Seaports of the World
The Maritime Heritage Project began in honor of Captain James H. Blethen, a Welsh sea captain whose family had migrated from Wales to Maine on the East Coast of the United States in the early-1700s.
Captain Blethen, raised on North America's Eastcoast in in Maine, went to sea in 1829 at age 15 and spent 44 years aboard ships sailing from New York to European ports, then between San Francisco and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (bringing gold seekers to San Francisco where they headed for Northern California's mines), and on a troop ship along the coastline of America's Southern States during the Civil War. He closed his career by opening the mail lines between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand for Webb Mail Lines.
Wales is one of the four constituent nations which form the United Kingdom, located in the south-west of Great Britain bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel to the south, St George's Channel in the west, and the Irish Sea to the north.
Welsh (Cymraeg), the native language of Wales, is a living Celtic language, closely related to Cornish and Breton, and kin to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It is one of the oldest living languages in Europe; the Welsh spoken today is directly descended from the language of the Sixth Century. Everyone in Wales also speaks English.
Legend has it that the first Welsh emigrants to the New World were Madog ab Owain Gwynedd (Prince Madog) and a band of settlers disillusioned with their lives in the 12th century. Howell Powell, who left Brecon for Virginia in 1642, was the first official Welsh settler in America. Until the late 17th century, most emigration from Wales had been on an individual basis.
Wales lost its independence in 1282 when it was conquered by the English King Edward I.
When Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, he instigated a wave of religious intolerance which threatened the rights of several groups to worship in the way that they chose. Significant numbers of people - in some cases, whole communities - began to leave Wales. South Wales provided most of the emigrants to America in the 19th century. The growth of the iron industry in the Valleys from the mid 18th century and the later development of the south Wales coalfield meant that south Wales had a reserve of skilled metalworkers, foundrymen and miners who could find work easily in the rapidly expanding industrial areas of America such Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Social Unrest and Opportunity = Immigration
Wales had a population of no more than 500,000 before the 18th century and a little over 1.5m by 1881. In proportion to population, Irish emigrants to America in the 19th century outnumbered the Welsh by 26 to one. However, the influence that many of the Welsh immigrants had on the emergence of modern America belies their relatively small numbers:
Sixteen of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent.
Presidents including Thomas Jefferson (whose family came from a village beneath Snowdon), John Adams, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and more recently Calvin Coolidge had their family roots in Wales.
Elihu Yale, the son of Welsh immigrant parents who settled in Boston, founded Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. When he died his body was brought home to rest in the churchyard of Wrexham Parish Church near the family home of Plas-yn-Iâl, Denbigh.
Morgan Edwards, a joint founder of Brown University, Rhode Island, came from Pontypool in Gwent. He spent a year and a half in Britain and Ireland between 1766 and 1768 fundraising for the university. The first graduation ceremony was held there in 1769.
Waves of Welsh immigrants sailed to America between 1800 and 1850. There was some degree of social unrest in Wales with low farm prices, high rents, and a shift to industrialization. Farmers’ children had to leave the land to work in the mines. In America they saw the promise of cheap land, religious freedom, and a chance for advancement. Although they came to America in groups and settled together, they did not cling to their ethnic background like the Palatines or the Irish. Within two or three generations they were assimilated. Thus, their “Welshness” can be hard to spot. You may have Welsh ancestors and not even know it.
August 26, 1876, Sacramento Daily Union
America Discovered by the Welsh in 1170 A.D.
By Rev. Benjamin F. Bowen. Philadelphia: J. B. Lipplncott & Son.
San Francisco: A. Roman & Co.
The writer has taken considerable pains and accumulated much interesting information in the preparation of this work. He begins by showing the energetic, expansive character of the Cymric race (the Welsh), forgetting to mention the fact, however, that that is the common characteristic of all the Japhetic tribes, of which the Cymri are but one. He then shows from old Welsh records that Madoc, one of the seventeen sons of Owain Gwinedd, to avoid the disturbances which arose among his brothers alter the death of their father, sailed to the westward, and after having been gone some time, returned and brought word that he had found a fair land, many days' sail distant, had left some of his people there and returned to get more, who should go and settle in this new country.
