GENUKI Home page up Cardiganshire Contents Contents

 

THE OLIVERS OF CARDIGANSHIRE
1778-1993
THEIR DESCENDANTS IN WALES, ENGLAND AND NORTH AMERICA
AND
SOME OF THEIR RELATED WELSH FAMILIES

COMPILED, WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED
BY EDWARD T. PORTER
WITH THE SUPPORT AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF MANY
FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THIS FAMILY'S HERITAGE

Copyright 1993

Ed Porter has very kindly permitted Genuki to make these partial but nevertheless extensive extracts from the CD of his most impressive book.
Owing to space limitations the enormous wealth of data relating to particular families has not been extracted, neither have the many photographs, sketches and maps (some of which are referred to in the extracted text - similar parish and hundred maps can be viewed from the main Genuki Cardiganshire page.)

Although these limited extracts cannot remotely do justice to the complete book/CD, if anyone needs inspiration on how to set about researching and publishing family and local history, then look no further.


Table of Contents

Return to top

Title Page
Table of contents             iv
Illustrations             vi
Forward             viii
Glossaries and Useful Information             ix
Dedication             xiii

Introduction                     1

CHAPTER 1             51

CHAPTER 2             66

CHAPTER 3             87

CHAPTER 4             104

CHAPTER 5             125

CHAPTER 6             145

CHAPTER 7             176

CHAPTER 8             208

CHAPTER 9             227


APPENDICES

Return to top

Appendix A. - Oliver Related Families- Richard of Pantgwyn's Wife             232

Appendix B. - Oliver Related Families- John Oliver Line             240

Appendix C.- Oliver Related Families- Sarah Oliver Line             263

Appendix D. - Oliver Related Families- Richard Oliver Line             276

Appendix E. - Oliver Related Families- William Oliver Line             281

Appendix F. - Oliver Related Families- Lewis Oliver Line             371

Appendix G. - The Olivers of Cwmystwyth             389

Appendix H. - Richard Oliver of Dolaugleision             422

Appendix I. - The Olivers of Caron             430

Appendix J. - Robert Oliver of Genesee Depot             440

Appendix K. - The Evans of Caron             446

Appendix L. - Other Possible Relatives in Wales             449

Appendix M. - The Felix Family of Genesee Depot             456

Appendix N. - Late Entries             466

Acknowledgements             469

References

Indices


Illustrations

Return to top

These illustrations were drawn by the author in order to avoid the high cost of photographs and make this book more affordable. The process of scanning the photograph and then preparing sketches from them was employed. The maps were made with a standard drawing program available for computer users.
With respect to photographs of individuals, I made the decision early to avoid the expense and the selection of likenesses from so many family albums. One would doubtless have left some groups dissatisfied, so to maintain as even a representation for each family we have left them out entirely.

