by Carolyn B. Berneking
Autumn 1971 (Vol. 37, No. 3), pages 269 to 282
Transcribed by Gordon Reese Morgan; digitized with permission of
the Kansas State Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to footnotes for this text.
THE WELSH towns of Llanfynydd, Corwen, Cyfarthfa, Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Anglesey, and Aberystwyth figuratively became Carbondale, Reading, Burlingame, Arvonia, Lebo, and Emporia in Kansas as natives of Wales settled in this country west of the Mississippi in search of "the land of milk and honey." Wales was not a rich agricultural country and at the beginning of the 19th century there had been a series of bad harvests followed by famine. The dream of owning one's own plot of land might come true in America. Even the miners in South Wales thought they could find riches in the new land. Flowery brochures were printed in Welsh newspapers offering cheap land to the emigrant as illustrated in a Union Pacific railroad advertisement describing the Nebraska-Kansas area as a land where "the gentle Spring and wonderful Summer pour down their blessing from overflowing coffers and only the playing of the red deer and the wonderful singing of the birds break the silence. Wagon roads which reveal the black earth, cross green and verdant slopes where the tall grass of the prairies waves in the breeze." 
Even before the railroad reached the West, people were coming to Kansas. The territory was the geographical center of the internal commerce of the United States and two major trails crossed its boundaries -- the Oregon and the Santa Fe roads. Though some of the early explorers called the territory the "Great American Desert," others saw the land in the spring of the year with its green plains and fresh streams. Reports of surveys for transcontinental railroads helped to eliminate the desert myth and also created interest in the land.  Pioneers were passing through Kansas on their way farther west -- miners, Mormons, settlers, missionaries, fur traders, and adventurers -- even before President Franklin Pierce had signed the Kansas-Nebraska bill,  and emigration societies were formed which brought early settlers to Kansas. 
The first Welshmen came to Emporia in 1857, the year the town was formed by five men from Lawrence.  Land in Kansas at this time was under the PreÎmption act of 1841 which provided that the head of a family, a widow, or a single man over 21 years of age could file a claim for 160 acres of the public domain. The settler was required by this law to erect a dwelling on the claim, make proof of his settlement to the register and receiver at the land office. Then the settler was allowed to purchase the claim, which was usually $1.25 an acre. 
The site for Emporia was an excellent one as it lay in rich fertile land between two rivers, the Neosho and the Cottonwood; and yet the town itself was located beyond the reach of floods. An abundance of timber was available, which was to play an important part in the economic adjustment of the first settlers.  Limestone was abundant; and coal was discovered early in the county. Good sand for building was found along the entire length of the Cottonwood. 
The original town agreement contained rules and regulations which appealed to the Welsh religious and law-abiding nature. One regulation prohibited the making, selling, giving away, or storing of liquor on the townsite. Another rule forbid gambling. Anyone who violated these regulations forfeited his rights to own land on the townsite. 
In 1856 the Rev. George Lewis brought his wife Matilda and their two sons, William and Samuel, from Ohio to Allen creek which is north of Emporia.  Lewis was born in Carmarthen, South Wales, and had held pastorates in Gomer, Ohio, and Old Man's Creek and Long Creek, Iowa, before coming to Emporia. He was fluent in both English and Welsh and wrote glowing accounts of the land which were published in a Welsh magazine in New York called Y Drych. These articles which were read by people in Wales helped to create interest in the new town.
In the summer of 1857, another Welshman, David T. Morris came to Emporia from Missouri and took land by preemption on the Neosho river.  He was a shoemaker and immediately opened a shop in the new town, making and mending shoes and boots for the settlers. One of the first marriages in the county took place on July 20, 1860, between David Morris and Mary Lewis.  >From Wisconsin came Edward Evans, Hugh and David Williams, and Widow Williams who settled on land near the Cottonwood river. They were followed in the fall by William E. Evans, Robert Morris, Ellis Owens, Peter Hughes, John Bennett, and others. 
Edward Evans was born in Mold, Flintshire, in the northeastern corner of Wales, and emigrated to Wisconsin in 1849. From there he came to Emporia and bought land on Dry creek in 1857.  It was in his home that the first formal church services were held in 1958.  In 1861 Edward Evans donated land on his farm to build a church for the Welsh people. This church was to become the root of several Welsh churches later built in the community. The late Edward Rees, who for 24 years was the Republican congressman from the Kansas fourth district, was the grandson of Edward Evans. 
