. Despite his difficulties there were bright spots during his time at Donnington. Chief among them was the birth of his first child on New Year’s Day 1749[5], a son named Robert. In January or February 1750 another son, Goronwy came along. This period seems to have been an especially productive time for the linguist and poet as well.

We learn through letters he exchanged with the three Morris brothers that he has perfected his mastery of the Hebrew language. He asks the brothers to look for books for him in London, especially Arabic grammars.  He’s eager to learn as much as he can of the “eastern” languages. His letters are filled with discussions of idiom, etymology, rules of grammar in Welsh and the dissection of compound words and corruptions in the language. They also overflow with despair at his distance from his friends, his isolation from everything Welsh, his incessant poverty, and his dislike of the English and their attitudes toward him.

In his communications, we see dark clouds starting to crowd into his once ebullient prose. Sarcasm replaces humor. Bitterness bites out from the pages and rips at the loose threads of his critics. Most notably, on March 25, 1752, he explodes in a tirade against Reverend D. Ellis, regarding a minor slight that Ellis felt Goronwy had made. The outrage which explodes from Goronwy’s pen demonstrates that it’s not just Ellis he’s outraged with. This screed has been building for a long time and he found his vent in a slim excuse. His verbiage is cutting, ruthless, and brutal. It illustrates the heart of an angry man who is clinging (barely) to shreds of threadbare pride. The verbal assault against poor Ellis is like that of a terrified animal striking out ferociously against a predator in a last desperate attempt to save its life. It’s so far beyond proportion as to be almost humorous, except what it reveals is too serious to make light of.

Welsh Anglican Parish ChurchIt’s clear that the cow-towing life of a Welsh cleric in an English world is getting the better of him. Poverty also; constantly having to beg assistance from friends to provide for his family is wearing him down. But the worst of all is seeing lesser men; lesser in his eyes in terms of their intelligence, accomplishment, and ability, find easy positions in localities he envies. His lack of progress is frustrating and humiliating. While Goronwy still maintains his outward humility, he knows that he is a genuine scholar. He believes this should be enough to send him into a position worthy of his skill and acumen. But inside the politics of the Anglican Church this will never happen; he is a Welshman. Still he hopes and tries – in vein.

In early April of 1753, Goronwy learns at last that his friend, Mr. William Morris, has been able to assist him with a new appointment; and one with a substantial increase in salary to 35 pounds per annum. The place is Walton, very near the seaport of Liverpool in the west of England.

Goronwy Owen set off on foot from Donnington to his new situation at Walton (a journey of perhaps thirty miles), which was especially dangerous given the grave risk of highwaymen, gypsies and random thugs along the path. It most likely took him several weeks to complete. He left his wife and family behind without any real plan of how to move them. He also left his books; something as precious to him as his own children.  Once again we find the Morrises coming to his aid. Within a few weeks the family – but not his books – joined him at Walton.

In the exchanges between the Morris brothers we see an ever-growing determination to get Goronwy back to Wales among friends. They try, but at every turn their attempts are thwarted by the anti-Welsh establishment of the Church.

Goronwy’s letters to Lewis and Richard of this period are filled with poetry and the criticism of the poor state of the Welsh language. He wants “some scholar” to create a really good Welsh Grammar. He complains that his books still have not come to him from Walton. He asks for the brothers to send him new books from England. He complains again about his poverty and isolation. His angst and misery have no outlet except through his letters. He has no friends nearby and no one to converse with in his native tongue.

And so, as anyone else in his situation might, he goes looking for an outlet.

Liverpool SlummingA Second Life in the Taverns
Recall that the refuge of the Welsh bard was the tavern. It was a refuge his father knew well. And it was here, in the low streets of Liverpool, that Goronwy Owen found Welsh sailors and Welsh tavern bards who welcomed him and his effusion of rhyme and meter with open arms and with open taps.

The best of the bards had always come from the common class of Wales. The society itself was not so obsessed with rank (and rank upon rank) as the English. In the leveled rank of everyday folks, the bards emerged as they always had, and in the common tavern their arts flourished and were sustained – no matter how ardent the attempts to snuff it out by the Church, the Government, and the aspiring gentry who eschewed Welsh and sent their children to Exeter.

Goronwy Owen was, by this point in his life, openly acknowledged by his intellectual peers to be among the finest minds in Wales. His brilliance was known and credited, but still he lived in near abject poverty and constant debt. His career was relegated to the absolute backwaters of a kingdom that wholly disregarded him, and not even his closest friends could substantially remedy the situation.

We also have to understand that by this time the Morris brothers were all well-established in their own successful careers. Lewis, especially, had become a man of real status in England, and wealthy as a consequence. His reputation for excessive living was renowned, as was his reputation for engaging in endless legal battles regarding his various, lucrative business interests. Goronwy must have quietly chafed at the comparison. Lewis and he were intellectual equals in almost every respect. Except Lewis had every advantage of status and wealth, while Goronwy rotted in the wastelands. The only difference between them, as far as Goronwy could determine (and some scholars might agree), was the distinction of their birth. Had their situations been reversed, it might have been Lewis groveling for half a shilling to send a letter to his friend in London.

Lewis and Richard were deeply troubled by the reports they heard coming back from Liverpool. Drunken debauchery was nothing new to either of them and certainly nothing new to the period in Wales. But the rumors that began filtering in to Richard and Lewis contained more than drunkenness. More than the usual illicit exploits which were more common than not in that era. Lewis was no Puritan – his reputation as a glutton, a heavy drinker, and a flagrant womanizer were already widely renowned (almost to the point of celebration in the bawdy repartee between himself, his brothers, and their close circle of friends.)

Whatever it was that piqued their concern in regards to Goronwy’s behavior – it was more than just drink and women.

Maybe, as one biographer has suggested, William Morris is affronted by Goronwy’s tavern conduct because he personally intervened to secure the position at Waltion, and felt that Goronwy’s behavior reflected negatively on himself and the Morris family in general. This is certainly possible. However, the Morrises were not ardent Anglicans any more than they were Puritans. They were men of the Enlightenment who didn’t subscribe to the superstitions of most religious tenet. Had they been more dedicated to the Church of England they may have had more influence in securing a better situation for their friend.

This writer believes that whatever it was that brought on the censure from the Morris brothers is something more egregious than adultery or drunkenness. The letters exchanged between the four only whisper and allude. Nothing specific is spoken openly of. Just reproach and disapproval – condemnation. Something to do with Goronwy’s wife is mentioned (she’s taken to open drinking too.) The brothers are brutal in regard to her character. Meanwhile, in his response to these letters, Goronwy expounds on the fact that one of the greatest injustices the Welsh language has endured is that it has not been preserved and disseminated in print, as every other European language has. Is he intentionally ignoring the elephant in his small room? Or is he too humiliated to even defend himself?

Goronwy Owen has become a public drunk; a tavern lurker who seeks his companionship among the lowest of the low. They, apparently, are the only people who will provide his fragile self-image the approbation he so deeply craves. This is the world he occupies by darkness. In the light of day he writes letters to his friends exploding with poetry and prose the likes of which, scholars tell us, is as finessed and beautifully crafted as any other produced in the Welsh language. On Sunday’s he’s in the pulpit preaching morality and God’s equal justice and life everlasting, Amen. But he doesn’t believe it. He hasn’t experienced it. All he’s known since the death of his mother is humiliation, poverty, and disappointment.

He has other concerns too. His daughter Elin, who was born a few months after the family arrived at Walton, dies after a short illness on September 15, 1753. Her loss is devastating to Goronwy, who drowns his sorrows in elegy’s and ale. Compounding this, his sons are growing up without the Welsh language. Their accents are crude and as ugly as any in the worst parts of England. He feels he’s losing them to a society that will never appreciate them. He still learns regularly that much sought after promotions have gone to lesser men. One in particular, in Dolgellau, has been given to an Englishman. The loss of this one was especially painful, as it would have located him near close friends; his old students from Pwllheli William and David Ellis Jones, both now grown men. He grieves its loss but he tries to console himself in hyperbole;

“I was never so sanguine as to promise myself success, and therefore can have no disappointment.”

These are the words of a man resigned to failure. He’s breaking down to cliché where once there was energetic sarcasm and anger. The brothers Morris can’t help but see the rapid decline in the mental and physical condition of their friend. They conspire a solution to save their brilliant but ever more desperately spiraling poet-philosopher.


“…pregnant with mischief.”

The Temptations of London
In April 1755, Lewis Morris writes to Goronwy offering him an opportunity to come to London to establish a Welsh language church service sponsored and supported by the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion –  also the office of Secretary in that society in which his responsibilities would require the translation of various texts. The situation was perfect for Goronwy. It was work among people he loved and who appreciated his talents. Moreover, the Secretarial position at the Society rendered status (if not accompanying income) that could at least assuage his deflated self-image.

On the basis of this letter (which offered no promise or contract terms), full of hope and optimism, Goronwy resigns his position at Walton and proceeds on foot to London, once again leaving his family and his books behind. Both Lewis and Richard Morris were in town when he arrived some weeks later. How they received him, it is not known, but it must have been an apprehensive – if still joyful reunion. The first few weeks were no doubt spent introducing Gornwy to fellow Welshmen in London, and acquainting him with the various booksellers and places of interest in that cosmopolitan city; a city that Goronwy had never seen the likes of before in his life.

Lewis and Richard, and perhaps William too, chipped in to move Goronwy’s family from Walton to the metropolis. The family of four took up residence in a garret apartment on Bread Street Hill. Goronwy began to plan and work toward his new establishment.

Unfortunately, he also discovered the local taverns that were as common as mice in his neighborhood. His biographer, Robert Jones writes that his explorations in London “…were pregnant with mischief.”

History does not reveal to us what happened to this grand scheme on the part of the Morris brothers. What is known is that the Bishop denied the Cymmrodorion Society’s request for a curate, even though the Society was willing to fund it themselves. From there, the Secretarial position at the Society also fell through. It’s likely, though not recorded, that whatever trouble Goronwy created for himself in Liverpool, he brought the same habits with him to London.

