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"Letters from Wales" by Frances H. Davies

August 31, 1911 - December 4, 1911

The Spectator, August 31, 1911

Word was received from T. H. Davies and wife from New York City of their safe arrival there on their way to Wales.

The Spectator, September 14, 1911

We set sail for the old home in South Wales, August 23rd. The ocean was still as a lake and we glided along as lightly as the sea gulls. We had fine accommodations and splendid meals and have not missed any of them or felt a bit sick, in fact are getting rejuvenated.

We met three Welshmen on ship board--one from California, who was going back after 15 years absence, one from Edwardsville, Lucerne Co., Pennsylvania who was going back to Wales to settle up some property and the third was a Mr. Morgan from Scranton.

Another passenger was a lady from Montana who was chaperoning two young ladies who will attend an English school and she was also bearing the sad news of the finding of the dead body of an old gentleman lost for two months, who had sailed from Wales with 2,000 pounds. A couple concerts were given on board by the cabin passengers. Sunday we attended an Episcopalian service in the first cabin and there was also a Catholic service on board. The ocean was rough some part of the way but the weather was fine. The last day at sea was beautiful and we sailed over what the old Dutch sailors used to call the Devil's Pool where the four winds met and hold their carnivals. It was so fair and calm that it must be his satanic majesty got wind of our coming and kindly went a visiting.

I am wondering just as I am about to land what my impressions of the old home will be and whether the old attachments will still have a tendency to keep me from the land of my adoption across the sea where are so many dear and true friends.

The Spectator, September 21, 1911

Tenby South Wales August 31, 1911

We had a lovely voyage and upon landing felt the first lonely feeling, so strange and uncanny were the surroundings but it only lasted a few moments. An official of the G. W. R. R. asked us if we were Davies from America and said that he had been delegated by our brother, an old official of the railway to look after us and see us safely on the train.

The old home is beautiful, grown beyond my recognition. Many old friends have passed away but still so many have clasped hands with us that in the old days were young with us and the welcome we received is beyond recording.

The town is full of people seeking health. Grandhotels have sprung up everywhere and palatial homes crown the bluffs over looking the deep blue sea. New piers run out into the water to accommodate the excursion steamers. Rents are high here, furnished apartments bringing from $10 to $50 per week.

Our brother, Samuel, owns a beautiful home and we are well cared for and are not a bit homesick as yet. Wages are so low here that Americans would scorn to work for them.

The grass is green and luxuriant and many beautiful flowers. Fuchsias are ten to twelve feet high and hydrangea four feet high.

We expect to go to the beach today and to the country tomorrow, I want to see if I can recognize a cow on the old soil and find out how productive they are here. Potatoes are wonderfully fine here, the lady who supplies our brother's table said she had potatoes that weighed 2 pounds each.

The other part of us [Frances' husband, Thomas] is as happy as a boy. He and his brother are going fishing in the big pond, the ocean, this eve. He is almost tempted to get rooted in the old sod here. He and his brother go walking all day long together and meet many old friends.

The Spectator, September 28, 1911

Tenby, South Wales
September 7, 1911

There has been continued sunshine with no rain since we have been here. We are still enchanted with old scenes and friends whose welcome is warmly grand. We went in a motor car to Lydstep Haven where Lord St. David has a beautiful home in a sheltered cove. The farmers are putting in wheat and the ground was dragged until the soil was like a garden and a rich, black loam. They use tools and machinery much the same as ours. The cattle are fine here, fat and glossy. The pastures are as green as they are in June at Fairview.

In the best of seasons cows average 25-30 pounds of milk at each milking. It takes the milk from all the farms around here to supply Tenby. It brings six cents per quart.

There were two weddings here yesterday in full bridal costume, white satin and lace veil with orange blossoms. I saw the whole ceremony at one.

We expect to go to North Wales soon to visit relatives. I do not know when we shall return home. They expect us to stay here all winter, at least. I am not a bit homesick yet, but the call of children's voices from far across the sea seems to ring in my ears at times.

The Spectator like a white winged messenger reached us September 9 date August 31. It seems good to read of the friends at home. Sunday is strictly observed here. No excursion trains or boats come into the place on that day.

The meats are fine here and price about the same as at home. We were out Friday and stood on the beach and saw the fishermen cast their net into the sea and draw them in full of striped, green coated mackerel and we enjoyed one for breakfast.

The terrible thunder storms we have at home are unknown here. We have hardly seen a drop of rain since August 21st.

I learn of many of my old friends of earlier days here who live in various parts of America and Canada whom I had lost all trace of.

The roads are fine here, all macadam and autos and motor cycles are plenty. There is an American meat market here and also we find cheese that looks like the make of our own factory.

Fruit is dear here, plums, pears, and apples sell for 4 cents per pound. Bananas and vegetables about the same as home and lemons cheaper.

Quite nice houses for small families rent for $50 per year. They have nice ranges set in an alcove. No rocking chairs but cushioned arm chairs.