Welsh families took up about 60 claims south of Emporia in the spring of 1858.  By 1860 there were 163 Welsh people in Kansas.  The Emporia News paid tribute to these early Welsh settlers in an editorial written by P. B. Plumb, the editor:
Since then (1857) the number has increased until there is quite a populous settlement in that neighborhood, and their farms bear evidence of a liberal expenditure of labor and profitable cultivation. The whole number of Welsh in the southern portion of this county and the northern part of Madison probably exceeds one hundred -- the adult male portion of whom, nearly to a man, possess good farms. We understand that about twenty families more are expected in this spring. There is plenty of room in the vicinity where their friends have located, and we want to see it fill up with just such a class of people as that referred to. 
Another early settler was Gehiel D. Humphrey who came with his wife, Evelina, and sons, Lucius and Arthur, and bought land on the Neosho river.  He built and operated a saw mill on the Cottonwood and another on the Neosho river near Forest Hill called "Humphrey and Goodwill." By the summer of 1860 the county supported seven saw mills. 
The Welsh people are noted for their love of good music, and are especially good singers. One of these was Daniel Jones who organized the first singing society which later was expanded into the Emporia Choral Society.  Daniel Jones came from South Wales with his wife, Margaret, and their two children, Ann and William, and settled in Newark, Ohio, before coming to Emporia in 1858. 
Edward Bennett Morris was a miner in Wales. He brought his wife, Anna Williams, and six children to America in 1854, following the coal mining industry through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Illinois. In 1858 he settled south of Emporia on Coal creek and later moved into town buying property on Merchant street. One of his sons, D. W. Morris, became a druggist and at his death two of his grandsons, Edward and Warren, took over the family business. It is still operating under the name of Harris Drug Company. 
The settlers were fortunate to have had a mild winter that first year of 1857. Only the industrious and stout hearted had the fortitude to stay under the hardships and misfortunes that were to follow.  The only water supply was from the Cottonwood river and this had to be hauled by wagon. On May 8, 1858, a large water vein was discovered by John Hammond which supplied all the town.  Real damage to crops was done by hordes of grasshoppers in August, 1857.  In the fall of 1860  and again in 1867 there was more crop damage by grasshoppers.  In the late summer of 1860 the cattle suffered from Spanish fever. 
Not only were crops and cattle affected but the people suffered from illness and disease during these first years. One of the diseases was called ague, which brought chills and fever. It was believed to be caused by the wet season.  During the year of the drought, the paper stated that the community had been in very good health that season; no ague had been reported.  Drought itself was another hardship, the severest being in 1860. This drought began in September, 1859,  and the period of inadequate rainfall lasted until October 26, 1860. 
Thomas Evans was only 10 when his family moved from New Cambria, Mo., to Emporia in 1865. Both his parents had been born in Wales. Thomas worked with his father and brothers as a farmer, then worked for the Santa Fe railroad. He was sheriff of Lyon county from 1892 to 1896. In 1900 he married Kate Blair and began farming and raising purebred horses. The farm is still in possession of the family today. 
Griffith Pritchard Jones was born in Caernarvonshire, North Wales, in 1847. In 1852 he came to Remsen, N. Y., where there was a large Welsh settlement. He wanted to go farther west, so he came to Lyon county in the spring of 1869 and worked in a grocery store. A merchant who had recently come from Columbus, Ohio, was opening a clothing store in Emporia and found that a great many of his customers spoke only Welsh. Griffith Jones was hired as a salesman and also interpreter. In 1871 he persuaded a brother, John Cornelius Jones, to come to Emporia and the two of them went into the men's clothing business, opening the G. P. Jones and Company store. In 1886 Griffith Jones bought 480 acres of school land on which to raise cattle. 