It needs to be noted if it is not understood, that at least a plurality of Welshmen in London at the time would have been early adopters of the non-conformists sects. Whether Presbyterians or very early Methodists; they believed in a rigid morality; an adherence to temperance, and above all, a refraining from anything that smacked of the controversial. Goronwy Owen would have flown in the face of everything the main body of the Cymmrodorion Society believed was acceptable; regardless of what founders Lewis and Richard Morris thought of his brilliance.

Almost as soon as Goronwy Owen arrived in London, the three brothers begin conspiring to get him out of town. Whatever it is he has done (or is doing) it’s a serious complication to the brothers’ reputation, given their patronage and promotion. It’s unclear whether their hope to get him back to Wales is for Goronwy’s benefit, or for theirs. Given the disparity between their social and real conditions, it seems likely that Goronwy made himself an embarrassment to all who are associated with him. For what specific cause, we will probably forever be in the dark.

Further complicating matters between Goronwy and the Morrises is an issue of money and things. This problem seems trivial to our 21st century eyes, but in the era, it was a very real problem without an easy solution.

HarpDebt and Disregard
In order to finance his removal from Walton, Goronwy borrowed twelve pounds, placing his books and other cherished property as security against the debt. The books and other property remained with the lender at Walton while Goronwy moved on to London. The issue is that among the property was a particularly cherished and valuable antique Leathern Harp (an ancient and rare musical instrument), which had been lent to Goronwy ostensibly to teach his son Robert to play. The harp belonged to William Morris. Morris was incensed to learn that his property had been “hocked” and was now in the care of a stranger who had no sense of its antiquity, its value, or its proper care.

This marks the first serious breach between the Morris brothers and the genius poet.

In defense of Goronwy, we have to admit that it’s unlikely that he would have let his precious books get away from him. In William Morris’s defense, it was the principal of the thing. He considered it a grave demonstration of disrespect.

A Last Opportunity
Regardless of all this, the brothers were determined to find a situation for their friend. They did their work quickly and efficiently now that their own reputations were under observation. Lewis Morris, through his connections at the Temple (the legal courts in London) found an open curacy at Northolt, managed by a Dr. Nichols, who was Master of the Temple and also Vicar of Northolt. The salary was fifty pounds annually and the situation was located within twelve miles of London; far enough that Goronwy could be contained (hopefully), but near enough that they could keep their eye on him.

This new situation would have seemed ideal for any ordinary curate. The property offered a lovely, extensive garden which Goronwy aspired to manage, and it offered proximity to London in order to maintain his contact with the Welsh literati in town; those more supportive of him than some of the more puritanical dissenters among the Welsh in London.

Initially it seemed as if this plan would succeed. Goronwy found at least one friend at Northolt who spoke Welsh, a gardener who our poet nicknamed “Adam” in tribute to his talents. Together they planned a lovely garden and tended it together. It produced several moving lines of poetry from Goronwy’s pen, among them; “The poetry of earth is never dead.”

For a while Goronwy seems contented. He takes up fishing and writes poetry while reclining out of doors beside his trout stream. His garden grows and friends from London visit. His mood seems to be improving and he is writing as brilliantly as ever. It’s unfortunate that contentment was a stranger to Goronwy Owen. His only true companion for decades had been discomfort, isolation, and the gripping fear of failure. For the first time in his life he’s in a good situation, relatively near friends, and able to put food on the table for his children. The radical turn of circumstances left him unbalanced. In truth, Goronwy didn’t possess the tools to tend an abundant garden.

Half Moon Tavern, London

Half Moon Tavern, London

Shortly Goronwy made his way to London and to the Half Moon Tavern where the Cymmrodorion Society held its monthly meetings. In the tavern the usually reserved Goronwy Owen cast off the robes of the clergyman and revealed the dark tavern bard residing in his soul. He was the life of the party on more than one occasion. He was the centerpiece of conversation. And far too often he was too much for the Morris brothers to keep in check.

It’s unknown exactly what happened (there is an intimation that Elin is involved in some way) and exactly when it all came to a head, but sometime between late 1756 and early 1757, while Goronwy was still curate at Northolt, a fantastic breach occurred between Goronwy Owen and his friends and patrons. The results were catastrophic and permanent to Goronwy Owens career – as well as to his life – and unfortunately to the progress of the Welsh language and its literature.

Goronwy lost his curacy at Northolt and none other was put forth to replace it.

Broken Relationships and Broken Dreams
In May of 1757, in the last letter that we have from Goronwy’s pen to Richard Morris, we see him severing the relationship coolly, returning all of Richards books and manuscripts, and politely requesting that his manuscripts be returned to him. In what appears to be an almost childlike attempt at a peace offering to Richard, he includes in the box of books a pair of doves from his dove-house at Northolt. He offers these as a gift with his best regards.

In a twist of fate that is so in keeping with Goronwy’s entire life story, the delivery of the box is delayed significantly, and the birds inside expire. By the time the box reaches Richard, his books smell like carrion and are permanently marred with seepage from the decaying flesh of the rotting animals. Richard Morris is incensed. He obviously did not appreciate the attempt at peace-making. Goronwy Owen’s fate is sealed.

In their final conspiratorial act regarding Goronwy Owen’s career, the Morris brothers quietly petition friends to have him gotten out of England, out of Wales, and out of their way. For nearly twenty years they failed to help Goronwy gain a suitable position; one that would support his family and challenge his demanding brain. But now, almost instantly and inexplicably, Goronwy Owen is offered the Mastership of a brand new Grammar School at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The job paid 200 pounds per annum – a fortune to an impoverished man like our poet. And topping it off, the offer came directly from the Bishop of London himself; Dr. Porteus, who was also the Chancellor of William and Mary in London.

Among other glowing recommendations and qualifications for this new role, Dr. Porteus described Goronwy Owen as “…the most finished writer of Latin since the days of the Roman Emperors.”

Goronwy knew the origin of the offer, and its intent. It was an offer he could not refuse.

William and Mary never had a Grammar School before this offer was dropped in Goronwy Owen’s lap. And the college, as impressive as it is today, was not, in that era, a destination spot for high intellectual pursuit. It was a school for making literate men out of rural planters sons; giving them the skills necessary to become successful men of agriculture and commerce. It’s clear to this author that the Lewis brothers moved heaven and earth, calling in considerable favors and sparing no expense, to get Goronwy Owen out of their way.

They succeeded. They may as well have had him hanged.

It’s a well-known fact that before America became the “Land of Opportunity” to millions of would-be immigrants, it was the dumping ground for all of England’s failures, criminals, and undesirables. Richard Hakluyt wrote, in 1584, in his long list of benefits of developing colonies abroad, that England could rid herself of unwanted persons and surplus population in the kingdom by “planting” them in the colonies. Hakluyt’s recommendation became English national policy, which was in full effect in 1757 with Goronwy Owen as its latest victim.

FrigateBy December of 1757 the family things were packed, passage was booked, and the plan was sealed. In what appears to be a last minute twinge of guilt, Richard Morris steps forward and upgrades the family’s accommodations on board the vessel to the best class berth available. This, at least, would help make the voyage somewhat more tolerable, and possibly healthier.

The Atlantic crossing was a notoriously risky undertaking. Weather always made the trip treacherous. Food generally spoiled before the end of the voyage. Fresh water went putrid or ran out completely. And due to over-crowded conditions, disease spread rapidly among passengers and crew. Few if any ships made the crossing without losing at least one, and usually many of its passengers.

This particular crossing was not unique. A large party of the ships passengers were convict women being sent into bonded service in the colonies. Before they even made it out of the Channel, these women began plying various illicit trades in service to the Captain and crew. Not long after, a serious infection spread among the ships passengers. Goronwy was impressed into service as both physician and pastor. Failing in the first occupation – for which he had no training – he succeeded in the second; consigning too many souls to heaven and their bodies to the depths.

Before they arrived in Virginia, Elin – who was pregnant at the time of their departure – was dead. (If this news reached the Morris’s, who had always reviled her, what was their reaction? Gladness? Regret? Nothing at all?) Goronwy Owen was cast into a new, completely alien country with two young sons to care for alone. He must have been absolutely desperate.

How he made it through those first few months is unknowable. It must have been incredibly difficult, both physically and emotionally. This man loved his country more than he loved his own life. He’d penned thousands of lines that regaled Wales majesty and beauty. Her mountains, her lush river valleys. Her rolling countryside and sweeping vistas – like the fantastic tidal flats beneath sheer cliffs on the east coast of Anglesey – near the small village where he had been born and grew into a young man. He’d been exiled from Wales for the better part of his life, but he never gave up her beauty and magic. He never stopped dreaming of returning.

chesapeake-bay-wetlandsThat was before. When Goronwy Owen set foot on the sandy soil of Southside Virginia, everything he saw before him was flat and plain. It was a two dimensional landscape, horizontal and vertical, but with no depth; no dimension. It might has well have been a million miles from Anglesey, or all the way to the moon. He knew he’d never see Anglesey again. He knew he’d never hear the poetry of his language lilt from the lips of a truly gifted bard. It was over. The dream was done.

Back in England, the Morrises wasted no time collecting their copies if Owen’s manuscripts – his beautiful poetry – and assembling them, editing them, sorting then, and preparing them for publication. The body of work was massive and the task took several years, but in 1763 the first edition of Y Diddanwych Teulauaidd was introduced. It was edited by Huw Jones of Langwm (a person whose talents and gift of comprehension, Goronwy Owen did not approve.) The introduction was written by Lewis Morris, but it is left unaccredited in this edition. Perhaps Lewis felt it a touch unseemly to be seen introducing and profiting from the work of a man he’d recently been so impatient to exile from the country.

It’s likely that Goronwy Owen never saw a copy of this book. Even less likely that he ever received a penny from its proceeds. It’s possible he never even knew the book existed until many years after it was published. What is known is that a second edition never came forth until long after Goronwy Owen’s death. Who knows, maybe he learned of the book and threatened to sue. (That’s a thought that makes one smile, especially given the legendary litigiousness of Lewis Morris.)