1. Flags of U. K., Wales, U.S. and Canada ii

2. The United Kingdom showing Wales - map 2

3. Aberystwyth Castle - sketch 3

4. Welsh Counties of Wales - map 4

5. English Counties of Wales - map 4

6. County Dyfed and The Teifi Valley - map 5

7. The Arch near Cwmystwyth - sketch 5

8. Devil's Bridge - sketch 6

9. The Lead Mines of Central Cardigan - map 8

10. The Cross Inn at Ffairrhos - sketch 9

11. The Welsh Daffodil - sketch 10

12. The Welsh Leek - sketch 10

13. The Welsh Red Lion - sketch 10

14. The Welsh Harp 10

15. St. David's Cathedral -sketch 12

16. Parishes of the Ilar Hundreds - map 13

17. Cardigan Hundreds - map 13

18. Some Cardiganshire Parishes - sketch 14

19. Strata Florida Abbey and Church Plan-Sketch 15

20. Strata Florida Abbey Arch - sketch 16

21. Strata Florida in 1740 - sketch 16

22. Newer Strata Florida Parish Church - sketch 17

23. Ancient Cross at Strata Florida - sketch 17

24. Tregaron Parish Church- Sketch 18

25. Gwnnws Parish Church - sketch 19

26. Celtic Cross at Gwnnws Church - sketch 19

27. Gwnnws Church Font - sketch 20

28. Gwnnws Parish - map 20

29. Lledrod Parish Church-sketch 21

30. Ysbyty Ystwyth Parish - map 22

31. The old Parish Church at Ysbyty Ystwyth 22

32. The Newer Ysbyty Ystwyth Parish Church 22

33. Ystrad Meurig Parish Church- sketch 23

34. Llanafan Parish Church - sketch 23, 372

35. Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn Church - sketch 24, 61

36. Eglwys Newydd Chapelry - sketch 24, 260, 391

37. Ancient Urn at Hafod Church - sketch 25

38. Llanbadarnfawr Parish Church- sketch 25

39. Ysbyty Cynfyn Chapelry - sketch 26, 372

40. Original Penuel Chapel at Pontrhydfendigaid 27

41. Penuel Chapel #2 at Pontrhydfendigaid 27

42. Caer Salem C.M. Chapel - sketch 27

43. Unidentified Chapel - Ffairrhos 28

44. Maenachlogfawr C.M. Chapel - sketch 28

45. First Cwmystwyth Chapel - sketch 29, 261, 394

46. Second Cwmystwyth Chapel - sketch29, 262, 396

47. Maesglas C.M. Chapel - sketch 30

48. Ruins at Pantgwyn - sketch 31

49. Pantgwyn from the East-sketch 32

50. Pantgwyn as it may have looked-sketch 32

51. Pantgwyn Plan Drawing- sketch 33

52. Pantgwyn looking West - sketch 34

53. Pantgwyn property - map 34

54. Wickerwork Fireplace 35

55. Ruins at Cwmgwyddil - sketch 40

56. Blaenpentre - sketch 40

57. Blaenpentre property - map 41

58. A Ewe at Blaenpentre - sketch 41

59. Hafodgau - sketch 42

60. Hafod-gau property - map 42

61. Nantyrheol - sketch 43

62. Nantyrheol property - map 43

63. Nantyberws - sketch 43

64. Nantryberws drawing 43

65. Black Lion, Ysbyty site of Nantyberws 44

66. Nantyberws property - map 44

67. Llwynllwyd- sketch 45, 278

68. Tynypontbren.-.sketch 45

69. Tynypontbren property - map 45

70. Ochrderigaron - sketch 46

71. Ochrderigaron property - map 47

72. Blaenyresgair - sketch 48

73. Blaenyresgair property - map 48

74. Gwarrhos - sketch 49

75. Gwarrhos property - map 49

76. Oliver home summary - map 50

77. Nests of Olivers in Cardiganshire - map 53

78. Richard Oliver I lineage- chart 59

79. Welsh routes to America - map 67

80. Sailing Ship to America 67

81. Wisconsin - map 68

82. Waukesha Co., Genesee and Ottawa Twsps. 69

83. America as it was when the Welsh arrived 71

84. Downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin - map 73

85. William Oliver's Wales - map 76

86. William Oliver's property in Genesee Twsp. 77

87. William Oliver's House in Genesee Twsp. 79

88. Lewis Oliver's Wales- map 81

89. Lewis Oliver residences in Wauk. Co. - map 82

90. Lewis Oliver's property in Dodgeville, -map84

91. Lewis Oliver's Home in Dodgeville, WI 85

92. Comparison of Area- Wisconsin and Wales 86

93. Minnesota - map 88

94. Michigan - map 89

95. Nebraska - map 89

96. South Dakota - map 90

97. Western Canada - map 91

98. The John D. Jones Relationship-chart 99

99. Washington - map 105

100. Oregon - map 106

101. Evans Family in Gwnnws- chart 232

102. Evans Family Ffairrhos-map 233

103. John Oliver related lineage - chart 239

104. Tynyglog, near Cwmystwyth - sketch255, 392

105. Dderw - sketch 251

106. Sarah Oliver related lineage - chart 263

107. Map of Wales - Sarah Oliver's family ties268

108. Richard Oliver related lineage - chart 276

109. William Oliver related lineage - chart 281

110. Detail of Lledrod Parish, Cardiganshire 282

111. Wales map showing Brecon 286

112. Blaengwenwst tithe map 287

113. Evans home locations- map 288

114. Fronwen House - sketch 289

115. Breconshire and surroundings- map 290

116. Fronwen from a distance- sketch 291

117. Fronwen tithe and property map 292

118. Gilwern house -sketch of front 293

119. Gilwern tithe and property map 294

120. Gilwern -end view - sketch 294

121. Brecon,Carmarthen and Radnor- map 295

122. Ohio map 296

123. Wales map showing Carmarthenshire 356

124. Detail Carmarthen - map 377

125. Tynybaily tithe and property map 357

126. Some So. Wales parishes - map 358

127. Two Carmarthen Hundreds- Baptists 359

128. Wales map showing Anglesey 367

129. Bethania Chapel - sketch 368

130. Lewis Oliver related lineage - chart 371

131. Llansantfraid Cwm Deuddwr Ch. -sketch 373

132. Ponterwyd Chapel - sketch 373

133. Ruins at Claerwen, Radnorshire - sketch 374

134. Claerwen as seen today- sketch 374

135. Radnorshire and Surroundings - map 375

136. Wales showing Caernarfon and Denbigh 383

137. Eisteddfa, in Caernarvon - sketch 384

138. Pwllheli Church - sketch 384

139. Denbigh, Denbighshire Church - sketch 385

140. Pwllheli and Eisteddfa - map 385

141. Denbighshire - Llannefydd, Henllan 386
        and Denbigh - map

142. Henllan Church, Denbighshire - sketch 387

143. Llannefydd Church, Denbighshire - sketch 387

144. Olivers of Cwmystwyth Area - map 390

145. Unident. Cottage by Tynyglog - sketch 393

146. Oliver Locations in Caron - map 432

147. Robert Oliver lineage - chart 440

148. Wales showing Rob't. Oliver's Area - map441

149. Evans Family of Gwnnws- Chart 446

 

 

Forward

Return to top

When I decided to learn more about the ancestry of my grandfather, Richard G. Oliver, he had died and our mother was the only logical source of information available. She knew that her father had been born in Dodgeville, Wisconsin in 1865. Her grandfather, another Richard Oliver, had been born in Wales, had served the Union Army during the Civil War and had died at Stickney, South Dakota. She also knew that her grandmother's given name was Beneth and that she, too, was born in Wales and had died in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1920. From where in Wales that these ancestors came was a mystery. Our search for the answer has been a successful and rewarding experience.

On requesting a marriage certificate from the Iowa County, Wisconsin Courthouse, I received a copy of Iowa County Marriage Registration number 393, recorded on 20 August, 1863. From it I learned that Richard Oliver, son of Lewis and Mary Oliver, had married Beneth Jones, daughter of Hugh and Mary Jones, on 10 August, 1863 at Dodgeville, Iowa Co., Wisconsin. Richard Oliver's occupation was listed as a lead miner, whose birthplace was Cardiganshire, Wales.

Armed with the Cardiganshire location, I wrote to the National Library of Wales inquiring about a birth certificate for this Richard Oliver. The response contained not only his baptismal entry in the parish of Gwnnws, Dyfed (old and current name for Cardigan) but also a copy of the census of 1841 for a house called "Pantgwyn" and an address for obtaining the actual birth certificate. The librarian had been kind enough to add a few enlightening comments about where the house "Pantgwyn" might be found, if it still existed, and a bit of history about the lead mine nearest the home.

Thus began a fascinating study that has involved years of research, massive correspondence, visits to Wisconsin libraries, finding distant interested relatives (including some in Wales), all of it culminating in two delightful journeys to Wales, and a week's visit to Waukesha and Iowa Counties in Wisconsin.

The foregoing is included here to lend credence to all that follows in this manuscript. What follows will, as it develops, show the results of my curiosity and insatiable desire to present true historical data with respect to this Oliver family.

Times and customs have changed dramatically during the time this work has been compiled. Laws have been created to protect the rights of individuals to certain privacies, i.e. illegitimacies, failed marriages, etc. In this manuscript we have attempted to honor these rights where those providing the information have so requested. It is therefore evident that some specific data has been omitted. We apologize here for any embarrassment or ill-will that might occur from any errors in our judgement in displaying the data as it was intended to be presented.

In attempting to provide such a wide scope of this lineage, many individuals contacted did not respond to our inquiries. Unfortunately this has limited our knowledge and, thus, several names are missing. I further regret any simple errors made in the presentation of names and dates. Much of this information has been transferred several times from the original data which was received. Some of the biographies have been written and edited by the individual himself or herself and are included just as written. Even some of the Welsh records have been found to be incorrect due to spellings and patronymic interpretations.

One is never finished with research and interest in genealogy. I shall continue to search for the missing ancestors and would appreciate receiving any information that is not contained in the pages that follow.

There is a genuine joy in studying the roots of a family tree, the greatest of which is the meeting and corresponding with family members. Some of these are new-found distant relatives, others are close relatives one has never truly known. I have discovered a treasury of superb individuals, who collectively, have enriched my life immeasurably.

Dedication

This work has been a labor of love and a delightful fulfillment of a rewarding avocation. It is with pleasure that I dedicate this book to the memory of my dear mother, Estella May (Oliver) Porter (1903-1992), and also to my Welsh grandfather, Richard G. Oliver (1865-1947), who was a descendant of Lewis Oliver, an immigrant from Cardiganshire, Wales in 1849. It is also my desire to grant dedication status to the parents and grandparents of the many descendants who have unselfishly contributed to the fruition of this lengthy documentation of our family's history.


 Historical Wales

Return to top

A Little Welsh History

Sometime in the Bronze Age the Celts came to Wales. Prior to that time Wales was inhabited by Iberians from the southwest of Europe. In 43 A.D. the Romans began their occupation of the country.