In 1869 a Welshman named Lewis Lewis left his homeland because his doctor told him he had tuberculosis and could not live in that climate. Accompanied by his brother, he came to America, emigrating to St. Paul, Minn. Both of them joined a group who were coming to Kansas. In Wales Lewis had been a building contractor, so he continued in that profession in Emporia, working for the Santa Fe railroad. He married Margaret Williams and they had seven children. The majority of the Welsh shared common surnames such as, Jones, Thomas, Evans, Davies, Edwards, Williams, Roberts, and Griffiths. As a result the identification of any one John Jones or Lewis Lewis was virtually impossible and so for purposes of identification many took a middle initial or were known as "Tailor" Jones, "Foundry" Jones, "Cattleman" Jones, or Jones "Lebo," Jones "Reading" and Jones "Dry Creek." Lewis Lewis took his wife's maiden name to furnish his middle initial. 
Many Welshmen came to Emporia in the 1870's to work for Lewis W. Lewis. One of these was Griffith Roberts who came to work in the stone quarries. His son was Evan Joe Roberts who worked in a harness shop. Today that harness shop has become Roberts Leather Goods, and is owned by the grandson of Griffith Roberts, Evan W. Roberts. 
By 1870 there were 600 Welsh settlers in the Emporia area; 400 in Arvonia, 100 in Reading, 100 in Carbondale, 50 in Burlingame, and 1,750 in all of Kansas.  By the 1900 census there were 5,728 Welsh in Kansas. 
Kansas is a splendid place for a man who has got £200 [two hundred pounds], to come out and buy a farm. He can get land at $1.50 per acre and as good as there is in the Vale of Towey, after being cultivated. It doesn't require any manure at all. I have seen land from which the twentieth crop in succession is taken out of it this year and it seems as good as ever. Some men I know here keep three or four hundred head of cattle, and they have not a yard of land of their own, and don't pay a cent for grass. . . . The grass in many parts is as high as my head. All the cattle are fat and they are kept out the whole winter. . . .
What enticed me to Kansas was to get a little land but by now the amount of land I expect to get is six feet by two feet. . . . After a man gets a farm of one hundred acres what is it worth to him? Not half as much as one acre within six to ten miles of Manchester. For example, there are Welshmen in the neighborhood of Emporia who have been settled here about ten years and own about 160 acres of the best land in Kansas. Elsewhere the Welsh have bought very poor land from the land sharks. Those who have lived here ten years look more like Indians than Welshmen. They have not been able in ten years to save enough money to build a house of any kind. They live in holes in the ground something like the potato-caches that you see in Wales. The sight of them is enough to put anyone off who is thinking of farming in America. The truth is that the land in Kansas is expensive for nothing. . . . The government gives twenty miles of land to the railroad companies on either side of the line and of course everyone in these new states wants to be as near to the iron road as they can and when a new railroad is being built the land sharks buy up the land straightaway from the company. And remember that the Yankees here are sharp and they always pick the best and they can perhaps put down the money. And then along came the Welsh and they have what is left and with perhaps ten years to pay for it and having bought it perhaps quite cheaply. The next task will be to entice the simple Welshman to buy land from them which belongs to the railroad company. . . . They [the land sharks] are there by the hundreds picking the best land for about two dollars and selling it again for perhaps fifty dollars. Many would think from the papers in the Old Country that all you have to do is to come to a state and settle there, that the land is to be had for practically nothing, but this is completely wrong. There is plenty of land in every state hardly even touched. You would think that it belonged to no one but try to get a bit of it and you straightaway find that it belongs to a land shark and it is the same all over the country. . . . " 
Though some were not satisfied, the large part of the Welsh population enjoyed their new life. A few missed their homeland and returned there after several years in Emporia. William Rees emigrated from Glyngwilyn, South Wales, to Emporia in 1871. One of his sons, Llewellyn, returned to Wales in 1886 to marry and bring his wife back to Kansas. But she missed her native land in this strange country, and in 1893 Llewellyn Rees returned to Wales with his family only to return to Emporia in 1901. Today the fifth generation is still farming on the same land bought by William Rees in 1871. 
Around town among men he was known as "Dr. Dave," to distinguish him from "Dr. John," the dentist, his brother and young "Dr. Phil," his nephew, all Morgans of the same breed, all children and grandchildren of the Welsh settlers who came to Lyon, Osage and Coffey counties in the 60's, 70's and who made this the largest Welsh settlement in the Western Mississippi Valley. In these parts these Welsh citizens took leadership. For sixty years, the Welsh had pretty much their own way commercially in this town. They dominated the clothing trade, the hardware trade and led in drugs and groceries. The second and third generations have gone into professions. Teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors of Welsh blood stand well toward the top in these callings. . . ." 