Enough to fill ten ships were prevailed on to go. They never returned, nor was there any further course between Wales and the new-country. He then takes up, one by one, the letters and accounts of many independent witnesses, who testify severally that Welsh-speaking Indians had been heard of, were reported to exist, had been seen, conversed with, lived with, preached to; the different writers being more or less explicit. They, or traces of them, were found in Western New York and Pennsylvania, in Ohio, Kentucky, and more especially far up the Missouri river. Some of these narratives are definite and and impart conviction; others are vague, but all are singularly harmonious.
The close resemblance of many Indian words to what might be their Welsh equivalents is noted: as Pontigo, Ponty-go, "the Smith's Bridge;" Allegeni, alli-geni, "mighty born;" Nanticok, nanty-cwch, "a curved brook," etc. But it should be remembered that similarity of sound in language does not imply necessary connection in origin, but only strengthens the plea for such connection, when there are other grounds for accepting it.
The mounds that are found in various parts of the country, especially in the Ohio valley, and which all theorists agree in assigning to a higher race of men than the ordinary Indian tribes, are also seized upon by our author. He finds their shape to coincide exactly with that of ancient Welsh fortifications. Be supposes the adventurous companions of Madoc and their descendants to have penetrated from the coast further and further into the interior, driven either by their own spirit of enterprise or by wars with the primitive inhabitants. He notes the fact that the age of the trees growing on the most eastern of these mounds is about 700 years, corresponding nearly to the era of the Madocian immigration, and that the age of such trees diminishes towards the West, indicating the gradual introgression of the Welsh. We confess to a leaning to this theory to account for those curious remains on purely scientific grounds, rather than those which assign to them a pre-Adamic origin and date.
Altogether, the argument of the author is tolerably well built up, and is sustained by an unexpected and not wholly unconvincing amount of evidence. But we think he claims too much. It may be true that the Welsh came to this country in A. D. 1170, or even earlier, but even then they found other people already here. They cannot claim, therefore, to have been the discoverers of America, either in the sense of being the first human beiugs to find it, or in having opened it up to the world, since the world at large was none the wiser or better off for their expedition. In the latter sense Columbus can still hold his claim to the glory of the discovery. In another sense still more truly does this glory belong to him. He was the first who both reasoned out a priori the necessary existence of a Western coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and proved his reasoning by the result of his voyage of investigation. For the persecuted Genoese captain who arrived at the truth by a logical process and forced the benefits of this truth upon a reluctant Old World must still be given the praise of discovering the New World. The Welsh may have found America, as other savage men did before them: Columbus invented America.
April 27, 1890, Daily Alta California
San Francisco, California
Welsh Quarryman Go Out
London, April 26th -- Workmen in the slate qurries at Festiniog in Wales have stuck for an advance of wages.
September 30, 1892, San Francisco Call
The Disestablishment of the Welsh Church.
London, Sept. 29.— The Welsh newspapers declare that Gladstone has invited an eminent Welsh ecclesiastic to draft a bill for the disestablishing of the church in Wales. They add that a bill will be prepared in a manner acceptable to the Welsh clergy.
December 18, 1892, San Francisco Call
They Are Already Causing Trouble in the New American Factory
Elwood, Ind., Dec. 17.— For some time there have been differences existing between the Welsh tin-workers and the American tinplate factory, with the result that the men have refused to work unless the company accedes to certain conditions. It seems that the company wants to operate a patent machine with unskilled labor, and the Welshmen demand that skilled labor only shall be employed. Until this is conceded they declare that they will not work. It is not known just what steps the company Intends taking.
September 30, 1893, Pacific Rural Press
The Welsh in the United States claim that they are in number as many as their countrymen in Wales, and they also claim that one of their ancestors forestalled Columbus in the discovery of America by 272 years. They base their assertions on historical traditions and the manuscripts of old Welsh bards on the one hand, and on the prevalence of Welsh in many of the languages of the Indians, both of South and North America, on the other.
May 24, 1894, San Francisco Call
San Francisco California
The Welsh Church
London, may 23 -- At a meeting at Birmingham today, Lord Roseberry declared that the Government was determined to pass the bill for the disestablishment of the Welsh church.