Though it was under the dominance of the Empire, Wales never became as Romanized as much as was the rest of England. Thus the Welsh language was retained. In the early Roman Period Wales was known as "Britannia Secundia,"while England was Britannia Prima.

Christianity began in Wales in the year 383. The conversion of Wales is attributed to Dewi (or later St. David-Dewi Sant) who died about 588. He was the first Bishop of Pembroke, which later became the seat of the Diocese of St. David, of which Cardigan was a part.

When the Romans abandoned Britain in the third century, wars between the two principal language groups, the Britons and the Gaels, ensued. The Welsh lost many battles until they were confined to the mountainous areas bounded by Offa's Dyke. In the years between 1039 and 1063 Gruffydd ap Llewelyn (Llewelyn the Great) unified all of Wales into one nation, but in 1066 William The Conqueror had won the Battle of Hastings and set up earldoms at Shrewsbury and Hereford to encourage local English control over the Welsh.

In the year 1093 the leader Rhys ap Tewdwr was murdered and the Normans began their movement into Wales. From 1155 to 1197 Rhys ap Gruffydd, the leading Welsh Prince, was the master of Wales. The death of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282 dated the end of Welsh rule. Llewelyn had, with his family ruled all of that part of Wales which today is Anglesey, Caernarvon, Denbigh, Montgomery, Cardigan, Radnor, and Brecon. After his death, his brother and heir, married an English princess ending the traditionof Welsh brides for Welsh royalty and gained the favor of the English king. This gave the Welsh leadership over to Gruffydd instead of David who was Llewelyn's choice of a successor. In 1301, Edward I of England named his own son (later Edward II) Prince of Wales. King Henry VII (Henry Tudor) was the first truly Welsh blooded king of England. Had his grandfather, Owen Tudor, used the Welsh patronymic style, Queen Elizabeth I would have been a Meredith, not a Tudor, since Owen's father was Meredith Tudor.

In 1400 Owain Glyndwr had proclaimed himself Prince of Wales and his death in 1416 had an adverse effect on society. He lies buried at the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary's at Strata Florida (Ystrad Fflur in Welsh) in the heart of Cardiganshire.

The Acts of Union in 1536 and 1542 incorporating Wales into England, with the use of English common law, land tenure and the English language, were consumated.

The first independent church in Wales was formed in 1616 at Llanfaches. Literacy in Wales began with circulating schools in 1739. The Calvinistic Methodist (Welsh Presbyterian) movement became strong and the break from the Established Church of England came in the year 1811. Up to that date, the Methodists and the Anglicans worshipped together recognizing and tolerating their differences. Meanwhile the Baptists were growing in number in South Wales and Anglesey. Persecution and widely varying interpretations of the Bible caused the break. During these years there were English military excursions into the mining regions to quell riots and labor unrest.

It is our belief that the exodus of our Welsh to America was a result of many of these factors coupled with the promise of a new life. British law was especially harsh on Nonconformists, denying them ownership of land.

Cardigan County

Cardigan was that area known as Ceredigion (land of "Ceredig", a personal name) before the name was Anglicized. It was perhaps the most Welsh of all of the ancient and modern counties. Even today, the vestages of the old ways exist. Much of the land is barren, having been deforested for use in the mining industry for fuel.

However, the mountainous areas still timbered are most beautiful and picturesque. The seashore areas such as Aberystwyth are typical of oceanside resorts anywhere with the exception that the ruins of the fortress still remain to add a certain haunting presence of the past.

By the year 1267 Wales was divided into areas held by the feudal lords, the largest of the areas were : Gwynedd, held by Llewelyn, and Ceredigion, Powys Wenwynwyn and Powys Fadog; Glamorgan, the Territories of Clare; The Bishopric of St. Davids (Pembroke) and Cardiff; and Territories of the Crown.

After the English conquest, the counties were given English names (see the maps) by legislation in 1536 and 1543. These thirteen shires remained the same until 1974 when Wales was again reorganized into eight counties with the old Welsh names.

In 1756 Lewis Morris, a man of substance ("kept the Leet Court in 1746") wrote a treatise, "A History or the Crown Manor of Mevenyth," which reveals some fascinating insights into the history and the origin of names of this county in Wales. For the sake of accuracy,

I shall quote some of his comments as best I can read his handwriting.

"Of the ancient and modern names of Cardiganshire ---Cardiganshire is a modern English name which this county hath taken from the Town of Cardigan, which is called in Welsh Aberteivi. The ancient British name of this county was Keredigion, from whence Cardigan, and by old Latin writers it is called Ceretica, which name was given it by one Caretic (in Latin, Ceritius) son of Cunedda roledig, about the year 490. This Cunedda roledig, called by Latin written Cunedagin, was a Prince in the Northern part of Britain, about Argile, who with his sons, upon the Irish Picts pressing on those countrys, possessed themselves of some parts of Wales, some by marriage, some by inheritance, and whose names remain on some of those countys to this day."-----

"Of the ancient division of the county into Centress and Commons ------ This county in the time of the Welsh Princes was divided into four Centreds, as the English call them, but rightly Centress, i.e. a Hundred townships.
Each of these Centress were subdivided into Commons.
The word Common is of Welsh original and in that Language wrote Cwmmwd from whence comes Cymydog, a neighbor. The division was thus :
Centres Penwedig, Centres Canawl, Centres Castell, Centres Lyrwen.

Penwedig contained Cwmmwd Genau'r Glyn, Cwmmwd y Perveth, and Cwmmwd y Creuthyn

Canawl contained Cwmmwd Mevenyth, Cwmmwd Anhunoe, and Cwmmwd Pennarth

Castell contained Cwmmwd Mabwynion, and Cwmmwd Caerwedros

Lyrwen contained Cwmmwd Gwinionydd and Cwmmwd Iscoed------

Persuant to an Act of Parliament Cardiganwas divided into five hundreds :Llanbadarnvawr, Ilar, Moethyn, Pennarth and Tredryr. Our interest lies mostly in Ilar.

"------- Within Ilar lies the king's mannor of Mevenyth, and the courts of the mannor are usually kept in the king's name at the village of Llanilar."

"------- Of the situation and extent of Mevenyth and the power of the court ---- The Mannor or Lordship of Mevenyth lies adjoining on the South side of the river Ystwyth, which by Ptolomy called Stuccia; which divides it from another Mannor of the Crown called Creuthyn. On the South side of it lies the Lordship of Tregaron, belonging to Wm. Powell, and on the southwest. This mannor extends from the sea (near the town of Aberystwyth) to Radnorshire near Brecknockshire, being the whole breadth of county of Cardigan, from 15 to 20 miles, taking in that extent no less than 8 parishes. Lanchaiarn, Llanrhystyd Mevenyth, Llanddoinoel, Rhosdie, Llan y Gweryddon, Lledrod, Llanilar and Gwnnws."
"The hundreds of Ilar being divided into parcels as aforesaid. Eleven of those parcels happen to fall within the Mannor of Mevenyth- i.e Gwnnws (2 Parcels, upper and lower)."

