Letters To Dollgelly

These two letters were sent by Welsh settlers to family in Dollgelly (Dolgellau). Originally in Welsh, they were translated by Wyn Evans' grandfather. I scanned them from the typewritten copies (photocopies) supplied to me by Wyn, who lives in British Columbia and is a descendant on the Owens side. The reference to Pennsylvania is wrong, as the word was almost illegible and someone has added a not quite so illegible word that looks like 'Pennsylvania' above it. I've not yet had time to research further, but Charles Good of Venedocia suggests DELPHOS as the original location. (Feb 98).

The letters are from William Bebb Snr and William G.Bebb (Jnr). It seems likely that they are the same Bebbs who helped to found Venedocia - see my notes at the end.

The First Letter

addressed to:
Mr. Griffith Owen, Vanner, Llanelltyd Merionithshire.
G. Brittain.

Vanwert Co. Ohio.

Oct.10, 1850.

Dear Brother,

I am able to inform you once again that we are all alive and well, as were our brother John and his family at Fort Winnebago, Wis. the last time we heard from them - although they complained as we also might, that they never hear from you. We have not received one letter from you yet though we have sent two. We have almost completed the building of our mills, - one saw mill and one corn mill. There is only sufficient water for about a quarter of the year so we can expect few advantages but convenience. We had in past years and we have in this year sown about twenty acres of wheat, We have about 120 acres of clear land, the remainder being woodland. As yet there are only twelve Welsh families here near us but others have bought land and will soon come, and there are others at a little distance from here. We have about fifty persons amongst whom are 22 Methodist members, and practically all of us are abstainers, having recently renewed the pledge. The town {Delphos?} about eight miles from here is growing very rapidly, both as regards size and trade; one may often see as many as a hundred waggons there in one day, selling wheat etc. This will probably be a pleasant country before long, and although the Welsh come here but slowly, yet there is a large number of Englishmen. A farm, partly cleared, together with buildings, can be obtained for eight or twelve dollars per acre, and woodland from 2 1/2 to 5 dollars per acre, but prices are rising near here. The children have grown very much, William is powerfully built, Dafydd taller than I am and Margaret almost as tall as Lowry, while Martha is fast following her; Jane is the smallest for her age, but she is quite healthy. Last year was very dry so the crops were light, but with good 'ears' and the potato crop was good. We are still in much the same state as regards religious meetings, prayer meetings and school etc. Two methodist ministers have visited us, and Robert Williams Oak hill has promised to come soon. We lately received a letter from Richd Herbert Montgomery promising to come here in the spring if we still continue to send for him and make the promises we made previously. We replied that we were prepared to do so, and that I would write to you without delay as before. The request I made in my last letter (if you received it) was that you would pay Richard Herbert 18, and Thomas Jones, Abergroes, 2 (as well as the sum I paid for John) for his clothes. As the clothes were not fashionable I could not sell them for what they would pay, but they will now fit our boys and I hope to prevail upon them to wear them. Therefore I desire you to pay more, that is, 4 in all, to Thomas Jones, and 16 to Richd Herbert. If you pay readily in the manner I have directed I will not claim interest for the last three years, and their receipts will free you from my demand (and keep this as witness) until I send you the note. As you know it was on May 13, 1846 that we last settled, and that you owe me 20, and that I owe you about ten shillings as I had not finished my payment for the children, and you chose to leave the 10s.0d towards the interest due the following year. I request that you will write immediately to let me know that you have received this, and explain how every thing is to be done; we have not heard from you nor from Thomas Jones whether you received the 2 or not. Give me too, a detailed account of yourself, and as much as possible of the news of neighbourhood and the best cause in the county. Your sister will be very pleased to receive news of her old home and her old friends. Give our very loving regards to everyone who enquires about us, especially to the preachers and the church there and at Dolgelley. Do not delay in giving us much news from there; good news from a far country is like cool water to a thirsty man.

We unite to send you and your family and Owen and his family our kindest regards.

This from your brother and sister Wm. and Margaret Bebb.

P.S. R.Herbert means to start for this country about the 25th of next March. If you have not the money ready now it would be a great encouragement to him and a convenience to me if you would write to tell him now that he will be certain to receive it by that time.

Second Letter

I am availing myself of this opportunity of writing to you. You admonished me many times to write to you often, but somehow it is easier to promise than to fulfil. I have often thought of writing to you but postponed it each time. We as a family have been in very good health since we left Wales especially so. considering the distance we have travelled and the change of climate endured, and all things considered we have now settled down quite well. The Welsh people in the neighbourhood have enjoyed fairly good health this year; the indispositions most frequently met with are the ague and the remitting fever. The climate here is slightly warmer in summer than it is there and colder in winter. We had very little rain from April until the beginning of this month, but we have had a little frost some nights. The roads are the worst feature of this part of the country; the land is generally good, but much of it has not yet been settled. My mother has enjoyed good health throughout, except that she had a touch of ague last October; at times too she yearns for the religious meetings of Wales. My mother sends her fondest and kindest regards to you and Uncle Owen, and likewise to Auntie Afonwin, and my Uncle at Sgubor, and Auntie Bryndu and Pegi Sion. Lowry and Dafydd unite in sending their regards to you and Uncle Owen and little Owen and especially to Griffith; I should very much like to see him. Tell him I would gladly pay the postage of a letter from him if he had the time to write one. Griffiths give our regards to our schoolfellows at Dolgelly and our Master Daniel Evans and his family and to Griffith Thomas Maescaled and his family, and Owen Edward.

