Thursday, 12 November 2009

WELSH HISTORY IN THE BAY AREA

American history nurtured such Welsh descendants as Norman Thomas, the eloquent Socialist; Frank Lloyd Wright, noted architect; fiery labor leader John Llewellyn Lewis; and Sinclair Lewis, the unrelenting satirist. We also claim several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In our area, the first Welsh Church west of the Rocky Mountains was built in 1849 on DuPont Street (now called Grant Avenue) in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown. It is known that over 200 Welsh miners worked in the gold fields, many with their wives and families, and coal miners that worked the Mt. Diablo mine have left their history in the cemetery at that site. These immigrants to the new country were religious and law-abiding citizens. They formed choirs, held Eisteddfodau (their cultural festivals), and spoke Cymraeg (their native tongue). Their many descendants live among us today

One Welshman noted as the architect of California's early greatness was William McKendree Gwin. His father, James, brought the family to South Carolina and on by wagon train to Tennessee. A deeply religious man, James became known as "Parson Gwin." William read law and was admitted to the bar at 21; he also studied medicine. After various endeavors and developing friendships with the leading politicians of the era, William came to San Francisco and was elected to the Constitutional Convention in Monterey. His contributions to that august body marked him as the main architect of the California Constitution. His provision for public schools was way ahead of the times. On December 31, 1849 the First Legislature of California elected Dr. Gwin and John Charles Fremont to the United States Senate

Nowadays, the Welsh, like their Celtic brethren the Scots, Irish, and Cornish, gather to preserve their culture. Welsh society activities include the importing of Welsh choirs, teaching the Welsh language, and Welsh art and film festivals. By example we pass on the best of the old world and the new to our descendants.

From: http://www.wasnc.org/