Lewis Morris states that in 1746 there were 54 resident freeholders living in all of the above 8 parishes.

The Teifi Valley

"Dyffryn Teifi," or The Teifi Valley, flows from springs in the hills northeast of Strata Florida downward toward the Irish Sea passing through Pontrhydfendigaid, Tregaron, Lampeter, Newcastle Emlyn and eventually the City of Cardigan. This valley, even more than the more populated sections of Cardigan remains one of the most Welsh areas in the Principality. Changes take place in this region more slowly than in others in Wales. On visiting there today one can imagine life generations ago without difficulty.

After the Methodist upheavals in the late 1700s and the early years of the nineteenth century, there were very few Anglican Church members living there. Many of these Nonconformists came to America in the mid 1800s and continued to establish their new faith in the new land. Our ancestors from this region were no exception.

The Arch between Devil's Bridge and Cwmystwyth

In 1810 Thomas Johnes of the Hafod Ichtryd, an estate nearby Cwmystwyth, from 1784 to 1816, erected this arch to mark the Golden Jubilee of George III's accessionto the throne of England. Our forebears doubtless passed under it on several occasions. At this sight Johnes also built a forest park in which one can walk through the larch trees he planted. The Johnes family has a large statuary at the Hafod Church, built there in its honor. It was damaged badly in a fire in 1932.

Devil's Bridge

In Welsh it is called "Pontygwrdrwg" or "Bridge of the Evil One." There are three bridges at Devil's Bridge crossing the Avon Rheidol, each new one stacked upon the older one. The first and lowest in altitude, as we have said, was built in 1087. Later two more bridges were built for the use of tourists and for the current main highway that runs there from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth. The myth that goes with the bridge(s) is that an old country woman, Marged, outwitted the Devil when he offered her a bridge to cross if he could have the first living creature to cross it. She threw a loaf of bread over to the other side and sent her dog for it. The Devil didn't want the dog, so the lady kept the dog and the bread and lived happily thereafter with a bridge to cross.

A bookstore keeper, John Dudley Davies, who lives at Devil's Bridge in a house named "Llys Amaeth" today, has sent us several wonderful maps and many pictures he took for us at "Pantgwyn." He is the son-in-law of Mrs. Hughes of "Llwyngwyddyl" in Gwnnws.

It was the author's great pleasure to spend an evening with John and Ceiros (Hughes) Davies. Their daughter, Bethan Dudley Davies, is a well-known opera singer. She uses the name Bethan Dudley in the patronynymic style.

The Lead Mines of Cardigan

The foregoing map showing the mines in Central Cardigan was redrawn from one that appears in David Bick's book, "The Old Metal Mines of Mid-Wales."

While the Romans had mined the areas for copper and tin in the earliest times, the hills kept their bounty for centuries until the coming of the machine age. There were at least ninety lead mines in Northern Cardigan at one time or another in the eighteenth century. They were owned largely by English interests in London and flourished in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

Most of the management of the mines was secured from experienced miners coming from Devonshire and Cornwall. The largest of the mines at Cwmystwyth was shut down finally in 1916.
The other lead mines were closed at earlier dates.
The heyday for these operations was from about 1790 to 1870. During those years in spite of the outpouring of Welshmen to America, the population increased due to the influx of English laborers coming to work in the mines.

Some of our ancestors did work as miners at Cwmystwyth. Some worked at the mines near Ysbyty Ystwyth (Waen-lloi and Pen Glog Fawr) and at the Esgair Mwyn mine (next to Pantgwyn). The Esgair-Mwyn mine was one of the Roman period, and was abandoned for many centuries until about 1752 when it was opened and a large amount of lead removed within the first year. There is an eerie aspect of oblivion when one peers down into the pits of these abandoned quarries.
Old machinery from those days stands silent as the wind blows relentlessly over the hills. One of the historians at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth notes that some Olivers were working in the mines in the late 1600s. Whether or not they were our family, we do not know at this time, but the author certainly thinks they were. The interesting facts known about the Esgair-Mwyn mine will be further related as the mine was so near Pantgwyn.

Lead mines similar to those at Gwnnws and Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn dotted the old maps.
See the following map for the significant portion of this parish.

These are the principal areas of Cardigan where the Oliver families in this treatise worked in the mines.

The Esgair - Mwyn Mine

As just stated, this mine was worked in the Roman period. Relics of the excavations they made and some of the tools that were employed were found when the veins were rediscovered in the 17th century. The bottoms had been filled with water, and draining them was a major undertaking before the ore could be mined again.

Great debates and court proceedings over the ownership of this particular land were recorded in the 1750s and 1760s. The properties at that time were considered by the Crown as part of the wild common of the Manor known as "Mevenyth." Continuing quotations from the 1756 Lewis Morris treatise, "A History of the Crown Manor of Mevenyth in the County of Cardigan, South Wales," these salient comments about places and events appear :

" This grant hath lately been trumped up in order to claim the mine of Esgair-Mwyn and shares have sold high, and Wm. West Leiretary of the Treasury, was chosen one of the Directors. But in which it is not forfeited as they have worked nothing in Wales since the last mentioned Act of Parl't (Queen Elizabeth's grant to some Germans) if there is no other reason."

" Of the game and fishery in the Mannor ---- On the wild common of Mevenyth which is mostly heathy ground there are great plenty of growse and some blak game, and not a few hares and foxes. But the sulphurouse water of the mines of Cwmystywyth have in great measure destroyed the salmon and trout in the river Ystwyth, tho' there are several lakes here with trout in abundance, but no wild fowl are hardly ever seen to report near the waters of mines as there is about six miles of this Lordship that borders on the sea, the wrecks belong to the Crown as well as Royal fish---."

"Of Ysbyty Ystwyth a Lordship within Mevenyth and also of Ystrad Meirig----- On the east side of this mannor of Mevenyth there is a small Lordship belonging to the Lord Lisbourne lying as it were in the bosom of it between it and the river Ystwyth. It contains a small parish called Ysbyty Ystrad Meirig, and the commons of it strikes thro' the very middle of of the common of Mevenyth quite towards Radnorshire. ---- "

"Of mines and minerals ------ The mines and minerals on the waste ground and commons of Mevenyth belong to His Majesty as he is Lord of the mannor. But the freeholders who hold here by freeforage tenure can dig their own mines in their own freeholds by an act of W and M (William and Mary), and of late have disovered and worked some. No mines of any kind have been worked in this mannor in the memory of man , nor for many hundreds of years till the mine of Esgair y Mwyn was discovered."

