Chapter 31
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Welsh in the New World

During the early part of the 18th century, the Welsh language was a major tongue in the streets of Philadelphia, many of whose streets were laid out by such as Thomas Wynn of Caerwys, North Wales, personal physician to William Penn (his house Wynnewood remains standing, the first stone-built house in the state). Large tracts of land to the north and west of the city were given Welsh names: Uwchlyn, Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, Llanerch, Merion, St. David's, North Wales, Gwynedd, Treddyffryn, and so on -- all of which remain today in an area called "Main Line."

At the same time Welsh Anglicans were becoming prominent in Philadelphia. The Welsh Society of Philadelphia was begun in 1729, and thus it is the oldest ethnic society of its kind in the US. Since its founding, it has provided many men of distinction throughout the ensuing centuries, making their influence felt in politics, agriculture, and the administration of justice, as well as in industry, particularly mining and the manufacturing of iron and steel.

On a plaque mounted on the east facade of the imposing City Hall in Philadelphia, the following inscription is seen:
Perpetuating the Welsh heritage, and commemorating the vision and virtue of the following Welsh patriots in the founding of the City, Commonwealth, and Nation William Penn, 1644-1718, proclaimed freedom of religion and planned New Wales, later named Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, third President of the United States, composed the Declaration of Independence. Robert Morris, 1734-1806, foremost financier of the American Revolution and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816, wrote the final draft of the Constitution of the United States. John Marshall, 1755-1835, Chief Justice of the United States and father of American constitutional law.
According to the Welsh Society of Philadelphia, 16 signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent: George Clymer, Stephen Hopkins, Robert Morris, William Floyd, Francis Hopkinson, John Morton, Britton Gwinnett, Thomas Jefferson, John Penn, George Read, John Hewes, Francis Lewis, James Smith, Williams Hooper, Lewis Morris, and William Williams.

In addition to President Thomas Jefferson (whose autobiography tells that his family emigrated from a place "at the foot of Snowdon" in North Wales), there were many more leading citizens with at least some Welsh in their family trees who played instrumental parts in the founding of the new nation, including Presidents James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge and Richard Nixon as well as Vice President Hubert Humphrey. President Jefferson Davies of the Confederacy could also claim some Welsh blood.

We should also mention General Morgan Lewis, quarter-master general of the US Army and governor and chief justice of New York; Thomas Cadwallader, co-founder of the Philadelphia Library; Joshua Humphries, builder of the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, John Morgan, Physician-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Army and founder of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Robert Wharton, Mayer of Philadelphia for 15 terms beginning in the late 1700's; and a host of others prominent in the founding of Harvard, Yale, and Brown Universities.

Chapter 31 Continued
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