This author would love nothing better than to finish this part of the story by informing my readers that Goronwy Owen turned over a new leaf upon his arrival in Virginia. It’s possible that he attempted to – but fate was never kind to this man – and fate was not done with him yet.

Owen was made Master of the Grammar School attached to the College of William and Mary on April 7, 1758. There he had the charge of an unknown number of scholars, most under the age of sixteen years. He taught Latin and Greek. At least one of his former students, a man named E. Owen, recalled him in a letter dated 1795, as “…a blunt, hasty-tempered Welshman, and esteemed a good Latin and Greek scholar.”

Within a year of arriving at William and Mary, Goronwy appears to have improved his circumstances considerably; most notably by marriage. Whatever his charms, he worked them successfully on a lady of substance, a widow, and sister to the President of the College, Mr. Thomas Dawson. History has unfortunately not left us with a record of her Christian name; she is only given to us as “Mrs. Clayton.” Her fate, once bound to Goronwy Owens, was almost doomed from the start. All we know of this period is that Goronwy seemed to stay out of trouble; a credit no doubt due to his accomplished and respectable wife. This moment of relative calm ends when “Mrs. Clayton” dies within a year of the marriage. They had no children together; that seems a fortunate turn, at least.

A year after her death Owen’s position within the cloistered community of the College has deteriorated to the point that he is dismissed on what appears to scholars more contemporary to his time than ours, as a trifling excuse that served as a “last straw” of sorts. The actual event that is alleged to have caused the resignation or dismissal was a drunken brawl between the young men of the town and the young men of the college; led at the helm by Goronwy Owen and another professor named Mr. Jacob Rowe. Both men were ousted from the College by August, 1760.

Mr. Rowe returned to England, to friends and family. Goronwy Owen had no refuge except his credentials and his ability to make excellent introductions for himself. (Would that he was as able of keeping his friends as he was of making them!)

As if fate and timing were not already cruel enough, it’s during this period that his youngest boy, Goronwy Jr., died. How his father took the loss, we can’t know. It’s certain that he was broken by it, at least for a time. But he still had Robert and for Robert – if nothing else – he soldiered on.

Brunswick County

Brunswick County

St. Andrews, Brunswick County
Within a few months of his forced separation from William and Mary, Goronwy secured an appointment from Virginia Governor Francis Fauquier to the remote (and I do mean remote) parish church of St. Andrews in Brunswick County, Virginia. The distance of this parish from the Capital (then Williamsburg) was less than fifty miles south west as the crow flies. But in real distance and difficulty it was many times farther. Between the two locales lay a broad, very shallow, nearly unnavigable tidal sound, and many miles of completely unoccupied, thickly overgrown wilderness. In that era the only roads through this part of inland Virginia were rivers. Getting from Williamsburg to Brunswick County in 1760 using the most efficient means would have required boarding a vessel on the river at Williamsburg and sailing down to the port at Newport News or Hampton, then changing vessels and heading out into the Atlantic Ocean, turning south for fifty miles or so, then back in to a port at either Ocracoke or Portsmouth Island (a treacherous event, even today.) From there he would have had to board a barge which would carry him north and up to the Albemarle Sound, then up the mouth of the Roanoke River. The Meherrin River, a tributary of the Roanoke, would have taken him north and west to Brunswick County. This journey involves about two hundred miles of navigation around some of the most difficult shoals and reefs in the world. It’s known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic in tribute to the thousands of vessels and countless lives lost in this one narrow area of coastline. It’s not a trip anyone in that era would have taken lightly. It’s not a trip that skilled sailors take lightly today.

Barring a water passage, there were Indian footpaths through the forest. They were irregular, unmarked, informal highways used by hunters and trappers and a few straggling Indians who remained in the bush. Whichever route was selected, the trip would have been an undertaking almost as dangerous and certainly as uncomfortable as the Atlantic Crossing made by Goronwy Owen just two years previous.

Today this part of Southside Virginia still seems exquisitely remote. It has never, despite the passing of more than two-hundred and fifty years, had any serious industry operating in its vicinity besides agriculture. The people who are generationally native to this corner of the world still have the remnants of a peculiar accent and rhythm of speech, due to their general isolation from the rest of the state (and the world.) It wasn’t until the first paved roads were put through in the late 1930’s that the people of this region became exposed to the rest of Virginia and the larger community of America. Even today it retains much of the charm – and much of the backwardness – its isolation preserved for so many centuries.

In Owen’s time, this part of Virginia was an even more rural, sparsely populated woodland than the one I describe above. Its few residents were all farmers, and almost all of them engaged in growing tobacco for export to England and other parts of Europe. The trade that occurred (moving tobacco to market and goods back to farms) occurred via the rivers. The residents of Brunswick County made their preferred ports the one at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, or at Wilmington, NC – both being easier and safer to get to than the larger, busier ones in Virginia.

All of this geography and history is given as a means of emphasizing Goronwy Owens’ final and absolute exile from everything and everyone known to him. By coming to St. Andrews, he’d arrived, literally as much as figuratively, at the end of the road.

His life in that place must have been for him a maddening monotony of seclusion. If he felt isolated in Walton or Donnington, here he learned what real isolation was. His neighbors were not poets. They were not Welshmen. They were not learned men, not scholars. Most probably didn’t even bother to attend church regularly to hear his barely prepared sermons. Certainly among them he found some kind souls, but he never found a circle of indulgent, erudite friends like those he had and had lost in Wales and England. The people of rural Brunswick County were hard people, smart about the things that mattered to their survival; but they probably had little patience with a poet-philosopher wrapped up his own pathos. They were too busy building what would become agricultural empires, making some of their children and grandchildren among the wealthiest people in America. They were not scholars, but they were industrious as hell.

Tobacco Cultivation in Colonial Virginia

Tobacco Cultivation in Colonial Virginia

It’s entirely possible that their model provided just the kick in the pants that Goronwy Owen needed.

From his little Parish Church in St. Andrews, Goronwy Owen somehow managed to conspire some method of obtaining a small farm. Like his neighbors, he planted tobacco. Before long, he was married again. His third wife; Joan Simmons, gave him three children; Richard Brown Owen, Goronwy Owen (named after the lost son), and John Lloyd Owen.

In the ten years between his arrival in Virginia and 1767, no evidence of communication survives between Goronwy and his friends or relations either in England or Wales. It’s reasonably well-documented that among his former patrons, there were attempts to communicate with him – to get some word of how he was doing and his whereabouts. None of these attempts were successful as far as the records reveals. However, some communication between the bard and someone back home must have occurred, because in 1767 a letter from Goronwy arrives at the Navel Office in London addressed to Richard Morris.

Its contents, among general greetings, contain an Ode on the Death of Lewis Morris. Lewis died in April of 1765, and word somehow got to Goronwy. Ten years had elapsed since he repartee’d with his old friends, and yet this ode stands among the finest poetic work ever produced from the pen of Goronwy Owen. His skill and his talent had not dulled an iota, despite the time spent in exile from his native tongue and his literary sparring partners.

Richard Morris was moved. Terribly moved by the letter and the Ode. His response to Goronwy, the biographers tell us, is filled with genuine affection and sincere feeling for the loss of his old friend. His sorrow is profound and the depth of it is genuine. He attempts to heal the once deep breach between them and he regrets it ever occurring. His effusions of regret are lengthy and his evident sense of guilt and is unmistakable.

As fate would have it (cruel as she is) – Goronwy Owen is dead and in the ground by the time Richard’s letter reaches Virginia. No response was ever returned. There was nothing but silence. Dead silence for decades.

Robert Gets the Last Word
Thirty years later, in 1795, other attempts are made to locate the bard or his descendants. His son Robert was located, still living in Brunswick County. His response upon being asked for information about his father was, ‘…before I give the information, I must first know who will pay me for it.’

Robert Owen; born in England and dragged, along with boxes of books, from one poverty-stricken post on one end of England to the next. His sister lost to malnutrition or lack of medical care. Then the whole family cast across an ocean like convicts. His mother dead at sea with a baby in her belly. His little brother lost in the backwoods of a godforsaken country no rational person would chose to live in. His father all the time moaning about the brilliance of a language that no one but he can speak. And then the old sot dies when Robert is not yet twenty years old. Madness. Infernal madness! Of course he hates these people inquiring about his so-called famous father. If his father was so damned important, why didn’t they save him and the rest of his family from this interminable exile when they still could have? Bastards!

That’s probably about what ran through Robert Owen’s mind when the letter arrived. The last thought he had on the subject was likely, ‘They can all go to hell.’

It’s the last that England or Wales would have for more than a century on what became of Goronwy Owen. It was a fitting slap in the face to a nation that turned its back on its brightest son. Anything less would have been disingenuous.

Real Friends
How did Goronwy Owen learn of the death of Lewis Morris in April of 1765? Lewis was a wealthy and successful businessman, but by the time of his death he was in his retirement at his country home at Penbryn on the west coast of Wales. His celebrity in England was not so grand that his death much registered there. It certainly would not have made the newspapers in the colonies of America. Even if it did, it’s unlikely that the news would have made it as far as Brunswick County.

So how did Goronwy Owen hear of it?

His biographers tell us that there is no evidence of his correspondence with anyone in Wales or in England between 1760 and 1767. No physical evidence perhaps; but there is circumstantial evidence of correspondence between Wales and Virginia in those interim years, as well as evidence of continued association between Owen’s American born descendants and the children and grandchildren of Owen’s old friends in Wales.

The first matter of circumstantial evidence is simply that someone got the news about Lewis Morris’s death to Goronwy Owen within a few months of its occurrence.

The second matter of evidence is the existence of William Jones and his brother, David Ellis Jones. These two men were rural farm boys when they met Goronwy Owen at the Grammar school at Pwllheli. Their father was a barely literate yeoman farmer. But from the time of their departure from Pwllheli they were both dedicated scholars of Welsh, of Latin and Greek, and of Hebrew. William, who had been intended for the Church by his father – declined the opportunity [6] (despite the vast leap in social status it would have offered both his immediate and extended family.) It’s this author’s belief that William saw (and suffered with) the career of his friend – a brilliant man and gifted scholar – and determined that the life of a Welshman in the English Church was not the life he wanted for himself.

