As the distant descendant from a large Welsh community that left Cardiganshire, Wales in the 1830’s and settled in Gallia County in southern Ohio, I have been to several St. David Day celebrations. However this is the first time I’ve seen an icon of St. David. Not too many Eastern Christians in the family.
I’ve always been told that these Welsh settlers stayed in this part of southern Ohio because it reminded them of South Wales. This area of the state really celebrates its Welsh heritage. The farm that my ancestors, John D. and Jane Jones, settled on is still in the family. Every labor day since 1925 a Jones family reunion has been held on that land. I’ve been going to that reunion for 30 some years I guess.
Anyway, I’m reminded of something my Grandma used to say – “To be born Welsh is to be born privileged. Not with a silver spoon in your mouth but with music in your blood and poetry in your soul.”
No kidding , that’s crazy ! The reunion I mentioned is just down the hill from Rio Grande at Cora, just across the bridge from where the mill is (was). Right along the creek.
It’s a beautiful part of the state. I love to go down there when I feel like getting away. Over the years I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the area camping, hiking, fishing etc. The peace, quiet and beauty always does the soul good.
Do you still live in the area ? And by the way I’m 54.
My dad was the pastor at Calvary Baptist in Rio in the 80s. I currently live in Memphis, TN, and am about to move to central Wisconsin. I am 38 so we would have missed each other there but surely I know your people. My people (well, via my mom) are from the WVA side (half the family going up to Akron-Canton later on), but I have kinfolk all through that area.
I haven’t been to Rio in years but will be there this coming summer, if all goes as planned. The parsonage we lived in there bordered Bob Evans’ land, and I knew miles and miles and miles of it as a kid, like the back of my hand. I hunted, fished, camped, and hiked all through there, and there is no place on earth that is more familiar to me in my mind and memories. It was a great place to grow up. My parents then moved to suburban Detroit when I was 17, and the transition was horrific for me. I had nowhere to go, no woods to escape to. I used to lay down in the church parking lot in front of the parsonage in Michigan and stare at the sky and pretend I wasn’t trapped in a sea of noise and sprawl and concrete and crappily built suburban homes and that legion of consuming autobot drones. My parents let me make the drive down to Rio (5 hours or so) every 2-3 weekends during my entire junior and senior years of high school. It was the only thing that kept me sane.
Man, talk about about culture shock. I can’t even imagine moving from Rio to Detroit at that age.
I hope your plans work out and you can get there next summer. Honestly it seems very little has changed in the years I’ve been going down there. They’ve “improved” RT 35, which means you can get there a little faster but the drive is much less interesting. The old RT35 had so much character. There is now a Mcdonalds next to Rt 35 which seems completely out of place, and there are now horse and buggies on the roads as the Amish have been moving down there the past few years. Hopefully they are trying to escape the tourist trap that Holmes County has become and not looking to establish a new one.
I’m sure you know some of my people. They are scattered all through the area. I was thinking especially about some Davis’s and Thomas’s that are around your age but then those are very common Welch names down there. Next time I’m down there I will ask if any of them attended Calvary Baptist. It wouldn’t surprise me as many of them are deeply devoted Christians.
I really like what you said about there being “no place on earth that is more familiar to me in my mind and memories,” I can tell it is a special place for you. I know it is for me and I’ve never even lived there. ( I also liked the “legions of consuming autobot drones.” but that is a whole other conversation.)
I hope you’ll like Wisconsin. My Son and I drove thru central and northern Wisc. last summer on our way to Quetico Park in Ontario. It left a very good impression.