Bangor's origins hark back to the founding of a monastic establishment in the early 6th century AD. The Celtic saint Deiniol is credited with establishing what was to become a powerful mission in 525 AD. The name "Bangor" itself is a Welsh word for a type of fenced-in enclosure, and describes what was was once on the site of the cathedral in the early days of the monastery. A steam packet service between Liverpool and Bangor began in 1822, bringing visitors by sea. The pier was opened in 1896 and the Liverpool pleasure steamers landed thousands of tourists each summer. Good quality accommodation was made available at the likes of the Penrhyn Arms, the Castle Inn, the Albion, the George Hotel and the Liverpool Arms. The population of Bangor rose rapidly from 1,770 in 1801 to over 7,500 by 1841. The arrival of the railway in 1848 signalled another wave of expansion both for the industrialists and in tourism. New hotels were built such as the British, the Railway and the Belle Vue. Bangor established itself as the most important town in north Wales during the 19th century, it also claims to have the longest High Street in Wales.
Recently (July 2014) storms unearthed ancient pine, alder, oak and birch from a 5,000-year-old forest as a Welsh beach near Borth was washed away The ancient forest was covered in peat before eventually being swallowed by the sea. Legends say trees and nearby township were flooded after a priestess named Mererid neglected a magical well, which overflowed. Conditions inside the peat, devoid of oxygen and slightly alkaline, have meant the stumps survived and were uncovered by a set of storms which washed away the peat layer. A walkway made of sticks and branches was also discovered. It is 3,000 to 4,000 years old and was built, it is believed, to cope with rising sea levels ages ago. Following dramatic storms around Borth, something ancient is discovered. An ichthyosaur skeleton was discovered on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon. At Happisburgh, Norfolk, footprints discovered in storm-exposed rocks are believed to be the earliest evidence of humans outside Africa, dating back 850,000 years.
In ancient texts it was called Porth Gwyddno after Gwyddno Garanhir, circa 580 a.d. The village is named Porth Gwyddno in a praise poem to Prince Rhys Gryg by the poet Ffylip Brydydd at the beginning of the 13th century. Llandre Church records note that tithes were taken from fishing boats moored at Borth and Aberleri in 1373. In 1565 Borth is mentioned in the Piracy Commissions which were surveys of the state of shipping on the western fringes of Britain. Fourteen fishermen and mariners were listed at Borth in an anonymous survey of 1678. By 1750 there were growing numbers of seafarers evident in the grave lists of Llandre Church. In 1746 a Portuguese vessel was wrecked at Trwyn Pellaf. Borth salvagers made a deposition to the Gogerddan Estate for remuneration for providing a quantity of that ships cargo. Lewis Morris’s 1748 maritime survey of the Welsh coast mentions Borth in connection with the herring fishery. Borth is clearly marked on Murdoch McKenzie’s marine chart of 1775.
Village history reveals a resourceful people, living in unimaginable poverty in tiny crowded cottages, built precariously on an exposed coastal shingle bank, flanked on one side by a gale lashed storm beach, and on the other the marshland of Cors Fochno. Contact with the outside world came once a week in the form of the Shipping Gazette, which was bought across the estuary from Aberdyfi by boat.
They sailed the worlds’ oceans to far-flung ports:
- Captain William Hughes b.1842, who sailed the brig Fanny Fothergill to Australian waters in the 1870’s.
- Hugh James b.1844 sailed the barques Hawarden Castle and the Carmarthen Castle around the world to ports on the west coast of America, the Orient and South Africa.
- Captain Lewis Williams voyaged round Cape Horn a dozen times on his way to Wellington, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia.
- Captain T. C. Enos knew the ports of the east and west coasts of America like the back of his hand, especially those of Peru and Chile, as he had spent years in the Peruvian Navy.
- Captain John Williams b.1836 sailed the small 588 ton barque Glendovey, owned by fellow villager William James, all over the world for forty years up to 1900.
