A Short History of Wales
The earliest known inhabitants of Wales were a dark-haired people who migrated from the European continent during the Stone Age. Wales was conquered by the Britons, a Celtic people, about 600 B.C. They called their country Cymru, derived from a word meaning "fellow countrymen." Cymru was occupied, but not subdued, by the Romans in their conquest of Britain in the first century A.D. When the Romans withdrew in the fifth century Britain was invaded by Germanic peoples: the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Anglo-Saxons, who called the western area Wealas, "land of the foreigners," tried unsuccessfully to control it.
After the Norman Conquest, 1066–71, Norman barons established large estates and fortresses along the Welsh border and gradually expanded into south and central Wales. In the13th century, Llewelyn the Great, from north Wales, won control over most of the country. By recognizing Henry III of England as his overlord, Llewelyn became Prince of Wales. Following a dispute, Llewelyn's domain was conquered by Edward I. Edward made Wales an English principality in 1284, and in 1301 designated his son Prince of Wales—a title since borne by each male heir apparent to the English throne.
The Tudor family of Wales came to the English throne in 1485, and Wales was incorporated with England under a single government by Henry VIII in 1536. The Welsh, however, retained a strong sense of their own identity.
Wales is not a big country. It has a maximum length of 140 miles and is 100 miles across at its widest. Total area is 8,015 sq miles
It is a mountainous country. Around one quarter of the land is above 1,000ft and in the north the peak of Snowdon rises to 3,560ft, the highest point in England and Wales.
Wales has a long 732-mile coastline, consisting of bays, beaches, peninsulas and cliffs. The largest bay - Cardigan Bay - gives the west-facing Welsh coastline its distinctive 'horseshoe' shape. In terms of land use - 81% is used for agriculture, 12% is covered in woodland, and only 8% is categorised as urban.
Wales has a population of 2.8 million. The people are mainly concentrated in the south-eastern corner around the capital city of Cardiff. The city, population 270,000, grew up in the 19th century as a coal-exporting port.The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries had its major impact in South Wales, where the iron and steel factories and coalmines were concentrated here. Swansea, also in the south, is Wales's second city with a population of 177,000. Newport, to the east of Cardiff near the Welsh border, has a population of 130,000. Like Cardiff, Swansea and Newport owe their growth to the industries of South Wales and their location as ports on the Bristol Channel. It is estimated that 20% of the population speak Welsh fluently.
First Generation - James Davis - 1751
The first James Davis was born in 1751 in Wales. At what age he came to America, or why, is not known. He married a woman by the name of Mary but we don’t have her maiden name. She was born in America and one or both of her parents were Welsh. This information came from three of my mother's brothers. The rest of the information has come from Ancestry.com.
Emigration from Wales
From an Ohio State History site I found the following: “Migrants from Wales were among the first people to come to Great Britain's North American colonies in the 1600s. By the late 1700s, Welsh migration slowed dramatically. American independence from Great Britain virtually ended Welsh immigration for several decades.“
In researching emigration from Wales I found that beginning in the 1630s, emigrants left Wales to seek opportunity in a new land or fled poverty or oppression in Wales. Beginning in 1815-1900 qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants in the destination county as an alternative to receiving poor relief—they were referred to as Assisted Emigrants. We’re not sure what brought James to America but all three of their children were born in Virginia.
James and Mary lived in Loudon County, Virginia. Though we don’t have a last name for Mary I did find four possible marriages in Virginia around the appropriate time: Mary Moore, Mary Hadley, Mary England, and Mary Johnson--I'm doing more research on this. James and Mary had three sons.
If the old family bible is correct William and James were twins. So far we have been unable to trace the descendents of Hugh and William Davis although there was a man in Parkersburg, West Virginia, by the name of Edward Wildt, a tailor by profession. This man’s grandmother was a Davis and we think the daughter of either Hugh or William Davis. I can’t find any other information on Hugh and William, or whether they had wives or children.
Mary, the mother of the three boys, Hugh, William and James, is the first person mentioned in the old family bible, having died October 15, 1801 at the age of 51. She was born in America in 1750. The old bible is now in the possession of Mr. R. H. Vaughn, granddaughter of Alexander Davis. Alexander is a grandson of the first James Davis who came from Wales. The above record is taken from a letter written to Dr. C.M. Davis, Centerville, Iowa.
Some Interesting Notes on History in James & Mary’s Time
John and Mary settled in Loudon County, Virginia. To this day Loudon County has a very small population. For more than two centuries, agriculture was the dominant way of life in Loudoun County, which had a relatively constant population of about 20,000. That began to change in the early 1960s, when Dulles International Airport was built in the southeastern part of the county.
Loudoun County constitutes a part of the five million acre Northern Neck of Virginia Proprietary granted by King Charles II of England to seven noblemen in 1649. This grant, later known as the Fairfax Proprietary, lay between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Between 1653 and 1730, Westmoreland, Stafford and Prince William Counties were formed within the Proprietary, and in 1742 the remaining land was designated Fairfax County.
In 1757, by act of the Virginia House of Burgesses, Fairfax County was divided. The western portion was named Loudoun for John Campbell, Fourth Earl of Loudoun, a Scottish nobleman who served as Commander-in-Chief for all British armed forces in North America and titular Governor of Virginia from 1756 to 1768.
In 1774, a meeting a freeholders and other residents was held in the County Courthouse to discuss the protection of rights and liberties in North America. The group adopted the Loudoun Resolves as well as a formal protest of the Stamp Act. Later, a number of Loudoun County men fought in the Revolutionary War though we don't know if James was one of them.
Life on the Farm and What Was Happening in History
I don't have any pictures of James and Mary but as a working farming family their clothing would have been simple. They may have had one good outfit that they wore to church, christenings and funerals. Mary may have worn her mother's wedding dress but we just don't know. To the left is a typical garments from the 1780s for working class people.
I think it helps to set the mood when we try to imagine what live was like for our ancestors if we know what was going on in the rest of the world during their lifetime. Since Mary was born in the United States it is most likely James and Mary were married sometime around 1778-79--during the Revolutionary War which ended in 1783. They lived in a very exciting and historical time at the birth of this nation.
We don't know when or where James died but we do know from the family Bible that Mary died in 1801.
Click here to go to 2nd Generation - James L. Davis