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Buffalo, New York Welsh in 1878

In the late 1870s Welsh settlement was flourishing in rural Cattaraugus County, New York. Forty miles to the north in the city of Buffalo, the urban Welsh community was hardly visible. But the Buffalo Welsh would have their hey-day later from the 1890s to the mid-twentieth century. The following article describing the early Buffalo Welsh community was published November 21, 1878 by the Welsh-American newspaper Y Drych. The article was discovered by researcher Barbara Henry and translated by Martha Williams and Phillips G. Davies, November 1992.

The Road to Buffalo 1841. In the mid-nineteenth century, Cattaraugus Welsh farmers used horses and wagons to haul their produce north to markets in the city of Buffalo.

The Welsh of Buffalo by J. C. R.
Y Drych. November 21, 1878

A word, further, of the Welsh of Buffalo. First of all, it is possible to say that they are small in number--and not the least--it is difficult to come across them; and the few who are there are strangers to each other. There is not any Welsh Society among us--and the one Welsh church does not have any Benevolent Society to cause them to be acquainted with each other and to cause for them a bit of national loyalty. New York and Chicago and San Francisco, and even ancient Philadelphia pay some degree of respect to Welsh customs, through meeting together--

Like patriotic Welsh, singing songs
And playing on the harp string,
And wearing the green leek
On the Festival Day of St. David.

but for the Welsh of Buffalo, there is no fascination in them any more for the language or the customs of the "Land of Song." Nevertheless, there are there some Welsh who are sufficiently warm-hearted, and if there were someone to start the movement, it would be strange if it were not possible to begin a small and successful British Society. What if WILLIAM LEWIS, ESQ., the son of the later well-known Deacon Lewis of Cattaraugus raised this to the wind! He is a very good Welsh person--totally Welsh blood runs in his veins, and his tongue has not gone in any way from speaking Welsh, nor his heart, I hope, has not totally lost every patriotic feeling. And besides that, there is enough go-ahead in him; that whatever he puts his hand to do, he does it with all his energy. By the way we ought to say that Mr. Lewis fills the important position of Freight Agent in the station of the Lake Shore & Michigan South, R. R. in East Buffalo. He is a jolly good fellow, and he recognizes each and every person who recognizes him; and it would not be possible for a man like him to wait very long before raising the Welsh who are in the city from their holes.

I have mentioned that the Welsh are very much strangers to each other. As proof of this, I am able to mention that I came across a Welsh person by the name of THOMAS HOWARD, living at No. 428 S. Division Street, who has lived in Buffalo for about twenty nine years without becoming acquainted with any Welsh here at all. He keeps, nevertheless, his Welsh very uncorrupted by reading the DRYCH. Mr. Howard is a native of Trecastell, Brecknockshire, from which place he came to America in 1847. He settled at first in Brooklyn, but he took up his pack quickly to go to the West. When he reached Buffalo, the lakes had frozen and it was necessary for him to stay thre during the winter. By springtime he had spent all that he had to pay his passage, and he was compelled to take his spade to work as a laborer for 75 cents a day. For many years, furthermore, Mr. Howard has been one of the most skillful mechanics in Buffalo and the foreman of the Geo. W. Tift & Son boiler works. We also understand that he has devised some improvements for the service of the boilers. If a society of the type mentioned, were established, we know that Mr. Howard would be one of the first ones to join it.

Among the Welsh who are merchants in Buffalo, there are two brothers from Middle Granville [N. Y., near the Vermont border] --ELLIS O. and WILLIAM O. WILLIAMS--the first making marbleized mantles, etc. of slate which come from Vermont, and William is a partner in the Buffalo Stone Marbleizing Co., and uses a sort of sandstone which is quarried in Pennsylvania within some hundred miles of Buffalo. It is possible to polish and marbleize this stone as well as easily as one treats marble; and it is also suitable for sidewalks, water tanks, etc. Because the stone to be had in the quarry tends to be sort of thick, and of every size, and it is possible to bring it to the city more inexpensively than the slate of Vermont, we fail to see why this company will not become a successful business in time. A lttle bit like Yankees in their spirit are these brothers; but I believe that they would get to feel interest in a Society which would have a tendency to benevolence in it.

And of course, we ought not leave out the women because in Buffalo there are some women with pure warm Welsh blood beating within them, especially the gracious Mrs. MELLING, 277 Prospect Avenue; and also her daughter, who are at all times ready to do a favor to their comaptriots. When I was in the city, there happened to be there a Welsh person by the name of William Jones--a shoemaker from Elmira, with a large family with him--very sick, and not above need. As quickly as the son of deacon Lewis and Mrs. Melling got to know of their trouble, there was not for the troubled family need for any goodness. And this is only one example of their generosity. A native of Denbigh was the late James Melling (the husband of Mr. Melling), and there is in this town a street which bears his name until the present time, that is, "Mellings' Lane." "Pererin" [Pilgrim] speaks much in his lecture about the "greatness" of Erasmus Pritchard. Well, I will venture to say that if he and Mrs. Melling were on each side of an accurate balance, it would be necessary to place above her head--"She is not wanting." His majesty is clouded by the greatness of a woman! With these notices, I wish all success and happiness to the Welsh of Buffalo.

By the afternoon, I heard that the Winslow was in the harbor, and away I went to examine it, and to assure a passage in it, in order to go tomorrow on a trip on the northern lakes.



Buffalo Harbor 1860. Many immigrants including the Welsh passed through the port of Buffalo on their way west.

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© Barbara R. Henry