For centuries, the village had been dependant on herring. The fish was so important to the economy of Ceredigion that it appears on the county’s coat of arms. In 1898, in an October edition of the Cambrian News, it was reported that Borth people would have to suffer a dire winter because of the lack of herrings in the bay. D. W. Morgan, the first Aberdyfi maritime historian of Borth descent, described the tough fisherfolk of Borth as “men who worked in this way for a bare sustenance, buying bread for their families, with their lives often, developed qualities of courage, piety, resourcefulness and thrift hardly to be met with under gentler conditions. Like the marram grass, the plant most familiar to them on the exposed foreshore, they adapted themselves, had to adapt themselves, in order to live."
In 1872, the schooner Merton of Truro was voyaging from Falmouth to Runcorn with a cargo of china clay when she was driven towards Trywn Pellaf in a southwesterly gale. Before the Aberystwyth lifeboat Evelyn Wood came on to the scene, a fishing boat put out from Borth with five men on board; Captains John Hughes, Richard Davies, William Edwards as well as fishermen John Jones and John Jenkins. They rowed through the huge seas and managed to get aboard the schooner. Knowing the local conditions, they would have been able to help her sail out of difficulty, but unfortunately there was no means of safely snapping the anchor cable that was holding her away from the rocks. With the incoming tide, she dragged her anchor and luckily grounded on sand near Trywn Cyntaf. A day later, with seas becoming calmer, she was towed away by a Porthmadoc steam tug. The Borth boat, with the five men on board, capsized on returning to shore, fortunately with no loss of life. Friends and the wives of the boatmen who had previously pleaded with them not to be so foolhardy as to risk their lives in those conditions, were at hand to help them in the time honoured way.
The Romans invaded Wales about 50 AD and about 55 AD they built a fort on the site of Cardiff. In the late 1st century the fort was reduced in size as Wales reached peace; However in the mid-3rd century the fort was rebuilt and strengthened to defend South Wales against Irish raiders. Towards the end of the century the Romans abandoned the fort at Cardiff. Cardiff had weekly markets and fairs during the middle Ages and it remain a small and quiet town, with trade between France and the Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Sark). Because it was expensive to move goods by land at that time, merchandise was transported through coastal waters to Bridgewater, Minehead, Bristol, Gloucester and London.
During the late 16th century, 16 ships operated from Cardiff transporting farm produce such as cheese, salted butter, wool, grain and skins. Some coal and iron was also transported from Cardiff to other British ports. Tanned leather was brought from them to Cardiff along with malt, which was used in brewing. By the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution began: Wales was transformed as increasing amounts of iron were exported from Cardiff. In 1794 a canal was built and in 1798 a sea basin was created with a sea lock to allow ships in where they could be loaded or unloaded from barges or from the wharf.
Considerable trade to Bristol included quantities of oats, barley, salt butter and poultry of all kinds and from this town there are not less than 8,780 tons of cast and wrought iron shipped annually to London and other places.
The Atlas, Saturday, January 7, 1860
London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
OPINIONS OF THE PRESS
During the 19th Century, Cardiff grew at a phenomenal pace. It jumped from fewer than 1900 people to more than 18,00 by 1851 and 60,000 by 1871.
Exports of coal, iron and grain helped the town grow, and industries such as shipbuilding, ropemaking, brewing, milling and paper-making developed as Cardiff became overcrowded and dirty because of the rapid growth. The industrial revolution included a shipbuilding industry and a rope making industry.
July 25, 1884, IRON
London, United Kingdom
NORTH WALES -- Notwithstanding the disorganisation of the coal trade in the adjoining counties, the North Wales colliers keep steadily at work. Nor is there any movement on the part of either the masters or the men for a reduction or increase of wages. The railway waggon works are well employed, as are also most of the manufacturing trades, and some activity prevails in the building of yachts and steam launches on the Dee at Chester. The various chemical and other works that line the estuary of the Dee from Chester to Mostyn are also fairly well employed. The Van lead mine, which has had a successful career for a quarter of a century, has latterly been carried on only at a loss, and the shareholders have passed a resolution to wind this company up.
In slate quarrying the men are respectfully protecting that they ought not to bear reduction in the price of slates. The slate trade, which a few weeks back showed signs of weakness, is recovering.