You have to understand how unusual it was for a son in that day to thwart his father’s plans for his career. Declining the opportunity to take orders – William’s fathers primary wish – was a brazen and rebellious act. And it was not at all in keeping with the sober character of the man we know William became. He was a good man, a good son, and an excellent father. But he could not, by his own account, take orders in the Church of England, and he didn’t. He became a printer and a non-conformist preacher, an ardent nationalist who spawned several generations of Radical Welshmen who carried the flame of their language forward – demanding respect and earning it every step of the way.

Our next matter of circumstantial evidence is the first book that we know William Jones of Bryntirion published; a Welsh-English dictionary – a book that Goronwy Owen lamented for decades was the single most wanted volume in all of Welsh lexicography. This book was probably not the book that Goronwy would have published had he ever been given the opportunity, but it was a start; a new beginning for the language. If nothing else it was homage to an old friend’s dream.

An even stronger association exists in one of the publications of William Jones of Bryntirion’s son, Lewis Evan Jones. His office printed the second edition of Y Diddanwch Teuluaidd in 1817, following the first edition (1763) produced by Lewis Morris and Huw Jones as soon as Goronwy Owen was out of the country. Lewis Evan Jones extended this successful book into a periodical, which ran for several years.

From here we have to look forward into the generations of descendants among both families.

Robert – the son who wanted payment from wealthy former friends of his father – he named his first son William Ellis. If this is an amazing coincidence, I’ll be the first to admit it. But to me the sentiment is not coincidental. He named his son after the best, truest friends (William and David Ellis Jones) he felt his father ever had. The coincidence does not end here. Other sons were named Lewis and Richard, creating a pattern of repetitive first-naming that persists in the same generations among the children of William and David Ellis Jones.

The evidence grows even stronger on down the line.

Franklin Lewis Owen, fifth grandson of the bard, settled in Mobile Alabama, where he held offices of the Federal Government, among them, collector of the port. He reared a large family there and was well-respected and established. One of his sons served in the confederate Army upon the outbreak of the Civil War.

Rather inexplicably – and coincidentally – Richard Evan Jones, son Lewis Evan Jones, grandson of William Ellis Jones of Bryntirion, immigrated to America and settled in Mobile, Alabama (almost 500 miles away from his closest cousins in Virginia.) In Mobile he became active in civic concerns, an established pillar in the community, and was – like Franklin Lewis Owen’s son – a Confederate War soldier and veteran. The two men had to have known one another as friends and neighbors. The idea that Richard Evan Jones chose to locate himself in Mobile, Alabama (rather than Richmond, for example, where he had known family relations) is absolutely insupportable to me, except that he had equally dear friends in Mobile willing and able to help him. Those friends, I put forward, are the descendants of Goronwy Owen.

My final and most compelling piece of circumstantial evidence is the immigration to America of Thomas Norcliffe Jones, son of David Ellis Jones (Goronwy’ Owens’ student at Pwllheli), and brother to the renowned bard and scholar William Ellis Jones (Gwilym Cawrdaf), in the period just following the War of 1812.  As far as the records show, Thomas Norcliffe Jones had no friends and no family in Virginia. Richmond was not a destination point for Welsh immigrants of the period. There was no evidence of any Welsh community in Richmond; unlike other parts of the country; Utica New York and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, as example. Nevertheless, to Richmond he went, and there he and his family prospered.

I believe that Thomas did have friends in Richmond. I believe that the sons and grandsons of Goronwy Owen were established in Richmond before Thomas Norcliffe Jones arrived, and that they assisted him and helped him and his son William assimilate into the close-knit community of Richmond’s old, colonial era families. There is almost no other way to explain William Ellis Jones (1838 – 1910), son of Thomas Norcliffe Jones, instant entrance into the closed clique of Virginia Society, or his rapid rise into the social elite of that town. Had he been just the unconnected son of a brand new Welsh immigrant, this ascent would not have been possible.

I’ll take it one step further and state that I believe that the reason my ancestor, William Ellis Jones (1838  1910), the confederate soldier and historian/publisher of Richmond, converted to the Episcopal Church in opposition to his father’s Presbyterian loyalties was as a direct result of the influence of the Goronwy Owen connection. Goronwy Owen’s descendants would have remained in the Established Church of England as long as their father lived. Once the American Revolution was concluded, the Episcopal Church, still tied in principal to the Church of England, became the house of worship and indeed the center of society for the best classes among all Virginia’s citizens. William would have naturally wanted to affiliate himself with this established clan.

Goronwy Owen was a vociferous letter writer. His mind over-flowed with verbiage, ideas, and observation that needed an outlet. When his exile was complete and his ties with the Morris brothers were severed, does it seem reasonable that he just silenced his brain and put down his pen? It’s impossible. He continued his correspondences with those old friends who were willing and happy to hear from him. I doubt seriously that the Jones Brothers in Dolgellau were his only pen-pal companions. I don’t doubt that the letters have not survived. The Jones of Dolgellau were not the “great men” of England whose letters were considered valuable historical artifacts before the ink was dry on their pages.

These men, William and David Ellis were not wealthy. They were not men of prestige and fortune like Lewis Morris, or his brothers William and Richard. They were, however, loyal forever friends.

Goronwy’s isolation in Brunswick County Virginia may have been a nearly unbearable exile to the genius poet. But that exile, I am convinced, was made endurable by frequent and regular contact from his beloved home country and friends who genuinely cared about him and his family. They cared to the degree that lasting relations developed between children and grandchildren, across thousands of miles. What an impression this man must have made on two small boys back at Pwllheli, that such a bond across time and distance could last? Goronwy Owen must have been one remarkable fellow.

We know that already. Lewis Morris, his “great man” friend, turned conspirator in the plan for his permanent exile, stated, “Goronwy Owen was the greatest genius of this age that ever appeared in our country.”

It’s unfortunate that his country and his “friends” could not tolerate the genius on their own soil. Virginia may not have recognized Goronwy Owen’s genius, but at least we offered him some semblance of solace and a final place to rest his wearied bones.

Owen’s Legacy in Virginia
Virginia is a state with a rich and proud heritage. It has produced generations of both professional and armchair genealogists and historians, as well as more than its fair share of authors, poets, and public servants. The state’s courthouses and parish churches offer a veritable treasure trove of documentation in regards to the its earliest occupants and their progress through the centuries. Dr. Robert Jones wrote in his 1901 biography of Goronwy Owen of his inability to discover “…any account of his home, his parish, or his new life partner….”

It’s clear that Dr. Jones failed to make his way across the Atlantic, as the records still remaining in Virginia, as well as Goronwy Owen’s many descendants, provide us a wealth of details that he clearly did not try terribly hard to locate.

From the vestry books we have an exchange of letters between the parish at St. Andrews and Governor Fauquier, regarding Goronwy Owen’s recommendation to the parish, his trial period, his final appointment as the rector on September 14, 1760, as well as terms of his pay (in tobacco, not coin.)

The courts of Brunswick County record on May 27, 1765 that Goronwy was charged and found guilty of public drunkenness and use of profanity. He was fined fifty pounds of tobacco, with proceeds of the sale going to the poor of the parish.

By July, 1769, Goronwy Owen was dead. The Parish Vestry books include a note stating the Church’s intent to pursue Owen’s executors for overpayment of his wages.

On the 26th of March, 1770, Goronwy Owen’s will was presented to the court. The executors named by Goronwy Owen; William and Beverly Brown (probably relatives of his wife Joan), refuse to serve as executors and ask the court to name a replacement. The very brief will is recorded in the records of the courts, and the inventory of Owen’s “personal estate” is interesting and revealing.

As to the disposition of his property, he leaves his land in life trust to his wife, to be divided equally upon her death among his four sons; Robert Owen, Richard Brown Owen, Goronwy Owen, and John Lloyd Owen. He leaves – curiously – the disposition of his “personal estate”, i.e. his personal effects; his things, to the discretion of his executors. The list of things that Gorowny left is unremarkable given all we know about him. That he left the disposition of these things to the discretion of his executors is remarkable in my opinion. I cannot explain it.

The first few items in the list of effects were four slaves; Old Peg, Young Peg, Bob, and Stephen. Of all Owen’s “possessions” these four individuals were of the greatest financial value at 97 pounds, 10 shillings. How the court disposed of them, isn’t at hand.

Other effects included furniture, paintings, a looking glass, a mirror, etc. The inventory includes livestock, tools, dishes, and various cabinets, boxes, and tables. The list of items that is most interesting to me is the inventory of Owen’s books. His library was extensive and it’s clear that the vast majority of his books came with him from England. There are twenty-five or so individual titles listed, and then a single entry indicating “A parcel of old authors, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Welch and French, in number, 150.” The entire collection was estimated to be valued at 3 pounds. (Oh! To possess a time machine!)

There is one item, or rather a collection of things, not listed in this careful inventory; a collection of papers, written material, manuscripts – anything produced from Goronwy Owen’s pen. He certainly wrote while he was in Virginia. We know he was working on a Welsh Grammar when he left England. That would have been an incalculably important manuscript had it found its way back to Wales.

What happened to Goronwy Owen’s papers? I would love to believe that they are still around somewhere, carefully boxed and preserved, patiently waiting in some ancient Virginia library for rediscovery. (Things like this do occur occasionally.) Or perhaps they were sent home to relatives in Wales and made their way into some wonderful private library in a great old house. It’s not incomprehensible; the idea that his papers survived. Stranger things have happened. But then again, it’s just as likely that these Virginia scribblings were discarded as soon as Goronwy was dead.

Goronwy Owen’s gravesite is reported to be in Brunswick County. There is a modern stone on the property that makes the claim. There’s a very nice plaque to his memory (placed by the Cymmrodorion Society, in 1969) at the College of William and Mary, Swem Library. I’ve see reports that the ruins of his house still remain standing in Brunswick County. While I have not visited it myself yet (I plan to make that trip in the autumn of 2013), I have seen photographs and I have my doubts. The building shown in the photographs is clearly a 19th century structure – no earlier. Perhaps later.

