In the Valley

The Call of Zion: the Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigrants, ed. Ronald D. Dennis (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1987), 65-9.

On 26 October 1849, after 108 days on the trail, the Welsh arrived at their “land of promise.” Eight months had elapsed since they had stretched out their arms for the oranges thrown by their brethren on the Waterloo Dock. One-fourth of the original 326 were now with the main body of the Church and had achieved the goal of all faithful Welsh Mormons.

The first night in the Valley they camped on the northeast of the old Emigration Road, where they were visited by Brigham Young, a familiar face only to Dan Jones. All were excited to be in the presence of the one who had beckoned them there and who now addressed them in a language for which most required interpretation. President Young gave them a warm welcome and requested the mechanics to stay in the city and the farmers to go to a plot of land near the Jordan River about four miles west of the city.

Only seven declared themselves mechanics: John Parry, Caleb and Catherine Parry, William and Eliza Clark, Isaac and Eliza Nash. John and Caleb were stonemasons, William a tinsmith, and Isaac a blacksmith. These all remained at the campground while the others traveled the few remaining miles to receive their parcels of land to farm. To own land had long been the dream of the Welsh, most of whom had been tenant farmers or laborers in Wales. And had they stayed in Wales, it is unlikely that any would ever have become independent landowners. The attraction of actually owning land was so strong as to cause Daniel Leigh, William Lewis, and Daniel Daniels at this point to declare themselves farmers, whereas their occupations in Wales had been joiner, mason, and stonecutter.

Because of the separation of mechanics and farmers, Isaac Nash and his wife were left without a wagon to sleep in. Nash described their first night in the Valley: “About dark that night in began to rain. We were without fire, bedding and food. At ten o’clock a man came to us and wanted to know why we were staying here in the rain. We told him our situation. He suggested that we use a little shanty which he had not far off. It contained a fireplace and we made a fire, cooked some food he gave us, and began to feel comfortable” (9). The hospitable man was Elijah Gifford. By extending assistance to Isaac and Eliza Nash, he was carrying out the instructions which Brigham Young had given to all residents of the Valley—to succor the newcomers.

With the beginning of winter only a short time away, housing became a pressing concern to newly arrived immigrants. Thomas Jeremy and his family lived in their wagon for the first month and then in rented room in the city for four months before they were able to complete construction of a home on South Temple and 6th West. Built with willows and plastered inside and out, the home was called “The Willow Basket.”

Each of the Welsh families received a city lot of one-and-one-fourth acres in addition to some land for farming about four or five miles west of the city. Many of the Welsh built their homes in the same vicinity, and the area was soon called “New Wales.” The land had been mapped out into “blocks,” each of which measured about ten acres. The Welsh occupied the greater part of three of these blocks. Coming from a land of hills and vales, these “sons of Gomer” were no doubt elated to live and farm on the flat lands of the Salt Lake Valley.

In his letter written the following April, Thomas Jeremy joyfully announced that there was plenty of room for thousands of his compatriots to come and settle in “New Wales.” The statistics concerning the fruitfulness of the land offered great encouragement to the Saints in Wales: “Mr. Halliday planted one bushel of wheat, called ‘touse wheat,’ and got from it about 183 bushels; another planted one bushel of potatoes and got 330 bushels. It is said that you can get from barley obtained form California about 100 bushels from planting one. Perhaps this account is too good for some Welsh to believe, but yet, that will not make it any less true” (Udgorn Seion, October 1850, 283, TD19). According to Jeremy, wages in the Valley were considerably higher than in Wales. Laborers were paid $1.50 per day; carpenters received $2.00; mason earned $2.50; and a tailor could earn from $6.00 to $10.00 for making someone a coat. Jeremy reported: “Some of the Welsh brothers here earn from $3 to $4 per day by digging by the job. The Americans are not used to digging. So you see how easy it is to live here” (Udgorn Seion, October 1850, 283, TD19).

Elizabeth Lewis, the benefactress of over one-third of the newly arrived Welsh, also offered encouragement to her fellow Saints in the old country:

Though it [the Salt Lake Valley] is not perfect heaven, nor is everyone in it perfect, yet I am not sorry for having come here, and the evils which were prophesied to me back there about this place and its in habitants have not been fulfilled; and I believe that it is my duty to my Good Lord and His cause to send my witness back, for the sake of those who have not had this experience as I have had, and so they can take heart also to come here. (10 April 1850, 6, TD16).

Sister Lewis compared herself to the Queen of Sheba in that she had not been told “half the good things about this place and its inhabitants.” She wrote of the joy she felt in being able to hear from various Church leaders and to mingle in peace and harmony with other Saints in the Valley.

I have not seen a drunken person in this place or anyone quarrelling with another; I have only heard of someone threatening to take another to court, except that he was too ashamed to be the first on in the place to do that.[1] I have yet to hear an oath or swearing on the street; not one murder or theft that I know of in the place, nor have I seen any immorality. . . . There is no one here begging or any poor here. The men who came here the same time as I did are such freeholders that it is difficult for me to get anyone to work my small farm. (10 April 1850, 7, TD16)

As was the custom, the Welsh were rebaptized after reaching the Valley in order for them “to renew their covenants and seal their faithfulness to the Lord God of Israel” (Jones, 20 November 1849, 2, TD14). Permission was obtained from President Young to establish a Welsh branch of the Church and to hold worship services in the Welsh language. Thomas Jeremy was appointed president of this unique branch with Daniel Daniels and Rice Williams as his counselors. The Welsh branch was the first of several foreign-language branches established in Salt Lake City to accommodate various ethnic groups which settled there.

The 1850 Census shows that the Welsh were in two groups plus a few which were scattered in several places. The greater part of them chose to settle in “New Wales.” Sixty-four of the eighty-four who crossed with the George A. Smith Company were there together until the fall of 1850; at this time fifteen went to settle in Manti; Dan, Jane, and Claudia Jones; Elizabeth Lewis, who by this time had married Dan Jones, and her six children; Rees Thomas and Mary Evans, who were married by them; Sarah Davis; Owen Owens; and little David Davis, orphaned when his mother, Margaret, died on the Missouri.

Isaac Nash and Caleb Parry and their wives were in other parts of Salt Lake City. Many of the others had married and settled with the families of their spouses. Mary Davis, with her marriage to James Switzler, as among the first to marry a non-Welshman. Such marriages undermined the preservation of the Welsh language and culture. Although many children of the Welsh pioneers learned the Welsh language and customs as they grew up, such things became less and less common with each succeeding generation.


[1] Numerous court cases were held in Salt Lake City prior to Elizabeth Lewis’s letter. The “someone” she heard threatening to take another to court could have been Dan Jones. On 22 April 1850, Jones was awarded $239.17 from Edward Williams, a debt which was due Captain Jones, according to Hosea Stout, who was Jones’s lawyer, “for assistance in helping him [Williams] from Wales” (Stout, 2:367). How Jones, after four years as a missionary in Wales, was able to proffer assistance to Williams, and how Williams, a collier before emigrating, obtained the wherewithal after just six months in the Salt Lake Valley to pay the settlement to Jones are certainly legitimate, if not answerable, questions. The fact that Jones married the wealthy Elizabeth Lewis two weeks after arriving in the valley may provide some clarification to the first question. Elizabeth said of Jones in her letter to John Davis: “Capt. Jones . . . has not been the evil man that they prophesied about him. . . . He has not received nor has he tried to get any of my money, and I have not heard that anyone of the company has been the loser of one penny because of him” (10 April 1850, 8, TD16).