The Influence of the Welsh in America
Recognize Welsh Contributions to America on St. David's Day
Everybody knows about the English, the Scots, and the Irish contributions to America, but what about the Welsh people? You really don't hear much about the Welsh, mainly because there's not a huge pool of Welsh in Britain, so therefore there wasn't a lot of them to come over. Also, it seems that the Welsh think it bad form to toot their own horn. However, March 1 is St. David's Day and St. David is the patron saint of Wales, it's a good time to look at the Welsh contribution in American history.
Although few Welsh people crossed the ocean as compared to their British brethren, their influence in America is greater than their numbers. A whole community of Welsh Quakers leaving persecution in Britain, acquired 40,000 acres in Pennsylvania and settled in 1682. Welsh Baptists acquired 30,000 acres of land on the banks of the Delaware River and settled in 1683 with a later wave arriving in 1795. A true Welsh colony was established in Cambria, Pennsylvania around that time. Other Welsh groups settled in the mining towns of Pennsylvania, other mid-Atlantic states and Midwestern states.
Our founding fathers, John Adams,Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams were of Welsh descent. Jefferson's family came from a village near Snowdon. In fact of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 16 were of Welsh descent! A few more of our presidents had Welsh roots, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and Richard Nixon.
In addition to fomenting revolution, Welsh individuals also went on to establish several universities. Elihu Yale, the son of Welsh immigrants, was a major benefactor to the financially struggling Collegiate School of Connecticutt founded in 1701. With Yale's substantial financial contribution, the school flourished and eventually became known as Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Joseph W. Taylor, a Welsh Quaker, was the founder of Bryn Mawr College, one of the first colleges for women in 1885. He named the college after his ancestral home in Wales. Morgan Edwards, a Welsh Baptist, co-founded the college that came to be known as Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1764.
In government, Chief Justice John Marshall, Senator Daniel Webster (of dictionary fame), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (so she says) have Welsh ancestors. Pioneers Daniel Boone and Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clarke Expedition) have Welsh roots; so does Jesse James, the notorious outlaw.
In the world of business, the extraordinarily wealthy banker JP Morgan, multifaceted Howard Hughes, and the giant of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, are Welsh-Americans.
Bet you didn't know that Tom Cruise, had Welsh origins. So do Donny, Marie, and the entire Osmond Clan, Humprey Bogart, Bette Davis, Andy Griffith, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Spacey, and Kelly Clarkson (the first winner of American Idol).
There are many more accomplished Welsh-Americans that are not household names as these mentioned, but as you can see, the influence of the Welsh really do exceed their numbers. So on March 1st, when St. David's Day is being celebrated in Wales, think about pinning a daffodil (a symbol of St. David) to your lapel to recognize the contribution of the Welsh people to America.
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