The real legacy that Goronwy Owen left in Virginia was his children, some of whom grew up and married and had children of their own. They spread from Brunswick County, settling in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and probably many more places across this vast country. Today his American descendants probably number in the many hundreds, living from one end of the continent to the other. Most probably have no idea they are related to this obscure Welsh genius, poet, and scholar. I wonder how many among them got his gift for languages, his scholarly bent, or his infatuation with complex, metered, rhyme?  Some certainly did. These gifts don’t pass quietly out of the genetic mix, as I well know.

In closing it seems fitting to offer up a bit of poetry. This one is not from our bards’ pen, but instead in homage to him. It is from Lewis Morris; great-grandson of the Lewis Morris from this history. This elegy first appeared in the Transactions of the Honorable Cymmrodorion Society, in its first issue, more than one hundred years after the death of Goronwy Owen. I’ll leave you with it:

Friend, dead and gone so long!
Was it not well with thee, while yet thy tread
Gladdened this much-loved land of thine and ours?
Came not thy footsteps sometimes through life’s flowers?
Knew’est thou no crown but that which bears the thorn?
Amid the careless crowd, obscure, forlorn;
Who sittest now among the blessed dead
Crowned with immortal song?

A humble peasant boy,
Reared amid penury through youth’s fair years,
The fugitive joys of youth thou didst despise,
Ease, sport, the kindling glance of maiden’s eyes;
Thou knew’st no other longing but desire,
With the young lips parching with the sacred fire,
To drink deep draughts of knowledge, mixed with tears —
A dear-bought innocent joy.


Adobe-PDF-Reader-Book-iconThe Poetical Works of the Rev. Goronwy Owen (Goronwy Ddu o Fon) with His Life and Correspondence, Vol. II, Edited by Rev. Robert Jones, BA, Vicar of All Saints Rotherhithf (1876) London | Longmans, Green & Co.

Adobe-PDF-Reader-Book-iconGoronwy Owen, William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 3, January 1901, pp. 152 – 164

Adobe-PDF-Reader-Book-iconLewis Morris: The Fat Man of Cardiganshire, By Gerhaint H. Jenkins (2002) Ceredigion |  Journal of the Ceredigion Historical Society Vol. 14, no. 2, p. 1-23


[1] The old Julian calendar, which was superseded by our current one, the Gregorian calendar, was not completely adopted across Britain until (as late as) the 19th century in some places. According to the contemporary calendar, Goronwy Owen’s birth fell on the 13th of January 1723.

[2] March 12, 1700 according to the old calendar.

[3] Letter from Goronwy Owen to Richard Morris, dated June 22, 1752.

[4] “Servitor” is a scholarship day student who earns his keep by “waiting on” the paying pupils.

[5] Robert Owen’s birth fell on the 13th of January 1749, according to the modern calendar.

[6] The Origin and History of Methodism in Wales and the Borders, by David Young (1893) Edinburgh | Morrison & Gibb, Printers, See: Pages 589 – 590


In the special collections department at Swem Library, at the College of William and Mary, there is one very interesting artifact worth noting. It is – if authentic – the only item in the Goronwy Owen Collection at that library that is actually associated with the man, from his period. It is:

Item 1999.084: Miniature Purported to be of Goronwy Owen, circa 1800s (Ed. Note: If authentic, date is incorrect. It would have to be earlier. He died in 1769)
Portrait in miniature oval, originally a brooch, now set in shadow box frame lined in burgundy velvet. Portrait appears to be on ivory covered with a crystal and set in gold. Gentleman has brown eyes and light auburn or brown hair. There are no known portraits from the life of Goronwy Owen that have been accepted as authentic. A note on paper inside the frame from the late 20th century reads: “Gronoway Owen Wm & Mary came over from England & Ireland 1700s (King & Queen sent him here) – Mama June’s great great great grandfather”. 18.2 cm x 15.8 cm / 2 3/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. Given to the College of William & Mary in memory of Goronwy Owen’s Great, Great, Great, great Granddaughter Jane Wheeler Gant, formerly of Columbia, Tennessee. Gift of Mrs. John Norwood Gant, July 1999. Located in Art S4. UA 1999.084

It seems unlikely to me that this portrait is of our Goronwy Owen. It may be of his son. Our Goronwy had blue eyes and black hair (a true Briton!), according to people who knew him and described him for subsequent biographers.

Robert Beheathland (c.1592 – c.1627)

John Doe Unknown Man

Who was Robert Beheathland?

Robert Beheathland was born about 1592 at St. Endellion in County Cornwall, England.

Too often genealogists get lost in the details of birthdates, marriage dates, death dates, and when and where wills were proven. They forget that the people who they so carefully document were just that – people. Individuals with personalities, dreams, hopes, ambitions – and fears. People with families dependent upon them, or hopes for them, or both. We too often get so sidelined by the facts that we neglect to step back and look carefully at the world these people lived in. We neglect to ask ourselves what motivated them to become who they became; to live as they lived, and to die where, when and how they died.

Before we go into the details of the life and death of my earliest ancestor on American soil; Robert Beheathland, I’d like to take a step back and consider some aspects of his world. Moreover, I’d like to consider what in the world could possibly have motivated him in 1607, to put himself on a sixty-foot long, wooden sailing vessel, bound on a voyage to cross the Atlantic Ocean, destined for a wild, uncivilized place that didn’t even have a name yet; i.e. Jamestown.

England in the early seventeenth century was, contrary to our modern interpretation, not a terribly romantic place in which to live. While it’s true that this period (or shortly before it) is considered the “Golden Age”, we should keep in mind that everything that glitters is not gold. There were perhaps a few thousand people in all of England, Ireland, and Wales who could be considered truly wealthy and powerful. Among them, a few hundred perhaps, who were generally independent men. The rest, millions of people throughout the country were “subjects”. “Subject” to corrupt courts, corrupt landlords, and corrupt aristocrats – “subject” to a system corrupt and rotten from the core to the skin.

Even among the wealthy and powerful, survival was tenuous. Political intrigues and backhanded maneuvers by upstarts and competitors often resulted in a total reversal of fortune. If the fall from grace (grace of the sovereign, grace of a sponsor, grace of a landlord, or employer) was severe enough, you could find yourself homeless, in jail, or headless. Occasionally all three in quick succession, as Sir Walter Raleigh found out not long after his beloved sponsor Queen Elizabeth I died, leaving her throne to the less benevolent James I (IV) of Scotland.

At court in London there were political intrigues. Plots against the crown or against favorites at court. There were spies and spy watchers, and an endless amount of suspicion and rumor against any and all.

Persecution of Catholics DissentersThere were religious persecutions too. Under Henry VIII, all Catholics were exiled or killed, their property and lands confiscated and redistributed. Under Elizabeth I, Henry’s daughter, it still wasn’t healthy to be a Catholic, but it was even worse to be a non-conformist. Under James I religious tolerance was encouraged from the throne, but the Church of England didn’t go along. A schism began to develop right at the tip-top of the head of power. The end result of this schism was the English Civil War in which the King (Charles I) was executed by the non-conformist Oliver Cromwell and Parliament took over England. England fell into factions and rebelled – violently.

This was a difficult time to be a person of conviction and courage. The political and social winds changed direction so schizophrenically and with a force so deadly, that it was impossible to know where to stand – lest you be blown over or mowed down.

If all this violence and intrigue was not enough, then consider the economics of life in England at the time. This period (late Elizabethan through the Jacobean) introduces to Europe the first real whiff of Capitalism and economic competition. Pre-Renaissance England, like most of Europe, had been entirely feudal. The greatest majority of the people lived on the land; land owned by a feudal lord who in turn was loyal to a greater lord or a prince or king. The people worked the land collectively and were guaranteed employment for life, a home of reasonable quality in which to live, and protection from enemies, criminals or invaders. All this in exchange for their labor.

With the rise of international trade, sovereign debt, competition at court, religious conflict, “professional” lawyers who advised the nobility and the King – and the introduction of the concept of Capitalism – things got much more complicated.

The result by the end of the sixteen century was that most of the “common lands” that had been farmed cooperatively by the tenants of nobles were closed, fenced off, sold, or confiscated – the tenants were turned out to fend for themselves. With nowhere to go and no skills other than farming, they were lost – completely destitute. The cities began to fill up with beggars, sharpers, drifters, and all variety of vagrants. These people formed the first great underclass of the great English city of London.[1]

Between 1500 and 1600 London’s population increased from 60,000 to 225,000 as a result of these social and legal changes, as well as migration of immigrants from Europe suffering under the same sweep of social shift. By 1660 the population of London was 460,000 souls. One in ten Englishmen lived in the city. This was a complete reversal of the demography from just two centuries earlier.[2]

We can hardly imagine what a walled city of half a million souls must have been like. A city with no sanitation services, no running water, no toilets or waste water disposal, no internal running water all. Nor did they have building codes, zoning restrictions, fire codes, hospitals, a police force or emergency services of any sort. The place was a teeming, seething, reeking, den of chaos in which just about anything could and did occur without warning.[3] Food shortages were common. Inflation was rampant. Employment in anything legal was the exception rather than the norm. Lack of sanitation, deprivation, sickness, and disease kept the life expectancy to about thirty-five years old.

Plague London 1666Cholera was a favorite friend, as was typhus. The bubonic plague made several visits and in 1665 did its part to lower the over-crowding problem by wiping out 20% of London’s population (estimated at 100,000 people in less than one year.) When the plague was done, the Great London Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city, especially the poorly constructed slums and suburbs where immigrants and new arrivals were forced to live.[4]

There was no FEMA to come to anyone’s aid. People were forced to live out of doors. They got sick. The sick died. The dead often lay in the streets for days before being dragged off by dogs or hauled to mass graves on the edge of town. It was truly a hellish existence for the greatest swath of society. Not a romantic period at all.

This is a place that most people – if they could have – would have left. Even if it meant crossing an ocean and landing in a wilderness to do it.