"Of the new mine of Esgair y Mwyn ------ In the Upper parcel of the parish of Gwnnws on the top of a hill called Esgair y mwyn on the common in the mannor of Mevenyth, the ancient Britains (or, as some think the Romans) dug an open cast or trench along the vein after their manner for about a hundred yards in length about 20 yards broad, and in depth about 18 yards, having discovered the ore on the surface of the rock.. Here they got abundance of Lead ore, as appears by their leaving a great deal of waste ore in the hillocks, which the ancients have not been guilty of. It is so ancient that a great thickness of black soil is grown over the rubbish and hillocks which they left.
In the year 1746 being Osterward of the mannor, I let a bargain to Evan Williams and three brothers to work there, and they made an attempt to drain the old open rake above mentioned, but were disheartened by the great weight of dead water there, which they could not conquer because of the day water, and so it stood. In June 1751 ------ I had imported my opinion of this work to the late Surv. General Lord Gasllaway. I again let a bargain there to the same Evan Williams and others to clear the water, but it proving a wet season and all the surrounding ground being full with water and the carriage of proper materials far and difficult they were again discouraged.------ etc. ---- in driving into the it a few yards on our sun side, we struck into the top of a parallel vein which held about an inch of solid lead ore. What it came afterwards to and the trouble I had in maintaining it for the Crown from the encroachers, Lord Lisbourne, Wm. Powell, etc., I need not mention.

In opening the old bottoms ladders of solid pieces of timber were found on an inclination fit to walk on and to carry the ore to land, ----- and there was also a wooden shovel found there for throwing water from one dam to another.----"

The treatise goes on and on about the ancient relics found in the pits. Before leaving this subject, I will quote the portion of Chapter 18 of this old manuscript that relates the significance of this mine to our family.

"From the old open rake above mentioned the hill took its name of Esgair y Mwyn and hence a tenement of Freehold Lands adjoinging this common is called Llwyn y mwyn, ie. the ore thicket or ore bush.
The owner of this Freehold of Llwyn y mwyn pretended he had title to this minework because his sheep grazed on these hills and Lord Lisbourne once claimed the minework because this freeholder (John Williams) pays him some few schillings a year which he pretends to be chiefrent."

Please note first that Llwynymwyn was the house next to Pantgwyn, and that this John Williams and his family came to Waukesha Co., Wisconsin and lived in the same neighborhood as the Olivers, having thus been neighbors in Gwnnws.

_________________

Ffairrhos Village

The sketch of the old inn below is included because it is the only significant building in the village of Ffairrhos today, and may well have been when the Olivers and the other farmers and miners who came to America lived nearby. We have described elsewhere the significance of Ffairrhos as a major local annual fair site for selling the monk's wool grown on the holdings of Strata Florida in the Middle Ages.

The caption with the sketch is;

The Cross Inn at the crossroads entering Ffair-rhos, Upper Gwnnws, from either Ystrad Meurig or Pontrhydfendigaid. Ffair-rhos is the nearest village to Pantgwyn. We are told that this inn and pub existed when our emigrant ancestors lived here in the 1840s. Directly behind the the inn was a house called Ty John in which Edward Evans, brother of Elizabeth (Evans) Oliver lived in 1841. To the right the road leads to Blaenpentre and Blaenyresgair; to the left to Llwyngwyddil, Llwynmwyn, Llwynllwyd and Ysbyty Ystwyth.


The Parishes, Churches and Chapels of Northern Mid-Wales

Return to top

St. David's Cathedral

St. David's Cathedral, shown above, is dedicated to Wales' earliest Saint, St. David (Dewi Sant). He was buried in the year 588 or 589. This particular site has seen Christian worship for over 1500 years. Since medieval times it is said in Wales that a trip to St. David's would equal two to Rome.

It is located in the south-eastern corner of Pembrokeshire known as St. David's Peninsula, now a part of the Welsh county called Dyfed.

The structure shown here was constructed in the year 1176, well below the village which has the same name. The Oak roof is considered one of the finest of 15th century architecture - that of the early Norman period. Christianity was practiced in Wales for many years before the Normans conquered Britain. In his book, "When was Wales?," Gwyn A. Williams states that there were 44 Bishops at St. David's (Mynyw) before 1066.

By the 8th century, St. David had seven Bishop houses in dependence. St. David, or Dewi, literally meant a man who drank only water. He was known for his Irish-like puritanism, and was a great traveller in spreading his cult around Wales. St. David's diocese came to be known for its piety, learning and wealth.

In 597 when St. Augustine was sent to Britain to "convert" the Saxons, there was a break with the Roman Church, but relations were re-established until in 607 all of the British Bishops succumbed to the observance of the Roman Easter date - except the Welsh . This was to be a very critical point for centuries.

As can be read in many dissertations, this old Cathedral was the scene of many important events in the history, not only of Wales, but also of Britain. It was surely the seat of all Arthurian style homages required by kings and knights to St. David. This diocese comprised Brecon, Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke.

 

The Parishes of the Northern Part of Cardigan

The above map displays the Ilar One Hundred and the parishes within it.

Since most of the research about our ancestors must be found in the Established Church registers, one must find the exact locations of residences and the nearby parish church in order to match them and find the needed record. We will present several maps to show where the boundries existed and as many of the house names as can be shown easily. We begin with the maps showing the "hundreds." In those days in England and Ireland geographical divisions were made wherever approximately one hundred families resided.

The map above shows the configuration of the Established Church of England Parishes in Cardiganshire on or about the year 1800 to the present.

Dewy Sant, St. David, established the Celtic Church in about 550 AD.

The first schools were established only as night schools by Gruffudd Jones who would travel about Wales from one school to another to teach. He formed a school at Fynachlog Fawr and that school ran until 1950. Gruffudd Jones died in 1761.

Thomas Jones Creighton (Cwmystwyth) helped translate the Bible into Welsh. Many of the people who came to America in the mid-nineteenth century came from the parishes of Llangeitho, Blaenpenal, Lledrod, Ysbyty Ystwyth, Caron Uwch Clawdd, Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn and Gwnnws as is referenced in the book, "The Welsh Community of Waukesha County, Wisconsin." Note the spellings for the parishes for the most part begin with "Llan." Llan is the Welsh word for Church. The map of some Cardigan parishes herein was drawn to show locations of churches and places in their relationship to Pantgwyn.

 

Strata Florida

While the ruins of this old Cistercian Abbey and Monastery lie on the Teifi River near Pontrhydfendigaid, tradition records an earlier site about two miles to the southwest on the Afon Fflur (the River Fflur). Today there is a farm there called "Old Abbey", or Yr Hen Fynachlog. Extensive foundations were uncovered and removed in the nineteenth century, according to a pamphlet available at the Abbey today.

In years to come, both Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales (1081-1093), and Rhys ap Gruffudd received the credit for the foundation of Strata Florida.

The early records are clear that this foundation took place in 1164, which suggest strongly that the foundation was identified with Robert fitz Stephen who held all this district under the House of Clare. In that year, 1164, Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd attacked the Norman possessions in Dyfed and conquered not only Robert fitz Stephen but the whole district including the Castle at Cardigan.

The charter dated 1184, confirmed by Henry II, records that the Abbey contruction had begun. In 1286 the church was burned by a lightning strike, and further damaged later by a Welsh uprising. However it was repaired as can be seen by the slip tiles in the presbytery.