Flowers abound everywhere here and are very beautiful. They have the loveliest begonias from cream colored to deep pink, which grow wild luxuriantly along the cliffs. I can exclaim with the poet:

I know by the smoke that so
gracefully curled
Above the green elms that a cottage was near
And I said if there's peace to be
found in the world,
The heart that is humble may seek
for it here.

The Spectator, October 19, 1911

Machynlleth, North Wales
September 29, 1911

We are now with a nephew R. T. Edwards, secretary of the Machynlleth Sheep Dog Society, at his place, Plas Forge, where the mountains rise it seems almost to the sky. The river meanders like a ribbon of prismatic hues onward to the sea. The mountains tower grandly, magnificently on either side while a green valley of velvet like beauty lies on each side of the river.

The nephew we are visiting owns a twenty-five acre farm. He has only a few choice cows of the Holstein breed and his wife is an expert butter maker, taking first premiums at many of the fairs here.

They have a beautiful home with the river so close that you can throw a stone into it from the lawn.

The law is so strict here that even the landowner has to take out a license to hunt and fish. Game of all kinds is abundant.

Our nephew has all the modern conveniences in his home, including bathroom and a new cooking range superior to the American make.

Wages are low here. Masons and carpenters get $1.25 per day and board themselves. Brown eggs are preferred to white ones in South Wales. The beef and mutton are super excellent.

The Spectator reached me and I see you had a visit from Jack Frost. Here the trees are still green and I saw a honeysuckle in full bloom yesterday. We motored thirty-two miles to a large fair yesterday and saw many beautiful bits of landscape for which North Wales is noted.

We are only about a mile from Lord Herbert's magnificent home where in July King George and family sojourned during their visit to Carnervon Castle and Aberystwith. We are well and enjoying our visit immensely and I hope our friend R. F. McConnell, of Machias, will read this for he predicted that we would soon get homesick for America. But as yet we are not.

But I do wish I had the strength of Sampson so I could put my shoulders to the big hills and roll them down into the valleys so a glimpse of the blue sea would greet my eyes.

The Davies family here is a large one and we have many more places to visit.

The Spectator, October 26, 1911

Machynelleth, North Wales
October 10, 1911

We are still in this part of North Wales. The weather is very fine, cold, clear days. The roads are fine here, dry and better than New York State roads. The mountains are so high on each side of the roadway that they seem unattainable, but yesterday as we rode along we could plainly see the figures of hunters on top of the highest peaks.

Yesterday we climbed up a well beaten pathway to a hundred acre farm where one of our relatives lives. It is called Henglym and as we climbed the rugged pathway I could not help but think of Jack and the Beanstalk, when we reached the top we had a magnificent view of the hills, the valley and the gently flowing river far, far below. It was a delightful picture and well repaid us for our strenuous climb.

Jack, you mind, saw fields full of fat kine when he reached the ladder's top; so did we. We walked through woods of spruce which is planted and grows rapidly and are cut into timbers for use in the mines.

We can see by going a little way further the noted Cader Idris Mountains. Bangor and Holyhead are only a short distance away. The language here is Greek to me, Welsh to the natives, although our friends are good English speakers. The chapels are mostly Welsh although for our benefit English is often interspersed. We attended an English Presbyterian Church at Machynlleth.

This evening we are going to a place four miles away to attend a illustrated lecture on tuberculosis.

D. Davies, another of the family of our line, has sent a choir of Welsh singers to America to raise funds for a memorial hospital in memory of Edward the 7th, for the case of tuberculosis. He has given twenty-five thousand pounds to start the campaign besides three guineas a week to each singer. Go and hear them if they come to Rushford or Fairview.

The Spectator, November 2, 1911

Llanidloes, North Wales
October 17, 1911

We are at the North Pole the exact latitude of which Cook and Peary claim to have discovered. But I find it a beautiful spot. Giant oak trees dot the landscape far and near. The grandeur of the river Severn winding its way through green and luxuriant meadows is a change from the mountain ranges of Montgomeryshire, near Machynlleth, where we visited three weeks ago.

We arrived at Llanidloes Saturday afternoon and it being market day we met more relatives on the Davies and Humphrey sides than I can enumerate. It is a large farming country around here. One nephew, a mill owner, supplies the town and country for miles around with flour and feed. He employs millers and is himself busy with public trusts and is identified with the town council and is a stalwart businessman and large in statue, being over six feet high.

One of my husband's nephews has ten children, another nine, another six, and still another thirteen. The language here is excellent English. The soil is extremely fertile and the land level. The trees are still covered with green foliage and the country is certainly very beautiful.

Tuesday we had an auto ride of forty miles to the far famed Aberdovey town and came back by Talyllyn Lake at the foot of the grandly towering Cader Idris Mountains.

We tried to locate Thomas Edmunds, relative of Ed. Edmunds of Freedom, also Thomas Jones, a relative of T. H. Jones of Farmersville, but did not succeed the first day but interested the towns people so that further inquiries will be made and no doubt we shall find them.

We received the Spectator of October 5th today but September 29th we have not received and missed it much. We are not homesick yet and don't be surprised if we do not come back over the pond this winter.

