<< Prev Next >>
The Welsh early felt the need of a paper in their own language devoted to the interests of their people in this country. Many of them knew no language but the Welsh and those who spoke English were, but a few of them, able to read the written language. They were as a consequence unable to benefit from the American journals and they found the periodicals from the old country expensive and, as they gave little attention to things in this country, far from satisfactory. A paper was needed which would give the news of both Wales and America.
The lack of such a paper was partially filled for those who could read English by The Old Countryman. This was a weekly newspaper devoted to the interests of the emigrants from the British Isles. It had separate columns for the news from each of the four countries, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and also gave the news of the world in general. This paper was started in 1830 and in 1835 Edgar W. Davis was editor. (8) Soon after this it was united with the Emigrant and went under the title of The Emigrant and Old Countryman. It maintained an agent in Utica and single copies were on sale at one of the news-stands. (9) This paper, however, was never satisfactory to the Welsh, and it is unlikely that it ever circulated to any large extent among them.
The first attempt to issue a Welsh newspaper in this country was begun by J. A. Williams (Don Glan Towy), a printer in New York. This was a fortnightly newspaper entitled Cymro America, and made its first appearance at the beginning of the year 1832. It was to sell at two dollars a year. There appear to be no copies of it in existence and little is known of the paper save that at first it was printed wholly in Welsh and later in Welsh and English. (10) Mr. Williams started the paper with insufficient capital and when business in New York was demoralized as a result of the cholera in the year 1832, he was forced to give up the paper after but a few months of publication. (11)
After the suspension of the Cymro America, the Welsh were again without a paper. This continued until 1838, when Y Cyfaill o'r Hen Wlad or The Friend from the Old Country made its appearance. This, the oldest of magazines in the Welsh language in America and the only one still existing, has with the exception of Y Cenhadwr, been the best. Its first issue came out in January 1836 under the editorship of its founder, Rev. William Rowlands, pastor of the Calvinistic Methodist Church in New York City. It was printed by William Osborn of that city.
Rowlands, the founder of Y Cyfaill, was born of Welsh parents in London in 1807. He was brought up in Wales and after finishing school taught for a time, for a short while was a printer and a little later was proprietor of a coal mine. His most serious attention, however, was given to the ministry, and he preached for some time with the Calvinistic Methodists in South Wales before accepting in 1836 a call from the Calvinistic Methodist Church in New York City, to be their pastor.
Rowlands, before leaving Wales, had thought that he could serve the Welsh in America through his literary efforts. Soon after his arrival in New York and during the following year, 1837, he traveled extensively in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio among the Welsh to see if there was a demand for a Welsh periodical and to prepare the ground for one, should he decide to publish it. He found a general desire among the Welsh for a paper in their own language and returned to New York resolved to supply the need. The first copy came out in January 1838. (12)
Though Rowlands was a Calvinistic Methodist minister, he did not design Y Cyfaill as a denominational paper. It was to serve all denominations and all parties, professing in the first number to be independent of both. This purpose Rowlands was not able to maintain. The body of Welsh papers was made up of theological discussions and accounts of church meetings and doings. Rowlands found it impossible to print a paper serving three denominations when the bulk of its contents was religious and Y Cyfaill soon became frankly Calvinistic Methodist. Especially was this true after the Congregationalists had founded a paper of their own in 1840 and the Baptists in 1844. So long as Rowlands lived Y Cyfaill did not show in its title page or cover that it was a denominational paper, though during that time it was in reality and was considered so. Shortly after his death, his widow sold it to the Calvinistic Methodist body and since then (1869) it has appeared as their organ.
Rowlands' purpose of making Y Cyfaill independent in politics was less difficult to follow out. Comparatively small space was devoted to political affairs and Rowlands kept that non-partisan. His columns were open for letters discussing political questions. In 1839 the relative merits of colonization of the negro and of abolition were warmly discussed in contributions from his readers. Only when the correspondence became too violent was it excluded. (13) The editor took no part in the discussions and Y Cyfaill remained non-partisan.