The Abbey was constructed from local slate rubble and dressings of sandstone.

The ruins of this Cistercian Abbey are a fascinating sight. It was built during the years 1184-1235 in the Norman style, its principal benefactor being Lord Rhys.

The name in both Latin and Welsh, Strata Florida or Ystrad Fflur, translates into English as "Flowery Levels." The reason for this name could have been the carpets of spring flowers that bloom in the valley and nearby hills.

The Monastery was in existence before 1087 when the monks built the first Devil's Bridge (after 900 years it still stands) across the Rheidol. (See the sketch of the Celtic Cross on stone at Strata Florida dated in the eighth century). As we have said earlier the first abbey was built at Hen Fynachlog, and the ruins are there today - Rhos Gelli Gron. This small complex is located about one and a quarter miles south of the village of Pontrhydfendigaid near the "Old Abbey Farm."

The Reverend John Werley visited Ffair Rhos in 1764-1769 and is said to have stayed at the Abbey Farm with Nathaniel Williams who was reported to have owned 20,000 sheep.

The church at Old Abbey was repaired in 1963 by Sir David James, a philanthropist.

He also put in three stained glass windows and invested 20,000 pounds and interest to be used to maintain the graveyard and gave 40,000 pounds to build a pavileon for the local Eisteddfed with 5,000 pounds income yearly. He was born in 1887 and died in 1967.

Of significance to the Oliver family are the graves in the cemetery of the newer church at Strata Florida located on the same site as the Abbey ruins.

Richard Oliver's wife, Elizabeth, a daughter Margaret Jones, as well as their son John and their grandsons Peter Oliver and Edward Jones rest there in this quite historic and reverent atmosphere. Many later generations of the Olivers and related families lie nearby. Not far away are the graves of nine of the Welsh princes as this became the honored place for such burials in Wales. The most important of these was the last prince, Owain Glyndwr, the only one of the many princes of Wales who had the respect and loyalty of all the Welsh people. Owain had led the last battle fought for Welsh independence. Also buried there under a "yew tree beside the abbey" is the great fourteenth century poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym, who revolutionized Welsh poetry.

Strata Florida was not only a leading cultural center, but also a national sanctuary for relics and literature.
There the Cistercian monks wrote most of the work, "Chronicle of the Princes" ("Brut-y-Twysogion"), which contains a remarkable wealth of information about Wales in the Middle Ages.

Among the notable items once housed at the Abbey was the "Cwpan" (The Holy Grail of Arthurian legend), a wooden cup with healing powers believed to have been carved from the Cross, or in another theory, the one used at the Last Supper. The famous cup now is held at Nanteos near Aberystwyth. The composer Wagner went there to see it before he wrote Die Parsifal. Recently, in 1991, one Gerald Morgan, Esq., an Aberystwyth lecturer and local historian, challenged the belief that the cup was truly the Holy Grail, stating several reasons for his claims. This prompted another man in Britain to respond with a rebuttal. He says that the cup was "supposed to be the one held up to the flank of the crucified Christ to catch the blood from the spear wound," and said that there were records well before those Morgan was reciting from 1857 in his claims of "no evidence." His references, held by a Mrs. Powell of Nanteos, state that the cup was brought to Nanteos from Glastonbury by Joseph of Aramathea. One is left to wonder which, if any, of the stories are authentic.

In 1238 Llewelyn, near death, summoned all the lords of Welsh Wales to a great assembly for the purpose of showing their fealty to St. David at the favored abbey at Strata Florida. Thus the pro-Gruffydd party of Welsh notables was formed.

The monks brought sheep to the area and established the wool exportation for which the region is noted. They established an annual fair at Ffair-Rhos, a village not more than two miles to the north of the Abbey to sell wool from the Abbey.

Arglwydd Rhys was responsible for the building of the second abbey, where the ruins shown here stand. The fair was then moved to Pontrhydfendigaid.

Richard Oliver's son John owned a major parcel of land within the village of Ffair-Rhos called "Blaenpentre." It was held by the Oliver family until 1990 when it was sold by the then owner, David "Dai" Oliver, a descendant of John.

Also residents of Ffair-Rhos were the Evans family from which our ancestor Elizabeth Evans, Richard Oliver's wife, had come. At least, her brother Edward Evans lived there in 1841 in a house called "Ty-John."

The monastery at Strata Florida was destroyed in the sixteenth century (1547) during the purge of Catholicism by Henry VIII. He was determined to destroy the continuance of training monks for the Pope and to establish a new English Protestant state religion that would be loyal to the Crown and not to Rome. The deeds for the Abbey reveal that this monastary was spared destruction for several years after the initial edicts because the Abbey had paid the King a substantial sum of money.

The Abbey and lands were given as a grant by the Crown to one John Steadman who built a substantial mansion on the property. The Steadman and Lloyd families intermarried and continued to live in the area. Eventually, descendants of both families occupied the residence, Pantgwyn. Their lineages go well back into the days of the princes.

The newer Anglican Church that stands at the same site was built in eighteenth century.

Parish registers exist from 1750.

Many of our families attended this handsome church, and nearly all are buried here.

 

The Tregaron Parish Church

This parish was once a part of the very large parish of Caron. It is also known as Caron Is Clawdd, to distinguish it from Caron Uwch Clawdd (Strata Florida).

William and Mary Oliver were living at Ochrderigaron in this parish when two of their daughters were baptized, and where their son Peter died. From all appearances, this is a very old edifice, probably built in the late Norman period. Its architecture is quite similar to that of the English churches of that time. The registers that we read from this church began in the year 1653. There are several nonconformist chapels located within this parish.

Also of interest is that this is the parish in which some of the early Olivers lived, such as John Rees Oliver shown in the 1760 Freeholders listing.

 

Gwnnws Parish

Pictured here is the current parish church. It is not the same edifice in which our ancestors worshipped before they came to America. The old church, a smaller one, was too delapitated to restore. This church, however, is on the very same site.

There is no other place called Llanwnnws or Gwnnws. If Gwnnws was a saint, he lived well over a thousand years ago. He likely would have preached to the peasant folk raising crops of oats and barley.

The churchyard is huge considering the local population (though the population was much larger in previous times). It has an irregular shape, neither round nor square, indicating its antiquity.

This building was erected in about 1880 in the Victorian era, according to Dr. Gerald Morgan (a retired School Director) whose wife is the current Deaconess-in-Charge of the Gwnnws and three other neighboring churches. Gerald Morgan lectures on local history at the University College in Aberystwyth, and was kind enough to respond to my inquiries about the history of Gwnnws Church. He relates that in about 1300 when the parishes were formed, Gwnnws was once a large parish divided into three large and separated portions, most of which are now part of Ysbyty Ystwyth Parish. The parish then reached to the Radnorshire border.