The preceding paragraph seemed to indicate the eminence of the Welsh people in industry, business, and professions. They were also successful land holders which was their primary reason for coming to Kansas. An accompanying map shows Welsh land holdings as of 1940. 
A most important part of those early Welsh settlers' lives was their religion. On March 21, 1858, a meeting of all denominations was scheduled in Emporia to express convictions in relation to the strict observance of the Sabbath.  >From the time Edward Evans gave a piece of his land for the building of the little log church called Union church, the Welsh churches grew in number. After Union church came the Chamness school house where worship services were held from 1868 to 1872.  The following report is from the county superintendent of schools on November 15, 1867:
District No. 24, WELSH NEIGHBORHOOD. -- With the exception of two or three families, the settlers are all of Welsh origin. Our Cambrian friends are determined not to be one whit behind their Anglo-Saxon neighbors in every good work. Their first care, after securing homes, was for a church, and the little chapel has been their school house. With an increase of wealth, arrangements have been made for the erection of a good stone school house which will be built the present season. 
In October, 1862, a Bible association was organized which is still in existence today under the name of the Welsh Auxiliary of the American Bible Society. There were four members elected to membership at that first meeting: R. D. Thomas, T. H. Thomas, David M. Morgan, and Edward Morris. It was a custom to rotate the meeting place so that each church might have an opportunity to serve as host. 
On Wednesday last, the Congregational church of this place, a council . . . was convened with a view to the organization of a Welsh Congregational church, which resulted in the formation of a vigorous society of twenty-seven members, most of whom reside in this village. . . . The Welsh in this vicinity are both an exceedingly industrious and also a religious people, bringing their principles with them from the mountains and the mines of the fatherland, and constitute a very valuable element in our community. . . . While most of them mingle freely with the Americans and are able to communicate upon common topics, yet the Welsh is their devotional language. They must pray in Welsh. There are a large number of Welsh communities in this country, from which have arisen many eminent men, that are doing a great and good work in the world. It is believed that the community in this place is ahead of any other colony in their westward march. 
Once a month these Welsh churches had a sermon in English so that those who did not know Welsh might understand. They felt it was more important to teach the Gospel than to teach the Welsh language. The change from Welsh to English took place gradually. 
The Salem Presbyterian church, south of Emporia, was organized in 1869 by the Rev. R M. Overstreet with 18 members.  Their first minister, the Rev. John Jones, was born in Wales. His father, Daniel Jones, was also a minister in the Presbyterian church. John was married in 1862 to Katherine Morris and emigrated to Middle Granville, N. Y., where they stayed for six years. Then the family came to the Salem Presbyterian church in April, 1870. Later they moved to Emporia and the Rev. Mr. Jones organized a Welsh Presbyterian church, which pastorate he held for 31 years.  This Second Presbyterian church of Emporia was formed in 1871. An editorial concerning the dedication of the manse of the Second Presbyterian church was written by William Allen White for the Gazette entitled "The Welsh People":
In the news columns of the Gazette today will be found the story of the dedication of the manse of the Second Presbyterian church. This church is composed largely of members who are of Welsh birth or inheritance. It is characteristic of that people that the manse is dedicated absolutely free of debt. . . . The Welsh people of this community have lived here for over a generation. They have been the best single strain of blood in our Emporia life. They have Americanized, but have retained their strong qualities of thrift, of honesty, of industry, of deep moral qualities. Also they are the basis of the best artistic feeling in the community. More than the Americans of several generations, these newer Americans have the sense that money is not all of life, that there is something better than hard cash, and they have given Emporia much of its best tone, its steady-going homely purpose and its wholesome details.
The Sardis Congregational Church had its beginning also in the log cabin built on Edward Evans' farm. November 23, 1947, marked its 75th anniversary church service when over 70 descendants of the 60 or more members listed in the treasurer's record for 1871 responded to the roll call of those names. 
Perhaps the greatest contribution the Welsh have given to Emporia is their love of good music, especially good singing. It was natural they would bring their festivals and folk songs with them when they came to this country.