But Robert Beheathland did not live in London, so far as we know. At the time of the first Jamestown voyage, he was probably just a boy of fifteen years old living on the far western coast of England. His home, St. Endellion in County Cornwall, is literally as far west from London as you can get without going for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. In the seventeenth century it was a rural, under-populated countryside that offered physical distance from the plagues of the city, and a good, healthy, fresh air life to its inhabitants. On face value it would seem incredible that someone from a place as peaceful and safe as St. Endellion would chose to risk life and limb to go to Virginia.

We have to look hard at the reach of social upheaval and the economics of 17th century England to understand such a decision.

First; Cornwall was still staunchly Catholic in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  Landed gentry and noble families who had escaped the persecutions of a century earlier still clung (usually secretly) to their Catholic faith in Cornwall; but that holding on was tenuous at best. A Catholic that came to the attention of the authorities (whether by his own actions or that of a competitor) could be exiled, jailed, have his lands seized, lose his life, or perhaps all of the above.

One way a family ensured its survival was by sending its children out of the country. It was an early form of spreading the risk.
There is excellent archeological evidence from Jamestown that there were practicing Catholics among the earliest colonists.[5]  What’s more, early promoters of colonization openly stated that they believed “planting colonies” was a preferred way of getting rid of undesirables in England; from criminals and vagrants to political enemies to religious divergent’s like Catholics.[6]

Next; We know that risk and debt often played a big role in a family’s decisions regarding participation in capital ventures. It was not uncommon at all for rural landowners of this period (more common among so-called “Gentlemen”, semi-noble and noble families than yeomen) to get into significant debt by over-extravagant living. The nobility were often land-rich and cash-poor, which made it difficult to live “up to” their position in society without going into significant debt.

The solution to this (and it was an often ruinous solution) was to participate in a “capital” venture that promised tremendous rewards – if it paid off. The Jamestown adventure was just such a capital risk. This was not a government sponsored operation. It was a privately funded venture; no different from a high-tech start-up today. The “adventurers” were the early investors. They either invested cash to fund the start-up, or they invested flesh and blood. Some landowners who wanted to get rid of their tenants put them on boats to the colonies. Some, seeking greater returns, sent family abroad. [7]

Captain John Smith in his reports back to the Virginia Company complained bitterly about the over-abundance of “Gentlemen” among the first colonists, and not enough people with the skills, knowledge, and willingness to do the real, difficult, physical work required to carve a functional, self-sufficient community out of the raw wilderness of Virginia.[8]

Robert Beheathland was listed among the first planting of colonists at Jamestown as just such a soft-handed “gentleman.”

Finally; Robert Beheathland was the youngest of four sons. That was a terrible thing to be in seventeenth century in England. Every good landed family needed a male heir to take over the property. It needed a “spare” in case the eldest died early. This second son was usually educated in the law so that he could assist his older brother in the management of the estate, keep the family on solid financial and legal footing, while also earning a living in the courts or on the bench. If there was a third son, he was trained for the clergy or sent into the Army or Navy to seek his fortune on his own wits. (Good situations in either of these professions could be purchased at an affordable price.)

Fourth, fifth, or later sons – they were simply out of luck. After establishing the third son, most families were out of funds to purchase good positions in professional society, pay for education, or support the spare children beyond their most basic needs (certainly not enough to marry, have a home, or start a family.) Robert was simply unfortunate in regard to the order of his birth. He didn’t even have the benefit of being a lowly yeoman farmer’s son; a boy who would have been raised knowing the generalities of everything from farming and livestock management, to building, to carpentry, to blacksmithing. He had few skills and no money. His prospects for making his own way would have been extremely difficult.

The venture offered by the Virginia Company provided Robert’s father a potential means to make some quick money while disposing of an unwanted expense – if things worked out right. If they didn’t then his loss, in the cold hard economics of 17th century life, would be no real loss at all.

Given the time that’s passed between Robert Beheathland’s time and our own, we can’t know which of these possibilities put Robert Beheathland on the boat that left Blackwall in late December 1606. What we can know with a certain level of confidence is that it probably was not his idea, and he probably wasn’t happy about it. He probably did know that he had no other prospect, so – like many others who followed him in the decades and centuries to come – he put his head down and made himself determined to make the most of it.

The voyage wasn’t an easy one. Before they were even twenty miles off the coast of Devon the weather turned, preventing them from sailing west. The three ships; the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, languished off the coast of England for nearly a month. Burning through their stores of fresh water and food, freezing and drenched, the colonists broke out early into bitter regrets. There was lots of whining and complaining – followed by the early death of one of the passengers. It didn’t bode well.[9]

But there were even greater complications than this. This collection of would-be colonists, sailors, adventurers, and officers was a microcosm of 17th century English society; all trapped together on board three tiny vessels. The people languished without anything to distract them over a many months long voyage, without enough food, clean water or privacy. All ranks of society living on the turbulent seas cheek by jowl. It would have been impossible for difficulties not to break out.
The most dramatic event that occurred was a power struggle which threatened the lives and futures of every member of the crew and passengers.

Christopher Newport was the Captain of the Susan Constant, the flagship of the little fleet. He also served as commandant of the overall voyage; until the colonists were safely planted in Virginia and a governor could be selected according to Virginia Company orders. On the high seas, his position was one of absolute authority. He had the power of arrest, and even the authority to execute someone if the offense was serious enough (like mutiny, for example.)

Captain John Smith color portrait

Captain John Smith

Another important person on the voyage was Captain John Smith. Smith was already a legend in England, well-known for his exploits from Turkey to Russia, to his mercenary battles against Spain. His career was renowned and he was his own biggest promoter. He was headstrong. He was smart. And – to his detriment with the elite on board the ship – he didn’t subscribe to the classic English practice of deferring to his social “betters”. He believed in ability and accomplishment before birth and title, and he let everyone know it.

Smith was born to a yeoman farmer father in a remote part of England. He left home at sixteen years old and went to sea. Over the course of a thirty-year career he made himself into one of the world’s greatest adventurers, survivors, and professional “explorers”. He was a geographer, a map maker, a writer, and even a bit of a poet. He’d been all over the world and survived to tell it.[9] It was his experience in expeditions just like this one that got John Smith involved with the Virginia Company. They needed his experience, his bravery, and his wits to make a go of it. He was one of the few men in the kingdom with the skills and the experience to make a venture like this one succeed. He was recruited by the founders of the Company (among them his biggest fan, Richard Hakluyt) to join the venture and take a leading role in its direction.[10]

Christopher Newport wasn’t John Smith’s biggest fan. Newport was made Master of the Royal Navy in 1606, just before his jaunt to Jamestown. Prior to this Royal appointment, he’d made a fortune for himself as well as others acting as a privateer;  seizing Spanish treasure ships making the dangerous crossing from Central America back to Spain laden with tons of gold and silver.  His successes were just as well documented as Smith’s and his swashbuckling reputation was further buoyed by his immense wealth (the one advantage that Smith lacked.)

There was not enough room in all of the Atlantic Ocean for these two men’s egos.

In the short run Newport won the dangerous game. John Smith was placed under arrest on charges of mutiny. He was put in chains in the ships hold until Newport could determine what to do with him. Whether these charges were legitimate or trumped-up, it’s difficult to know, but given the accusation that Smith intended to murder his superiors (Newport, et al), seize the ships, and then make himself “King” of Virginia, the charges do seem a little extreme. Newport planned to execute Smith when the ships made landfall, but that plan didn’t work out for him.

“…Such factions here we had, as commonly attend such voyages, that a paire of gallowes was made, but Captain Smith, for whom they were intended, could not be persuaded to use them.”
– General History of Virginia, by Captain John Smith

Captain Smith had friends and supporters on board all three vessels. Once they were all united on land, Newport had to accept the fact that their opinions outnumbered his fears. Technically he could have carried out the execution, but that would not have played well back in London given the overwhelming number of voices claiming Smith’s innocence and demanding his release.
The last thing Newport needed was a genuine mutiny on his hands. He had 110 souls on board three ships. His fate and reputation depended upon him getting them safely to their destination without catastrophe or insurrection. He swallowed his pride and got on with business, hoping for a new day of reckoning with Smith.  Smith remained under arrest for the remainder of the voyage. It’s unlikely that he remained a silent, cooperative prisoner.

Captain John Smith was a man you either loved or hated. There was no middle ground. Likewise, he was a man of strong opinions. He either determined you were valuable and worthy of his respect, or he dismissed you entirely. Sometimes his opinions and loyalties switched directions in a blink.

Robert Beheathland had a few things going for him that some of his fellow-colonists didn’t.  The first was that Captain John Smith liked him.

It was simple luck that most likely put Robert on board the same ship (probably the Susan Constant) with Captain John Smith. He may have even been chosen (by Newport) to “tend” Smith (bring him food and water, check on him, etc.) when Smith was in chains in the ships hold. That would make sense given Robert’s youth and social station. Newport would have considered Robert a safe caretaker, someone who could not materially or physically assist the prisoner. Someone who would not have the fortitude to go against the true authority on board the vessel. He was a “gentleman” after all, and he knew his place in the pecking order. He knew as well what Smith’s was – or at least he should have known.

The other advantage that Robert Beheathland had over his companions was his youth. He was probably not more than fifteen years old when he boarded the ship that would carry him to Virginia. Because he was young his habits were not fixed; i.e. he had not grown as lazy and arrogant as some of his fellow “gentlemen”. In addition, his youth made him teachable and probably even eager under the right tutelage. Captain Smith provided a mentor the likes of which most of us can only dream of.

Consider it. You’re a boy of fifteen years old from the rural hinterlands of England, stuck on board a ship with forty grown men, the majority of whom are Londoners in lace sleeves and ruffled collars. You have just been given the assignment to spend time with the toughest, shrewdest, leanest, meanest, adventurer in English history. This man is swarthy, scarred, built like a fortress, and he has the most amazing stories to tell. You spend your time listening to his tales of outsmarting the Turks, whipping the Spaniards, surviving off the land across the wilderness of Russia.  Who are you going to align yourself with? The lace cuffed captain and his lace cuffed friends? Or the multiple times, – hero in chains in the hold? You’re a fifteen year old boy who is stuck on a voyage to the edge of the world. It’s not a difficult decision. (I know who I’d choose.)