In the iron trade, the long hoped for improvement in prices is a long time coming. Orders are rather scarce, and there is a keen competition for them. A good deal is hoped for on the completion of the works for the manufacture of steel now in the course of erection.
Iron, October 10, 1884
Barry Dock and Railways Company.
Incorporated by special Act of Parliament, 47 and 48 Vic. Cap. 157, Session 1884
Their friends have already subscribed the larger part of the authorised share capital, are prepared to receive applications for £100,000 of the ordinary share capital of the Company, the unallotted portion of the proposed issue.
The object of the Company is the construction of a dock at Barry Island, seven miles from Cardiff and within the port of Cardiff, and the construction of railways of about 20 miles in length, from the dock to the Rhondda Valley, with access by junctions with existing and authorised railways to all the other great mineral producing districts of the South wales Coalfield. The dock will be constructed on a most favourable site in the estuary between the mainland and the Island. The area of the dock will be 40 acres, with a basin of 8-1/2 acres and a timber pond of 16 acres.
The depth of water available over the sill of the dock will be greater than that available at the other docks within the port of Cardiff. The dock will be fitted with the best appliances, and adapted for the accommodation of the largest ocean-going steamers now afloat. In three minutes after leaving the dock sates vessels will be clear at sea and in deep water. The favourable features of the site will admit of the dock being constructed at a cost which will be very small as compared with that of other docks in the Bristol Channel, and, consequently, the dividend to be earned on the dock under taking is expected to be larger than that of similar undertakings.
The whole of the gradients are most favourable, and the main line has been specially laid out for the accommodation of a large mineral traffic under the most favourable circumstances . . .
Practically, the whole of the traffic from the Rhondda Valley has been carried to the sea for shipment by means of the Taff Vale Railway, and the large dividends of that company have been earned chiefly by the carriage of this traffic, that company's dividends having been for some years past from 18 to 18 percent., and, by the issue of new shares at par to the shareholders, the dividend has been largely increased; and the Rhymney Railway Company, although it has no access to the Rhondda Valley, pays a dividend of 10 to 11 per cent; there are therefore good grounds for justifying the expectation that handsome dividends will be earned on the railways as well as on the dock.
It is expected that the dock and railways will be opened for traffic in 3-1/2 to 4 years, by which time it is estimated there will be a very large increase in the output of coal from the Rhondda Valleys, and that from new pits now being sunk by the promoters and Directors of this company and other persons and by various means the coal output of the whole district which will be served by the proposed railway and dock will be enormously increased . . . The scheme has practically received the approval of the shipowners of the United Kingdom.
D. A. Levy, Photographer
August 10, 1890, San Francisco Call
The Strike in Wales
London, August 9.-- The strike of the railway employes In Wales continues. The mails are still carried on wagons. The strike has seriously affected the London shipping trade. Steamers are not able to obtain their usual supplies of Welsh coal and have gone to other places for it.
June 6, 1891, Los Angeles Herald
Welsh Methodists Grieved at the Prince's Penchant for Gambling.
Cardiff, Wales, June 5. —The Methodist conference of South Wales adopted a resolution expressing regret at learning that the prince of Wales took part in a game of baccarat at Tanbycroft. It adds: "We respectfully submit to his royal highness that by his conduct he offends the religious sense of the people and draws the royal house from the high position in which it stood and tends to lessen the loving and devoted affection to the throne which has ever been cherished by us."
June 19, 1894, San Francisco Call
LORDS IN ARMS.
Fighting to Preserve the Established Church in Wales.
London, June 18. — A meeting of members of the nobility was held to-day, at which the Duke of Westminster presided. A committee was formed to conduct the campaign against the Government's proposal to disestablish the church in Wales. It was agreed to contest every constituency in Wales in the general election. The Duke of Westminster subscribed £1000 toward the expenses of the campaign, while other lords subscribed £500 each. A total of £5000 was raised.
October 17, 1894, San Francisco Call
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Times Are Good in Wales
SWANSEA, Wales, October 16. It is estimated that 5000 tons of tin plate was loaded her today on board steamers bound for America. Stocks of tin plate are lower than for months.
October 26, 1894, San Francisco Call
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Tin Plate From Wales.