The lead mines are only two miles from here and a number of men find employment there. There are also large woolen mills at Llanidloes, two miles from here, where Welsh flannels are manufactured.

Hoping that all our friends are well and that Rushford and Fairview are still on the map, we are.

The Spectator, November 16, 1911

November 1, 1911

Perched on top of one of the most verdant mountains of North Wales in a large old fashioned farm house is now sheltered your old Fairview correspondent. The view surrounding us is simply grand. Shropshire in the distance brings us a breath of old England.

This letter with the names of old Welsh towns may catch the eye and refresh the memory of many who requested me to write from here during our travels.

Well, we are getting to be regular globe trotters. We were at a fair at Newtown yesterday. A great crowd was in attendance. Horses, cows, sheep, and so on for sale. Merry-go-rounds and penny shows in abundance. The rosy cheeked lassies and their sweethearts were in a happy mood.

There is in Newtown an immense business place owned by Sir Pryce Jones. He manufacturers all his own goods. Any garment or the materials for the same can be purchased. Elevators carry you to the different floors. I thought Buffalo [New York] was on a large scale as to its buying and selling facilities but this one exceeds them. The owner has just introduced one in Calgary, Canada.

We have visited in many parts of Wales, now for the places, old friends--Llanglyn, Caersws, Weinburth and Llanidloes. Some I think have been near these in early youth. We have many visits from old friends of my husband's. The Bennetts of Cithail, Lloyds of Stryville and others more complicated for me to spell.

There are some fine people here about with large families of sons and daughters who would come to America for their children's sake if they could find good farms. They are fine people, sober, industrious and strictly religious, honorable in the highest degree.

Game is very plentiful here. Rabbits, pheasants and woodcock are abundant. Have eaten of each, also of wild duck. It is nothing for our nephew and sons to capture twenty rabbits per day.

Will finish with kind remembrances to all who remember.

The Spectator, December 7, 1911

Talgarth Mill, Tlefaglyws, North Wales
November 20, 1911

Once more, mayhap the last of our letters for some time, as we have exhausted our vocabulary in telling of Wales and its beauties. This is to remind old friends of our promises to report occasionally.

The potato crop is being harvested and is immense, averaging 560 bushels to the acre and they are beauties.

This is a wonderful country and a beautiful one and the people are the most hospitable kind we ever met. The most lovely thing to be seen now is the green herbage on the fields with cows browsing all day long, but kept in at night.

The meadows are hedged with thorns amid the branches of which are the holly and ivy. The holly tree is often twelve feet high and the scarlet berries are a cluster of beauty.

We are in fine health and enjoying our visit more than we can express.

Strangely a letter came to us last week with an invitation to visit at Merthy Vale, South Wales, a lady whom I knew years ago when she visited with her Aunt in the home now occupied by Milford Davis, Mrs. E. Owens, mother of R. A. Owens and Mrs. D. W. Williams of Centerville. She was Kate Edwards then. I may go there later. We also have an invitation to visit Maldwyn Pliec, the great musician and composer, whom I knew when a boy.

There has been lots of wet weather here all the fall but the roads are perfectly free from mud. Wish you were here with your auto to take us where we are invited to go. I do not like to walk and few keep their carriages in Wales, only farmers who have to. The farmers' wives on small places trot of to market eight or ten miles afoot, carrying a basket of butter, eggs, etc. It seems nothing to them.

The Spectator, December 21, 1911

Fronhenlog, Llandysil, Montgomeryshire, North Wales
December 4, 1911

When I wrote my last letter from Trefegylas, I thought I had used up all the news I had in store, but while enroute to this place last week we visited an old friend at Red House and found a veritable treasure trove of old antiques. The house, which is a large, old mansion, filled with the grandest old oak furniture. One black oak cabinet, richly carved, was made in 1684 and is in a splendid state of preservation. There are also heavy and richly carved oak chairs, silver, china, ancient rugs used in generations of the family whose names were Mills.

The head of the family is 82 years old and is whole and hearty and can read without glasses. His wife is 78 and is very active and supervises her housework. They entertained us royally. Their daughter married David Davies, a nephew of my husband. [David and Dorothy Mills Davies and children immigrated to the Cattaraugus Settlement a few months later. Their eldest daughter, Mary, accompanied Frances and Thomas Davies on their way back to America. The David Davies family settled in Rushford, Allegany Co., NY. BH]

It is a beautiful winter morning here, with sun shining brightly and no snow and the grass still green. On the faraway hills, bordering on England, we can see a bit of snow. The trees are leafless but the black birds and robins, which are smaller than the American birds, are hopping and chirping.

Another letter reached me from Merthyr Vale, last week inviting me there, Mrs. Hughes getting my address from the Spectator. We may go there on our way back to South Wales before we return to America.

The people here are grand and loyal, true blue, as they say and our hearts are full of thankfulness for such cordial greetings and too, from some we never met before, but the tie of kinship is strong. The relatives here think that my husband, who is their uncle, is so much like their deceased father that they do not want us to go far away yet awhile.

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Letters Feb-May 1912

© Barbara R. Henry