The most valuable relic at the church is a Celtic cross, which dates from the 9th or 10th century. It was moved from the churchyard to the porch of the church many years ago, presumeably after 1880.
On the cross is an inscription relating to the parish name "Llanwnnws" or "Gwnnws" (doubtless the name of an ancient Welsh Saint); it is in Latin:

" Quincunque explicaverit hoc nomen det benedixionem pro anima hiroedil filius Carotinn"

Morgan translates this Latin into English as,

"Whoever can explain this name, let him pray for the soul of Hiroedil, son of Carotinn." (Hirhoedl = Longlife)

Hirhoedl was probably an important person there in the 9th or 10th century.

Above the carved cross the letters XPS, standing for Christ, can be seen. This is not evident in the photograph, however. The presence of this old cross is evidence enough that Christian worship has carried on at this site for nearly a thousand years.

Another of the church's treasures is the Communion Cup, dated 1574. One can well believe that our ancestors sipped from it.

The oldest register begins in 1760, and in its pages is preserved the signature of Evan Evans, "Ieuan Fardd" (1731-1788), the great scholar born in Lledrod parish, who was a curate at Gwnnws for a few months in 1766 and 1767.

As mentioned in other references in this history of the Olivers, it is believed by the author that the immediate family was influenced strongly by the elder Richard Oliver to maintain its ties with the Established Church. That the marriages and baptisms are nearly always in the church and that Richard Oliver himself was present at the christenings is part of the evidence.

The church they attended at Pentre Gwnnws was a long walk for them to make from Pantgwyn, perhaps as much as 4 miles, depending on the route they took.

It was only after about 1839 that the records of baptisms in the Established Church disappear due to the advent of civil registration requirements. None of our Oliver family's records are found in the Nonconformist registers we have examined.

The baptismal font in the Gwnnws church may well be the same one used by the Oliver family in the early 1800s, though this is not known as fact. Its design does not show the later more characteristic late 19th century embellishments.

 

The Lledrod Parish Church

The Lledrod parish is situated immediately to the west of Gwnnws Upper parish. The church is at the village of Lledrod which is somewhat distant from Gwnnws, located in the northwesternmost corner of the parish.

This is the parish in which Mary Jones who married William Oliver lived at the time of their marriage. We have not learned the age of this building, but it is known that the parish registers available today begin in the year 1770. This parish was named in the early deeds for the monastery at Strata Florida. The photograph for our sketch was provided by Anne Knowles.

 

Ysbyty Ystwyth Parish

The current parish church, St. John the Baptist, of Ysbyty Ystwyth, lies just north of the parish border of Upper Gwnnws and was the church home of many of our Olivers, some of whom are buried in the large graveyard that surrounds the edifice. Many of their residences were within sight of this old church.

The old letter from Mary Letitia Jones speaks about the old church at Ysbyty Ystwyth. Her letter claims that her grandfather, Jacob Jones, helped build the church, as the old one had been destroyed. Mary L. Jones had visited there in 1896, and her grandfather had left Wales in 1847. In any event, there was an earlier parish church. It exists today and was renovated and reopened as a Vestry during a ceremony in August, 1991. The current parish church of Ysbyty Ystwyth lies on the same property as the old one. It is typical in design of several other Welsh churches. The interior has some beautiful stained-glass windows.

The author has not learned the age of this building, but the records that survive indicate that the parish was established when Gwnnws was also a young parish. We do know that the Bishop's Transcripts for this parish date from 1682. Much of the old Gwnnws parish was eventually swallowed up by Ysbyty Ystwyth parish. As in the case of the Lledrod and Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn parishes, Ysbyty Ystwyth is named in the early deeds of the monastery at Strata Florida in the then parish of Caron. Many of the lead mines in the area are located within ther boundries of this parish, and in them, many of the Olivers labored over the years in which theywere worked.

 

Ystrad Meurig Parish Church

Ystrad Meurig is the parish that lies between the two parts of Gwnnws parish and also is edged by Ysbyty Ystwyth and Lledrod. It comprises a very small area, but is of significance for its history with respect to education in this part of Wales. Elsewhere in this book you will read that one Thomas Oliver's wife of Herefordshire and Brecon donated the necessary funds to build the prominent school there, the contribution a memorial to him. Many a Welsh scholar got his early learning there, and went on to Oxford or Cambridge. The school also boasted a well-known ecclesiastical seminary for Welsh-speaking Established Church priests.

The extant Ystrad Meurig parish records begin in 1798.

 

The Llanafan Parish Church

This parish lies just to the north of the lower portion of Gwnnws parish. The church pictured here is the one in which were found the older Gwnnws and Llanafan Parish registers which were so helpful in finding additional baptisms to those that were extant when we began this search. From those records we also found the marriage entry and the surname of our oldest maternal Oliver grandmother, Elizabeth Evans. The Deaconess of this parish serves many of the surrounding parishes as well. Her husband was most accommodating and read the old registers for us looking for lost ancestors.

 

The Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn Churches

This parish is important because it is where our oldest known Oliver ancestor, Richard Oliver was born in 1778, according to the 1851 census of Britain.

This lovely old church lies in a verdant valley just north of the parish of Llanafan. One approaches the village from a hill on either side by way of very narrow roads with high hedgerows of shrubbery on either side.
On the following page is also shown, and repeated in the section on churches, a sketch of the main Parish Church at Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn village. It has Bishop's Transcripts from 1674. The extant parish registers date from 1762.

As will be noted elsewhere in this book there were two churches in this parish. The parish is divided into an eastern half, Upper Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, and the western half, Lower Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn. The main parish church at the village of Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn became too small, so a chapelry was established at the Hafod Estate to "ease" the capacity limitations. This chapelry is known, therefore, as a "Chapel of Ease," and is called "Eglwys Newydd," or New Church. It is pictured on this page as well. Eglwys Newydd has records dating back to 1773 which provide the earliest insights about the Oliver families.

Another relic, believed by the Jones family (of Sarah Oliver) to be an earthen chalice or large vase from the old monastery of Strata Florida, and was in their possession in Wales before they came to America. It had a "beaten" copper lid. Sarah (Oliver) Jones used it to store their kitchen flour at Nantyberws. On the Jones' departure from Wales, it was given to a friend named Davey Jones who had intended it to be given to a Welsh museum. Upon Davey Jones' death it was sold to a man who gave it to the Hafod church in Llangfihangel-y-Creuddyn parish where it stayed until it was sent to a museum in Aberystwyth. Today it may be seen at the Hafod Church again as it was renovated about 1977. One antiquarian opinion states that coming from the East it was known as a Byzantine Urn, and of considerable value. It is said to be some 3,000 to 4,000 years old, having been brought to Strata Florida from the Aegean Islands. It stands today by the ruins of a statuary noting the Johnes family of Hafod. Both treasures were ruined in a disasterous fire that burned the church in 1932, and recently restored to the condition seen here.

Please note the reference to this urn in the letter about her visit to Wales in 1896 written by Mary Letitia Jones copied in her biography in the Fourth Generation of the main text.

