Welsh in America

 

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It’s a simple question and one that usually brings a standard response.
But the Welsh has a theory…And that theory says,
Did you know that America was actually discovered 300 years before Columbus sailed?

And more importantly, that it was discovered by a Welshman.

The man in question was Prince Madoc, the son of King Owain Gwynedd, one of the greatest and most important rulers in the country, and while the legend cannot be corroborated there are many who believe it implicitly.

King Owain Gwynedd certainly existed, his reign being marred by long and hard-fought disputes with Henry II, king of England.

The story goes that in 1170 Owain died and, almost immediately, a violent and very bloody dispute arose between his 13 children regarding the succession.

Prince Madoc and his brother Rhirid were so upset and angered by events that they decided they wanted no further part in what was happening. Indeed, they wanted nothing more to do with their family or their homeland.

They duly took ship from Rhos on Sea (Llandrillo) and sailed westwards to see what they could find.

What Prince Madoc found, so the legend runs, was America. He and his brother managed to cross the Atlantic and land on the shores of the New World.

Prince Madoc
Prince Madoc

Prince Madoc returned to Gwynedd for more men, then sailed off again, this time never to return.

His sailors inter-married with a local Native American tribe and for years the rumor of Welsh speaking Native American tribes was widely believed.

It is, of course, the stuff of legend but like all good legends it has at least a grain of truth about it.

As America was explored and colonized several Native American tribes were discovered, speaking a language that did actually sound quite like Welsh. That was not the only connection.

The offspring from the Welsh were blue-eyed, and lived in house. It was all too good for storytellers and poets to ignore.

The legend lasted well into the 19th century and even the explorers Lewis and Clark were instructed to keep their eyes open for these “Welsh speaking Indians” while they were trekking through the interior of the country.

Madoc, a Welsh prince who, according to legend, sailed to America in 1170 with a group of settlers. The legend claimed they settled with the Cherokee, of Native Americans.

There were from the first explorers in the area finding Indian tribes that spoke Welsh.

The stories Welsh Indians became popular enough that even Lewis and Clark were ordered to look out for them.

In 1833, artist George Catlin visited the Cherokee, whom he believed were the “Blue-eyed Welsh Indians.”

***
But how? Obviously the genetic strain that produced Mandans with blond hair “fine and soft as silk,” blue eyes, and fair skin, was well entrenched — certainly since well before the living memory of tribe members in 1832. Catlin theorized that the Mandans might be descendants of a pre-Columbian Welsh expedition to the New World.
Francis Bacon, in his “History of The Reign of King Henrie the Seventh,” published in 1622, argued that Madoc (or Madawc), son of Owain, Prince of Gwynede, had discovered America in the 12th-Century. Medieval Welsh historian Gynaric ap Grono wrote that Madoc sailed in 1170 with a fleet of 10 ships from Abergwili, Carmarthan.

Owain of Gwynede’s genealogist, Jenen Breeva, said that Madoc and his brother Riryd “found land far in the sea of the west, and there settled.” Sir Thomas Herbert, in “Relation of Some Years Travaile” (1634), claimed that Madoc established a fortified settlement and then sailed back to Wales leaving 120 men in the New World.

When he returned with a second expedition in 1190 to find most of the garrison missing.

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