Newport accomplished his mission. He got the ships and his human cargo to Virginia. The fleet anchored in the broad river up the Chesapeake Bay on May 13, 1607. In a demonstration of loyalty to their king, they named the river “James”.

Captain Smith was still under considerable suspicion by his “betters” when the contents of the box containing the orders of the Virginia Company were finally unlocked and read aloud before the whole party of colonists. According to the rules outlined by the Company, Edward Maria Wingfield, (1550 – 1631) was named President of the infant colony. His appointment was an obvious one. First, he was a nobleman. Next and as important, he was one of the prime movers in the Virginia Company “showing great charge and industry”. He was one of the four incorporators of the London Virginia Company in the Virginia Charter of 1606 and one of its biggest financial backers. He recruited about forty of the 105 colonists, and was the only shareholder in the venture to sail with the expedition.

In the first election in the New World, he was elected by his peers as the President of the governing council for one year beginning May 13, 1607. Wingfield’s first decision as leader was the selection of the site of where the company would land and make their fortifications; the place that they would name “Jamestowne” in deference to their sovereign, James I.

Even in this early decision, Wingfield revealed his worthiness to lead such an adventure as inadequate. The site was low, swampy, and wet. The water supply was brackish and stagnant. The area was infested with mosquitoes and ticks, and the soil was inadequate for cultivation, being too thin, too salty, and too acidic to grow much of anything successfully except scrubs and marsh grasses. The benefits the site offered were a deep water landing for the ships (which were moored temporarily) and an excellent field of view of vessels approaching from the Chesapeake (Spanish) and from upriver (Indians). At least in this regard the site offered a reasonably good defensive position.

The orders from the Virginia Company complicated the politics of the new colony. John Smith’s name appeared second on the list of seven councilors appointed to govern the infant colony, just after that of Bartholemew Gosnold (Wingfield’s cousin, also a mover and shaker in the financing of the Virginia Company expedition.) Wingfield, a man of social and financial consequence, determined immediately to hate and distrust John Smith. He made the unilateral decision to exclude Smith from the crew of counselors who would govern Jamestown, going against the explicit instructions from the Virginia Company. Unfortunately for Wingfield, democracy was already starting to flower in the nascent colony. The colonists demanded Smith be freed from his arrest and restored to the governing council. The colonists won the day.

It’s not my goal here to recount the entire history of the Jamestown settlement. What is important to know is that Wingfieled failed (miserably) as a leader and was sent back to London to answer for his mismanagement (as well as a variety of trumped-up crimes.)  Gosnold died within three months of landing in Virginia, and so shortly John Smith was made president of the colony. John Smith whipped the place into shape and probably saved the entire venture from collapse, and saved the colonists from starvation and eradication at the hands of the natives. He didn’t make a lot of friends however. The “Gentlemen” especially, grew to resent him because he enforced a “No work, no food” law which required every man to pull his weight, or starve.

At his right hand throughout the drama of politics of the colony, the intrigue and death-defying exploits amongst the native Indians, was, along with a few other hand selected followers Smith deemed worthy of supporting and protecting him, “Master Beheathland.”

“Master Beheathland” proved himself as a bodyguard and a skilled warrior on several occasions when the natives attempted to double-cross Smith and his companions. His name appears in the written accounts penned by Smith in reports to the Virginia Company, as well as in later recounting of his exploits in Virginia.[11]

Of the 105 or so original colonists, most never intended to stay. The greatest number of the “gentlemen” believed they would come to Virginia, discover gold, make a fortune and return to England fabulously wealthy. In fact, the few men who actually returned to England got back broke, sick, disgruntled, and telling anyone who would listen what an absolute catastrophe the place was. Those were the lucky ones. Of the original 105 or so men that arrived at Jamestown, only 37 remained after the first year. The rest were leveled by disease, execution, and some were killed by the Indians.

Researchers have spent years pouring over the statistics and reports of this early settlement and have discovered that the men who spent weeks and months exploring the inland with John Smith, spending time with the natives and even dealing with violent attacks and weeks of sleeping outside, survived at a much higher rate than the people who stayed at Jamestown. They believe this is due to a healthier setting, fresh food, clean water, and exercise. The men who remained at Jamestown were prisoners to an infected and violent environment.[12] Robert Beheathland was with Smith. This simple fact helped him live.

In Smith’s company he learned invaluable lessons on survival. He learned how to trade according to native Indian custom. He learned how and what to plant in order to eat, and what could be collected wild in the forest. He learned at least the rudiments of the native language and native customs. He learned how to survive outdoors in an inhospitable environment. He learned how to work hard, how to march, and how to sleep with one eye open. In essence, he learned how to live; while most of his peers at Jamestown only learned how to die in competitively spectacular and tragic ways.

At Jamestown they died from malaria, and starvation. They died by the gallows and execution. They died at the hands of their fellow colonists in blinding fits of frustrated rage, and in some cases – the worst of all during “The Starving Times” – they were eaten by their compatriots. Jamestown was a horrible place. It’s no wonder that Captain John Smith and his loyal band stayed far away for as long as they could. The native Indians, no matter how strange, were not as barbaric or desperate as their fellow Englishmen.[13]

Gradually things did improve. Additional supply ships arrived; bringing victuals, tools, and eventually fresh colonists better suited to building a community in the wilderness. Among them were carpenters and smiths, foresters and farmers. Some women even began to arrive and this brought stability and a tremendous measure of civilization to the community.

It seems unlikely that Robert Beheathland married Mary (possibly named Nicholson), also believed to be of St. Endellion, Cornwall, before he left for Virginia. What’s more likely is that the two were at the very least acquainted – more likely close kin (cousins) – and that after he got established in Virginia he sent for her. We don’t know the date of their marriage or the place, but we do know that she arrived at Jamestown after 1608.

Mary Nicholson must have been made of as tough a substance as her husband Robert. In Virginia she gave her husband at least three children who survived into adulthood. These include; Mary, John and Dorothy. Dorothy, my direct ancestor, married Randall Crew (c.1604 – c1630), of Cheshire England, from whom my direct line descends.[14]

In 1620 Robert Beheathland was back in England petitioning the Royal Council of England for a qualified governor for the colony in Virginia. In 1639, his son John was in Cornwall, fighting Ursula Beheathland (aunt by marriage to Anthony Beheathland, Robert’s brother, John’s uncle) for John’s portion of Richard Beheathland’s estate. He won in court (80 pounds), but John died en route to Virginia to reunite with his mother and family. John’s heir in his will (proved 1639) was his cousin Charles Beheathland (son of either George or Hugh Beheathland, brothers of his father Robert.)

Complicated stuff. Can you imagine traveling across an ocean for 80 pounds? Risking your life for it, as John did? I guess we need to take into account inflation rates. In the 17th century 80 pounds would have been worth about $15,000 today. While I may not risk life and limb for $15,000, I’d certainly think about it. In colonial Virginia $15,000 would buy an awful lot of land, tobacco seed, and labor to work it all to a profitable crop.

Robert Beheathland was deceased by 1628. By that time Mary was remarried to a Lieutenant Tomas Flint of Elizabeth City, when her name appeared in court records in regard to land she had inherited.

This is all we know of Robert Beheathland (c.1682 – c.1627) and his family, my earliest American ancestors.


[1] After the Reformation: Essays in Honor of J. H. Hexter, edited by Barbara C. Malament, Jack H. Hexter, (1980). Manchester, UK | Manchester University Press. (The Residential Development of the West End of London in the Seventeenth Century, By Lawrence Stone)

[2] ibid.

[3] Need to identify source for this. (Book published about 2005 along the lines of Big Chief Elizabeth/Milton, but focused on Elizabethan society.)

[4] The Plague and the Fire, By James Leasor, (2001). London | House of StratusI.

[5] Jamestown, the Buried Truth, By William M. Kelso, (2006) University of Virginia Press.

[6] A Discourse Concerning Western Planting Written in the Year 1584, By Richard Hakluyt, (Maine Historical Society Collections, Edited by Charles Deane.) (1831). Maine | Maine Historical Society.

[7] “A ruling council in England, composed of members of the joint-stock company who were usually merchants of great distinction, was formed immediately after King James I granted the charter of 1606. The councillors were appointed ostensibly by the king, but in reality were nominated by the membership, or more often, by the inner executive group of the company.”
The First Virginia Charter of 1606.

The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter, 1606-1609, Edited by Philip Barbour. (1969) Cambridge, MA | Cambridge University Press

Enterprise and Empire: Merchant and Gentry Investment in the Expansion of England, 1575-1630, By Theodore Rabb. (1967) Cambridge, MA | Harvard University Press.

[8] Captain John Smith: Writings with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America, Edited by James P. Horn (2007) Library of America

[9] ibid.

[10] Sir Walter Raleigh: Being a True and Vivid Account of the Life and Times of the Explorer, Soldier, Scholar, Poet, and Courtier–The Controversial Hero of the Elizabethan Age, By Raleigh Trevelyan. (2004). Henry Holt and Co.

[11] Captain John Smith: Writings with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America, Edited by James P. Horn (2007) Library of America

[12] Jamestown, the Buried Truth, By William M. Kelso, (2006) University of Virginia Press.

[13] ibid.

[14] Biography of Robert Beheathland, The Jamestowne Society

Other resources that helped form this article:

The Complete Works of Captain John Smith 1580, Edited by Philip Barbour

Virginia Gleanings in England, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 11, by The Virginia Historical Society
By Virginia Historical Society Vol XI, 1904,

Jamestown Society Newsletter, Vol 25 2, Oct 2001; Vol 26 2, Oct 2002

Narratives of Early Virginia 1606 1625, By Lyon G. Tyler (1907) New York |Charles Scribner’s Sons

Cavaliers and Pioneers Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants 1623 1800, By Nell Marion Nugent (1934) Richmond, VA | Press of the Dietz Printing Co.

