Sunday, 6 May 2007

Teulu Williams Ohio Cymreig o Ddowlais / Ohio Welsh Williams Family of Dowlais

Pictured above: Grace Blanche Poorman (nee Lute), Chauncey Lute, and Grandma Charlotte Williams 'Lottie Lute' (26 August 1886-Sept. 1984).

Our Family History: Grandma Lottie’s Mother: Amelia “Minnie” Peacock-Williams, Born 1860 in Staffordshire, England; Died in Youngstown, Ohio, 1956.

Minnie Peacock married William J. Williams, Sr. an Iron Puddler from Dowlais, Wales (the place where iron-working was invented and booming in the early 1800s, near the industrial center of Merthyr Tydfil, in the mountain valleys north of Cardiff, in the Shire of Glamorgan.)

William J. Williams, Sr.’s Mother, Great-great Grandma Williams, was a monoglot Welsh-speaker, and refused to learn to speak English, even after she was settled in Youngstown. This was no problem in the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, as Mahoning County was home to one of the largest Welsh colonies in North America.

Every kind of daily business could be carried on in the language of Welsh in Youngstown, which even had Welsh language newspapers. Welshmen migrating from Wales in the 1800s found similar work to their jobs in Wales, where a majority of them worked in coal mines or iron foundries, and on small farms.

This Youngstown Welsh community retained their language for a couple generations, with the support of cultural events like Welsh Sunday School Song Fests ‘Gymanfa Ganu’ and a regular music and poetry competitions presented at the Youngstown-regional Eisteddfod, which is an ancient annual festival celebrating the 2,500 year old ‘bardic’ tradition in Wales, going back to the 12th century.

The leaders from the Youngstown Eisteddfod Society (which Grandma Lottie belonged to her entire life), were the founders of what has evolved into the annual North American Festival of Wales). Typical Welsh family surnames are still common in Youngstown, including Williams, Evans, Roberts, Price, etc.

The Williams Family arrived in Youngstown, Ohio, from Wales in 1861, at the beginning of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, immigration into the U.S. was suspended, but Abraham Lincoln made an exception, permitting the Welsh to emigrate into America, because he had heard tales of how the Welsh were gifted are iron-making, which could assist the Union war effort against the rebel Confederate South.

At the time that the Williams Family left the village of Dowlais, industrial migrations were not uncommon. But the South Wales area was experiencing an enormous economic boom at the time, and was second only to America in the number of people immigrating into Wales to find work. So

So William J. Williams, Sr. probably didn’t migrate to Ohio because of economic necessity, since Iron ‘Puddlers’ were in demand worldwide at the time, and they commanded good salaries and ‘foundry supervisor’ positions, wherever they chose to work.

It’s possible that the William J. Williams, Sr. Family was also interested in religious freedom, since they were members of the Dissenters, or Non-Conformists Movement, which was condemned and persecuted with established 'tithes' taxes by the official Church of England.

The Dissenters, or Non-Conformists Movement later evolved into Quaker, Baptist, Congregationalist and Presbyterian denominations. Dowlais was also an area where Welsh Nationalism and independence from English rule had its roots. An uprising of workers in nearby Merthyr Tydfil turned bloody in the 1830s when government troops fired on the crowd and killed many people.

Either way, the William J. Williams, Sr. family decided to move to Ohio, knowing full well they were going into a country in the middle of a bloody Civil War.

But why did they leave the familiar ancestral valleys of South Wales (however troubled by political unrest and violence), at the height of its Industrial Age Boom, and trade it for America? It’s possible that the William J. Williams, Sr. family wanted to leave the political and social turmoil in South Wales, so they migrated to the Mahoning Valley, which resembles the topography of the South Wales Valleys, and which allowed them to enjoy economic, religious, and political freedom.

Grandma Lottie is famous for pointing an index finger in the air, and fiercely exhorting her grandchildren to ‘never forget that you’re a Welshman!’ Did this loyalty to the Welsh homeland trace its roots in the Dowlais and Merthyr Tydfil uprisings and Welsh Nationalism, which was somehow communicated to Grandma Lottie as a family and ethnic pride? It seems plausible, if not likely.

Minnie Peacock’s sister: Ada Weaver of North Lima (had two daughters). Minnie Peacock’s brother: Samuel Peacock (he had a daughter, Mrs. Lily Shale, whose son Donald was father to Dr. Richard Shale, Y.S.U. Film Studies professor, and author of popular book on the history of Idora Park.)

Dr. Richard Shale

Minnie Peacock’s sister Mary Ann (two daughters, Hannah & Sadie). Dr. Rick Shale has researched the Peacock Family in England, and traced our lineage to the Dollinger and Batt Families.

Grandma Lottie, her brothers and parents attended the Welsh Congregation Chapel in downtown Youngstown, now the oldest-standing religious structure within the city limits. An African Episcopal Congregation now preserves the church building, restored after a fire, as their fellowship home.

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© 2007 Mark Leslie Woods