Baltimore, Oct. 25.— A train of fifteen cars left Canton last night over the Pennsylvania Railroad for Milwaukee withtin plate brought from Swansea, Wales, by the Atlantic Transport Line steamers Maryland and Menantic. There were about 500,000 pounds of plate in the shipment.
February 25, 1868, Sacramento Daily Union
Sacramento, California, U.S.A.
BY THE ATLANTIC CABLE
London, February 23d . . . A tremendous gale prevails on the west coast of England and Wales. The great breakwater at Holyhead, and the massive stone pier, 900 feet long, have been carried away and the lights have disappeared. There are no disasters to shipping reported.
January 6, 1872, Daily Alta California
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Wreck of the Dawn, Bound for San Francisco
London, January 5th. -- The ship Dawn, from Liverpool for San Francisco, was wreckd yesterday off Holyhead. Five of the crew only were saved.
March 18, 1896, San Francisco Call
PERILS OF THE SEA.
One of the British Ship Thistle's Crew Washed Overboad and Drowned.
The British ship Thistle arrived last night from Swansea. She sailed thence on November 9 and her captain reported that on the following day the ship encountered a very heavy gale with a very high cross sea, which went clean over the vessel. Six of the crew were injured and one, John Henry Hardwick, a native of England, aged 22 years, was washed overboard and drowned. The captain put into Holyhead and sailed thence November 21. No particular difficulty was encountered thereafter. The British ship Ardamurchan arrived from Cardiff, having sailed November 8. She reported heavy weather November 10 and 11 with varying winds thereafter.
November 29, 1897, Los Angeles Herald
Work Damage to Shipping off English Coasts
LONDON, Nov. 28.—A heavy northwest gale with terrific hall squalls has done much damage at Holyhead and near Liverpool. Many yachts and small craft have been sunk at their moorings and some buildings have been injured. At Holyhead tugs and a lifeboat rescued with great difficulty the crew of a Nova Scotian bark, which was in danger of running on the rocks. The wreck of Lord Nelson's old flagship, the Foudroyant, supposed to be firmly embedded off Black Pool, has been dashed to pieces. The gale has been general along the English coast, but only a few casualties are reported from the English channel.
At one time Swansea was among the most powerful seaports in the world. The French Normans developed the sea-faring potential of Swansea's natural harbour, and were the first to establish a castle at the mouth of the river Tawe in 1106 and a watchtower at Oystermouth overlooking Swansea Bay from the west. Ship building was established as early as the 14th Century, town walls were built and the rights to hold market was first granted by royal charter from across the border. In 13th century Welsh King Llewellyn ap Gruffydd took Swansea castle in his campaign to force the last of the English invaders out of Wales. Oystermouth Castle was developed as a stronghold with strategic views of western Swansea Bay, however by 1405 both residences needed to be recaptured for the Welsh by Prince Owain Glyndwr - the last Welsh ruler of a true republic of Wales.
Huge reserves of coal, a major component in the development of the industrial revolution, were also discovered and extracted at this time. Swansea's development as a port flourished as the trade to export copper and minerals grew significantly in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Swansea's huge fleet of ships travelled the Cape Horn and the "four corners of the earth", trading in its precious commodities of copper and other metallurgical products. The city had a worldwide reputation as "Copperopolis" or "Copper Kingdom." Swansea produced 60 per cent of the world's copper requirement, at a time when copper demand was equivalent to perhaps aluminium today. This prestige carried a heavy price: sea faring during the time was very hazardous and some men never returned to Swansea Bay.
Swansea also gained a reputation as a high-class seaside resort. During the 18th and early 19th century Swansea developed a fledgling tourist industry, at the time a reserve of only the wealthiest citizens. Swansea's cultural and scenic attributes charmed the gentry and gained itself the name of "Bath by the sea". This title acknowledged the fashionable name of the former Roman city of Bath, a playground for British high society which had coincidentally gained its fashionable reputation from Swansea-born Richard "Beau" Nash, the city of Bath's "master of ceremonies" - perhaps the world's first "spin doctor."
(Editor's Note: www.MuseumWales.ac.uk has a superb list of United Kingdom researchers/archives/museums relating to maritime history for England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.)