William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951) Poet & Playwright

William Ellis Jones and his young son Thomas Ellis Jones

William Ellis Jones and his young son Thomas Ellis Jones

William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951)
William was born at “Summerfield” on August 7, 1899. We’ve already learned a great deal about his parents (F. Ellis Jones and Addie Gray Bowles) and his grandparents’, their lives and their deaths; therefore I’ll begin his story as best I can, opening with the few details of his life that I know of as fact.

William enlisted in the US Army on October 3, 1918 – precisely eleven days before his mother died from the Spanish flu. He was just nineteen years old. The Army records indicate that he was in good health, of fair complexion with blue eyes and light colored hair, and that he was five feet, five inches tall. He was honorably discharged from the Army on December 9, 1918, having served just two months. (World War I was just concluded and the Army didn’t require his services any longer.)

We know that his occupation was listed as a “student” on his enlistment record, but neither he or my father left a record that indicates where or when he attended college. That he did attend and graduate college is relative certainty, as he was earning his living as a school teacher by 1923. Though it’s not recorded by anyone as far as I can determine, my father told me that his father taught high school English, which makes sense.

I know that his grandfather’s business, William Ellis Jones & Sons, ceased to exist under that imprint in 1919, after almost fifty continuous years of publishing under “Jones” in one form or another.

On October 20, 1923, he married Dora Georgia Thomas of Chesterfield County, Virginia. She was just fifteen years old, and she was one of his high school students. The specific school she attended and where William taught her are not recorded, although family lore indicates that she attended, and he was teaching at one of the Chesterfield County schools when they met.

Their first child, Dora Ellis Jones, was born January 11, 1925 in Pulaski, Virginia. William was teaching in Pulaski at the time. Their second child, Thomas Ellis Jones, was born May 1, 1930 in Richmond, Virginia. Their third child, Georgia Ellis Jones, was born April 7, 1933 in Richmond, Virginia. At the time of the births of his last two children, it appears that William was trying his hand at making a living as a writer, but he may also have been teaching in Richmond to supplement his income.

William apparently began his first draft of the family history that eventually became The Baby Book in 1930, if not before. He did not conclude it until 1936 or possibly later. He wrote a good portion of the document from New York City, where he was working as a stockbroker up until late 1935 or 1936. In addition to his “day job”, William also worked consistently on writing plays; usually one or three act comedies that he had some success in getting published. From 1932 to 1948, he had at least twenty-eight plays published by at least ten different publishers.

At some point prior to 1935, William and Dora’s oldest child, Dora Ellis, became gravely ill. It’s not recorded exactly what her ailment was, but it was debilitating. The physicians who attended her advised her parents to remove her from the northern climate and pollution of New York City in order to improve her condition. William tried to organize his small family and his smaller finances in order to make a move to Florida, but for unknown reasons their plans to relocate south were delayed. Dora’s condition worsened as the weeks passed, and before William could get the family moved out of New York, his daughter died on June 3, 1935. She was just ten years old.

The death of his little daughter Dora Ellis was absolutely crushing.

It’s at this crucial moment in this little family’s history where facts, family lore, and supposition conflate into a sad and very confusing story.

Before we go forward, however, we need to go back.
William’s Grandfather was a successful man of excellent reputation who owned two very nice homes and a thriving business. The printing business continued to function – under his imprint – for eight years after his death. We know that F. Ellis involvement in the business ceased after his death in 1910, but his 1/3 interest in the business would have passed to his wife, Addie Gray, and then after her death, to her only son William. Addie Gray died in 1918 – precisely when we see “William Ellis Jones & Sons” cease to exist.

The way I see this scenario played out is that William Ellis Jones (1838 – 1910) left his printing business in shared partnership to all three of his sons. No one of them could force a buyout of the other unless all three “partners” agreed. When F. Ellis Jones died in 1910, his share passed to Addie Gray, and she – needing an income to support herself and her son – refused to be bought out. The properties in Richmond and at Dumbarton were probably willed in the same fashion; giving life rights of occupancy to any one heir or all three, but preventing the disposal of the property without the agreement of all three in unison.

The other two Jones brothers, Fairfax and Thomas, probably wanted to buy out their deceased brother’s portion, but they could not coerce his wife Addie Gray to move. She would have continued to draw an income from the business for eight years after her husband’s passing, and continued to have a life right to the house(s) as long as she lived. Upon her death this same right would have passed to young William.

When Addie Gray died, Fairfax Courtney Jones and Thomas Grayson Jones made their move. William, their nephew, was just nineteen years old and had just enlisted in the Army – fearing he would be sent to Europe – and still reeling from the death of his mother, his grandmother, and Aunt “Deitz”. He had never worked in the printing company and had no sense of its value. Nor did he probably even understand the papers that were put in front of him by his uncles, or just how small the check they gave him was.

William goes from being a fairly well-to-do teenager who floats between two homes and has access to everything he needs – to a young man who is scraping by from job to job, borrowing money from his grandfather’s old friends (this he admitted in The Baby Book!) and within fifteen years of his Mother’s death is so destitute that he cannot pull together enough cash to save his daughter’s life.

I propose that William was swindled out of a substantial portion of his inheritance by his uncles (who, interestingly, he barely mentions in The Baby Book.)  I further propose that any money or investments he still had remaining by 1929 were completely wiped out in the Stock Market Crash. I believe that’s why he was in New York in 1935 – trying desperately to win back his lost money. If this is the case it was a desperate maneuver, as he had no natural talent or training in that arena. If that is what he was attempting – he failed miserably – in truly tragic ways.

William probably blamed himself for taking the family to New York where Dora contracted her illness, and for getting them into such financial straits that they could not leave when they needed to.

Mr. Hyde – or Dr. Jekyll?
This is where the story gets really confusing, and why police officers seldom believe eye-witness accounts of accidents and crimes. Two people standing side by side on the same street corner will recall the same event with vastly diverging details – and they both claim that their story is the absolute fact of what happened.

After Dora’s death, William had two living children remaining. The oldest, Thomas Ellis, was five years old when his sister died. His younger sister Georgia was barely two. Neither of them would have retained enough memories of the actual events surrounding her death to be able to offer any precise information on the matter, or to say with certainty what either of their parents’ emotional state was in the aftermath.

What’s more interesting though, is that Thomas Ellis Jones, his son and the older of the two, recalled almost nothing of the event – and was reluctant to even discuss the subject – only saying that it was something his father “never got over.” Georgia, on the other hand, did discuss the loss of her sister (a sister she never knew) with her children and grandchildren. And she went even further and explained the death of this girl as the reason that her own childhood was miserable.

Thomas, when asked about his father, would light up like a Christmas tree and start recounting vivid, happy memories. He had so many stories – each one more grandiose than the next – that I truly suspect the voracity of any of them. I do know that he worshipped his father and believed him to be a nearly genius writer. (Except for the single poem that is quoted in Chapter I of the book, Stumbling in the Shadow of Giants, I have seen little of his work that would qualify as genius, but I am a hard critic, and I have not seen much of his work beyond his plays.) Thomas spoke glowingly of William Ellis Jones. I think he truly believed his childhood was happy, and that he was adored by his father.

His one negative word in regard to his father had to do with alcohol. He said that his father drank too much, and that the disease ran in the family. This was given to me with gravity when I was well past thirty years old, when I offhandedly mentioned on a call that I was going “out to the bar” with friends later that evening. It was a figure of speech in the company I kept at the time, and probably did not mean the same thing to me as it implied to him. I heard the concern in his voice and I filed the information away for future reference.

Twenty-years later I tracked down the children of Georgia Ellis Jones. Georgia passed away in 2007, and so she could not be interviewed, but Georgia’s daughter, who had nursed both her mother and her grandmother (William Ellis Jones wife, Dora Thomas) through their last days, was more than willing to share. She did not know William Ellis Jones either. She heard of him only through the recounting of her mother and her grandmother. The picture she painted for me was one I had not been prepared for, given the glowing words Thomas always laid down when he talked about the man.

I will not go into absolute specifics, but in essentials the story is as counter to what Thomas reported as any could be. The only points the two positions agree on is that William Ellis Jones did drink too much. From Georgia’s perspective this over-indulgence manifested itself in blind drunken rages in which he beat his wife and his daughter within an inch of their lives. I was told that when these fights occurred, Thomas (her brother) would lock himself in the bathroom or in his bedroom – with a book. Or he’d simply leave the house if he could get away without getting involved. She said that afterward both he and his father acted as if nothing had ever happened, and it was never talked about.

One specific that I do think is worth mentioning; Georgia told her daughters that William blamed Georgia for Dora Ellis’s death, and when he would get depressed and drunk, he’d tell her that it was her fault and he wished that she had died and not Dora…

…All this begs the question – how much pain and loss can one person endure before he breaks?

William knew profound loss; the loss of every blood relation he had in a very short span of time, at a very formative period in his life. He lost both his father and his much beloved grandfather at ten years old, his adored Aunt “Deitz” at sixteen, his mother at seventeen, and finally his grandmother at nineteen. That is too much for one young person to endure. But then he lost his place in society, his financial security, and finally his little daughter. It was just too much.

He was a shattered man. He had no tether to anything substantial whatsoever. He was just running.

From the point of Dora’s death onward, the family story is one of constant movement. First, they relocate to Miami Florida; the plan to get to a warmer climate finally coming together some months after Dora had already passed. They stay in Florida until about 1939, then they return to Virginia. William taught school in Clarksville, Virginia; then back to Pulaski; then in Richmond; then in Wytheville. By 1951 the family was in Bristol, Virginia, and Thomas Ellis, his son, was in the Air Force hoping not to get sent overseas to Korea.

On July 29, 1951, William sat down in his favorite easy chair with a glass of Kentucky Bourbon, a book, and a piece of dark chocolate. He died with the drink in one hand, the book in the other, and the chocolate still melting on his tongue.
Or so my father said.

Whatever the case, I like this version of his passing. It seems as good a way to slip over to the other side as any way I can think of. William’s pain finally saw an end; and a peaceful end at that.

Unfortunately he still had two living children who carried the seeds of his pain with them….

To learn more about William Ellis Jones, his life and his descendants, see the forthcoming book Stumbling in the Shadow of Giants, by C.H. Jones.


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