From the beginning the paper was a strong advocate of temperance, articles frequently appearing directed against the rum traffic. One of the most commendable features was the publication during 1839, in a question and answer form, of an explanation of the working and composition of the national government. The most common legal terms and customs were made clear, and the federal constitution explained. No better method of enlightening the recent immigrant on the principles of our government could have been devised.
Rowlands carried on the editorial work of Y Cyfaill during an active life in the ministry and so it is not surprising to see the paper published and printed in a number of different places and at times published in one place and printed in another. (14) As he moved from one charge to another, he took his paper with him and published it from his new field. The work of the ministry and of his paper proved too much for him to bear alone and in 1855, while preaching in Rome, he sold a part interest in the paper to Rev. Thomas Jenkins, a minister with the Calvinistic Methodists in Utica, and the latter became a fellow editor with him. He held this position until Rowlands bought his share in the paper in 1861 and again assumed complete charge of it. (15) During this time, Rowlands was for over two years in Scranton, far away from the point where the paper was printed and Jenkins managed the publication of it. It was during this time also that Jenkins for a short space was sole owner of the paper. (16)
Before his death in 1866, Rowlands had chosen Rev. M. A. Ellis as his successor to carry on the work. This arrangement was carried out and when the Calvinistic Methodist organization bought the magazine from Mrs. Rowlands in 1869, Ellis was continued in his position. At the General Assembly of the Calvinistic Methodists in 1871, Rev. William Roberts was made editor, with Ellis as associate editor. Dr. Roberts became sole editor later and when he became pastor of the Calvinistic Methodist church in Utica, published Y Cyfaill in that city where T. J. Griffiths printed it. He edited it until 1887, when Rev. H. P. Howell of Columbus, Ohio was elected editor. During his editorship, which lasted until 1900, the paper continued to be issued from Utica. In 1891, T. Solomon Griffiths of that city was elected manager of the paper and, in 1895, associate editor. He carried on the active work of getting out the paper in Utica. When Mr. Howell gave up the editorship, Mr. Griffiths continued the work, keeping it until 1910, when Rev. Joseph Roberts of New York was appointed editor and Josuah T. Evans, manager.
The paper has been a monthly all during its existence save for eleven months, February 1865 to December 1865, when it came out on the 1st and 15th of each month. Like Y Cenhadwr, Y Cyfaill has never obtained a very large circulation. In 1872 it had close to 1800 subscribers; (17) after that it grew slightly until it had as high as 2200, but for some years it has been about 2000. (18) The Calvinistic Methodist Church furnishes the capital for the paper and receives any profits left after the expenses of the management are paid. (19) These profits, when there are any, go to the Board of Missions.
Its influence was not measured by the number of its subscribers. Rowlands, Roberts and Griffiths were leaders of their denomination and their words carried great weight. Many Welsh homes had no other paper. Its monthly appearance was eagerly awaited, the whole of its contents carefully read, and much of it treasured for future reading and thought. In many homes it was a constant companion for long years, and the respect and esteem in which it was held was unbounded.
Y Cyfaill had seen but two years of life when Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd (The American Messenger) appeared. This, a Congregationalist paper, became the best Welsh periodical in this country and was worthy to stand beside the best of the products of Wales. During its long life of over sixty years, it was the leader in reform among the Welsh people. It was in advance of its times, but educated the people in the principles it advocated. Under the editorship of its founder, Robert Everett, it attained an influence, not only in this country but in Wales itself, which none of the other Welsh American paper ever approached.
Born in Flintshire, North Wales, January 2, 1791, of mingled Welsh, Scotch and English blood, Everett had preached for some time with the Congregationalists, beside aiding in the publication of the Dysgedydd, the organ of that denomination, when he accepted a call in the spring of 1823 to the pastorate of the Welsh Congregational Church of Utica. After leaving this church in 1832 and preaching first to the English in West Winfield and then in Westernville, he became pastor in April 1838 of the two Welsh Congregational churches of Steuben and Penymynydd. Here he stayed for the rest of his life. (20)
<< Prev Next >>