It was at the Hafod church that the "Hallelujah Chorus" of Handel's "Messiah" was composed. The Hafod Estate was one held by the Earls of Lisburne. The little church there is the Hafod Church, now called Eglwys Newydd. It was established as a Chapelry of the Parish Church at Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn village. Another reference believed this to be the church referred to in the hymn, "Come to the Church in the Wildwood," however, I believe a church in Iowa also claims that distinction.

 

The Llanbadarn-Fawr Parish Church

There are many references in the histories of Wales about this parish. It was an important center in the days of the Welsh princes, doubtless long before the building shown here was erected. This parish is located quite near the outskirts of the city of Aberystwyth and extends quite far eastward to the Montgomeryshire (now Powys) border.

Maps will show that the area known a Llanbadarn Fawr has more than one Established Church parish church within its boundries; the main church at the village of Llanbadarn Fawr, Capel Bangor and Ysbyty Cynfyn.

This parish is of interest to the Lewis family as well as the Olivers of the Cwmystwyth group, both of which are given notice in the appendices herein. The Llanbadarn-fawr parish records begin in 1678.

Also, due to the strength of the non-conformist movement in this region, there are very many chapels. The Ponterwyd Calvinsitic Methodist Chapel is an example (see later in Appendix F relating to the Edward Lewis family and Appendix G for the Cwmystwyth Olivers).

 

The Parish Church at Ysbyty Cynfyn

The church at Ysbyty Cynfyn is another such chapelry in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, located just north of the parish of Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn. It is shown here because of the number of Cwmystwyth Oliver families that worshipped there.
It is stated in the book, "The Parish Registers of Wales," that
" This chapelry of ease to Llanbadarn Fawr had in 1790 a register which goes back 20 years."

This little chapelry also was where the author's great great great grandparents, Edward Lewis and Anne Howell were married in 1809. The extant records begin in 1762.

 

The Nonconformist Chapels

As stated previously, the religious upheavals of the late seventeen hundreds caused several breaks with the Church of England. The Calvinistic Methodist movement was at its strongest in this part of Wales, though there were Baptists and Methodist denominations also in conflict with the Established Church. Note that the Calvinistic Methodists were also known as Welsh Presbyterians. It should be acknowledged that at first, and for some time, the Established Church, particularly in England, allowed the break-away congregations to worship in the parish churches. However, it was typical of the Welsh to worship in small groups of a few families. They met in the homes of members.

Later, as funds were available to them, the nonconformists built small chapels with little or no decoration whatever.

These chapels became meeting places for the many who were seeking to emigrate to America and Australia.

Shown here are two of the chapels at Pontrhydfendigaid. The original one was where "King" Jones met with the group he brought to Wisconsin.

The first chapel at Pontrhydfendigaid "Plas-yfelen" was built in 1794. It was sold to Martha and John Thomas for 25 pounds. In 1802 the 2nd chapel at "Bont" was built, but it remained a small building. Then, in 1827, the 3rd chapel (Ty Cwrdd) was built. The first baptism was performed there in 1854.

In 1859 the first big chapel was built with the "New Revival."

During the year 1880 three chapels were built at Ffair Rhos. None of the Olivers seem to have taken an active part in the New Revival movement except David Oliver, who was Richard and Elizabeth (Evans) Oliver's grandson, the son of Richard, their son. David Oliver was a drover, walking cattle over the mountain to England. He was considered to be a character. He was also a Deacon, much loved by the young people, and a staunch member of the Sunday School at Ffair Rhos.

There was a minister at Bont, The Reverend W.D. Evans, who went to America in 1852 and was buried in New York. He published a book, "Dros Gyfnfor a Chyfander," when translated means "Over Land and Sea."

We were privileged to view an old chapel book of records which was supposed to be from the Bont Penuel principally the attendance records of the small group of families who made up the membership. The dates in this particular volume seem to range from 1870-1880.

Included were solemn promises not to drink alcohol, and mention of those who paid what seemed to be dues or tithes.

It was noted that not many Olivers appeared in the rosters of this old chapel. One man, a David Oliver of Pengroesffordd, was mentioned as a member in 1884. However in 1915 he is shown as David Oliver of Oak Street, Bont. With him on the same lines were Margaret and Ann Oliver of the same address.

In this same record book the names of Ann and Lizzie Oliver are shown in 1915, coming from the house Pencrugcau. Ann and Lizzie, the author believes, are the daughters of Richard and Jane (Jones) Oliver of Blaenpentre, Ffair Rhos.

The available nonconformist chapel records for Bont that we have read are for Penuel Chapel. There the author's Lewis family baptized some of their children.

One treatise states that there were no Calvinistic Methodist or Baptist chapels in Caron Uwch Clawdd. However, there is the old chapel (Undated) that exists as shown here, near Tyncwm, about a mile and a half from Strata Florida. Records for a Maenachlogfawr C.M. Chapel are available to read. We suspect that this is that chapel, but question the wisdom of showing it as such, because we find in a pamphlet from the ruins of the abbey that this chapel is now "disused," with no name.

These chapels were served by roving ministers, who went about to different chapels on subsequent Sundays. One such minister, Ebenezer Richards, was well known for his preaching in this area of Wales.

The records show Ebenezer Richards baptizing infants from Swansea and Tregaron in the South to Ponterwyd in the North. The two small chapels of Cwmystwyth were of the Calvinistic Methodist group.

The Olivers of Cwmystwyth attended these chapels on Sundays. We visited the area in 1990 and found to our surprise that they are located a few yards from the property of our cousin Gladys Morgan's farm, Pentre. It was formerly called Pentrebriwnant. If I recall correctly, the second chapel remains as a cow shed on the farm itself.

Gladys sent me an old photo taken about 1905 of her husband Gwyn's aunt at this very barn. Cardigan was certainly the strongest in supporting the Calvinistic conversions. It is said that about 90 percent of the people in Cardiganshire are of that faith today, though church attendance is very low. There are literally hundreds of these small chapels.

Another chapel is the one shown on the following page called Maesglas, which is located in Ysbyty Ystwyth Village. It may well be the one that Jacob Jones helped construct. Of importance in this chapel was another David Oliver, the son of Richard Oliver of Dolaugleision, Caron Uwch Clawdd. He was baptized in 1799 at Strata Florida and was one of founders of this chapel. Baptisms for several of his children by Mary (Herbert) Oliver, his wife were solemnized in this chapel.

Oddly, all of these so-called Calvinistic Methodists strayed from the Established Church for worship, but are mostly buried in the Parish Churchyards. The Olivers mentioned above were not exceptions to this oddity.

The reader will learn that in the earlier years most of "our" families held the sacraments of marriage and baptism at the parish churches of Gwnnws and Ysbyty Ystwyth, but were buried at Strata Florida. William and Mary (Jones) Oliver's two daughters were baptized at Tregaron, while their son was buried at Strata Florida.


Return to top

[Gareth Hicks   13 Jan 2007]

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional

InfoFind help, report problems, and contribute information.

Copyright GENUKI and Contributors 1996 to date
GENUKI is a registered trade mark of the
charitable trust GENUKI