This briefly from your very loving William G.Bebb.

(Griffith be sure of writing to me too before long. )

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Is this the William Bebb of Venedocia, cousin of Governor Bebb? The date is reasonable, and according to the description of Vendocia's origin, Mrs William Bebb, nee Owen, (who is not named in the account of Venedocia) came from Dollgellau.


The International Genealogical Index (IGI) helps out. Referring to the section for Bebb in Montgomeryshire, we find references to the christening of several children of William Bebb and Margaret Owen. Assuming that they had their children baptised soon after birth, we can get a good idea of the ages.

All at Montgomery, Darowen. Christenings of children of "WM. Bebb, Margt. Owen"
Name              Christened:   IGI page  Age @1850
BEBB, Lowry      26 Sep 1830     68        20
BEBB, William    23 Jun 1832     72        18
BEBB, David      29 Dec 1833     65        17
BEBB, Margaret    8 May 1837     69        13
That leaves Martha and Jane to be accounted for, by implication the youngest from the way William talks of them.

The IGI lists five Martha Bebbs, all at least ten years too early, and fourteen Jane Bebbs, but none seem to fit. The ages of the others suggest that it is unlikely that the missing two were born in the US. If I hear any more I'll post it here.

William and Margaret Owens' marriage does not obviously appear in the IGI. However, the genealogy of this branch of the Bebb family is well documented, and William and Margaret are listed as cousins of Governor Bebb. It is more likely than not that they are the same ones.

William talks of his "payments for the children". I have no idea what he means.


Jane didn't let being left out of the IGI bother her, even if they hadn't written it then. Charles Good of Venedocia found this out:

Jane Bebb, mentioned in your first letter to Dollgelly, married David W. Evans who bought most of what is now Venedocia and sold the first town lots. DW owned all the land surrounding Venedocia and called it Venedocia Valley Farm. You can see this land marked in some of the old maps on the Venedocia Home Page.
The great grandson of D. W. Evans still lives in Venedocia and still owns this land, now called Mill Pond Farms.(Feb 98)


Lowry is an unusual name. A William Bebb married Lowry Brees in 1784, at nearby Llanbrynmair, and I believe our William is his son. Griffith Brees later married Mary Bebb in 1826, also Llanbrynmair.
R.Jervis refers to Wm Bebb's firstborn as "Laura" in his account of the early days of Venedocia.


The Elders of Salem Church in Venedocia, c 1898 include a William G.Bebb - author of the second letter?

Neighbours in Darowen

There is another Bebb family at Darowen at this time. Edward Bebb and Jane Hughes have children Margaret (1825), Jane (1827), William (1829), Edward (1833). What happened in 1831?
There is a (solitary) record of Margaret, firstborn of William Bebb and Margaret Hughes christened in 1825 - it is tempting to view this as an error based on confusing the two families above.


It is interesting to look at the Venedocia Home Page's History link to the cemetery records. The names William, Margaret and David recur. In March 1998 Charles Good rediscovered the original marble headstone of William and Margaret. It has suffered badly from weather erosion, and is difficult to decipher. Charles hopes to get a rubbing from it at some point, which might be easier to read.

Postscript August 2003

It has been pointed out that Herbert Bebb's genealogy provies additional information about this family, and clears up a number of loose ends. I should revise these notes in conjunction with Herbert's book, and one day I shall. In the meanwhile, the following information sent to me by Mary Margaret Trice, a descendant of this family, helps to bridge the gap.

Re: Letters to Dollgelly from William and Margaret Bebb. In the notes that followed those two letter, reference was made to the children of William Bebb and Margaret Owen. The IGI lists left out Martha and Jane, as noted. Information in the Herbert Bebb Genealogy gives the following information: Lowry (called Laura) Bebb was born September 12 or 13, 1830 in Machyhlleth, Montgomeryshire, North Wales - Married David M. Jones 6/11/1853 and died 2/18/1910 in Venedocia, Ohio. William G. Bebb was born 5,/3/1832, married Margaret Price on 12/8/1864. She was born 9/23/1836 and died 8/28/1890. David Owen Bebb was born 12/11/1833, died 5/21/1882. He married Mary Halliday (date unknown) and then Mary Jane Hughes (date unknown) She was born 8/17/1833 and died 6/2/1879. He was buried at Forest Maine Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Margaret Bebb (known as Maggie) was married to William E. Watkins on November 1, 1859. She was born 3/12/1837 and died 9/9/1866. If you need their children, they are listed on p.19 of the Herbert Bebb Genealogy. The Martha Bebb that you couldn't find was born 5/3/1838 and died 2/20/1858. She never married. This may already be recorded, but if not, it may clarify the information in the notes.

M.Bebb Apr1998 and Aug 2003

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