One of the first Welsh concerts given in Emporia was held in December, 1875.  It was around this period that the Eisteddfodau were also held.  This is an old Welsh music festival beginnings of which are shrouded in antiquity. Eisteddfodau means literally a sitting or session, and it is still observed today in Wales as the most important musical event of the year. Competitors come from many nations to participate in the International Eisteddfodau, which has grown in prestige over the years until it is now recognized as one of the great musical fetes of Great Britain. 
The contests were both musical and literary, but the most important part was the music. There were vocal solos, sight-reading contests, and chorus singing. The chorus members worked for months on their selections and each person had to have his or her voice tested and be able to read music well. In addition to the choruses there were original compositions, essays, poetry, and readings. Each contest usually lasted for two days. Music critics called "adjudicators" were brought from some large city to judge these contests. 
Singing schools were organized when the first church services began. These were important affairs socially. Daniel R. Jones was the first singing leader.  The Welsh also had their spring music festivals which were competitive song fests. With the establishment of a music school at the Emporia Normal School in 1908, these contests became the first competition of their kind in the United States. 
Since religion played such an important part in the lives of the Welsh immigrants, the various church organizations formed their strongest type of society or association. The cultural organizations within these associations were the most prevalent. One of these organizations was called St. David's Society, and its most important feature was to observe the anniversary of St. David, the patron saint of the Welsh, on March first of each year by special services in the various churches. The St. David Society of Lyon county, one of the oldest Welsh societies in the United States,  has held concerts every year since 1888.  Hymns and anthems are still being sung in the Welsh language at these events. 
The Welsh national holiday was seldom celebrated with so much energy and enthusiasm as in the Second Congregational church last evening. . . .The chorus, which rendered several choice selections during the evening, showed careful training, which reflects great credit on its conductor, Mr. H. T. Rees. Prof. Rhys-Herbert and Mr. William Rees were the accompanists for the evening and deserve special mention for the efficiency of their work. 
One of the first Welsh newspapers in the West was first published in Emporia in 1883 by Edwin C. Jones, later a prominent printer for the Government Printing Office. Called Y Columbia, it was the first bi-lingual Welsh-American newspaper and the first to recognize the increasingly important place English was assuming in the life of the Welsh American communities. Later the paper was moved to Chicago where it helped to sponsor the World's Fair Eisteddfodau in 1893. It merged with Y Drych in 1894. 
The economic contributions of the Welsh people has been referred to indirectly in several instances, but perhaps the outstanding example is the case of the Jones Charitable Trust Fund. This trust may provide medical and educational assistance to qualified persons under the age of 21 who are residents of either Coffey, Lyon, or Osage county.  It was established by Walter S., Evan C., and Olive T. Jones who left the bulk of their estate for charitable purposes. At present the fund's total worth is estimated at between six and eight million dollars. Annual income nears a quarter-million. 
Walter and Evan were the youngest sons of J. D. W. Jones, a Welshman who was brought to the United States by his parents and settled in Ohio. Here he grew up and married Margaret Griffiths, a member of another Welsh family from Cincinnati, Ohio. J. D. W. decided to come west to Kansas where he believed there would be greater opportunities for his family. They settled near Emporia where J. D. W. began to succeed as a cattleman. He became known as "Cattleman" Jones for the large number of cattle he raised and shipped to market.
As his name became known in the cattle business, J. D. W. and his older sons went to Kansas City and engaged in the commission business. This move left the younger sons, Walter and Evan, to carry on with the cattle operations in Kansas. Walter married Olive Taylor and together with the brother Evan, they formed a rather formidable partnership, each one an important part of the operation which could not have succeeded without the others. 
The Welsh came to Emporia to establish new homes and to
raise families. In doing so they put down roots that were to
last. This paper has been concerned with a relatively few of
these fine people, but they have been representative of many
others, all making substantial contributions in the various
cultural aspects of society.
LYON COUNTY LANDHOLDINGS ABOUT 1940
(Explanation of Numbered Landmarks)
Reproduced from J. Neale Carman's monumental work, Foreign-Language Units of Kansas, Historical Atlas and Statistics (Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1962), pp. 186, 187.
The front-page banner from Columbia, December 11, 1890, which reported itself "The ONLY Welsh and English Newspaper in the Country." The paper was published in Emporia for several years.