Like numerous other nationalities, ethnic Welsh people viewed Ohio as a land of opportunity during the 1800s.
Migrants from Wales were among the first people to come to Great Britain's North American colonies in the 1600s. By the late 1700s, Welsh migration slowed dramatically. American independence from Great Britain virtually ended Welsh immigration for several decades. As the United States of America began to industrialize during the late nineteenth century, Welsh immigration increased, however, Wales migrants usually lagged behind those from other European countries.
During the early 1800s, Welsh Americans viewed the abundance of land in Ohio as a godsend and hoped to make a stable life for themselves on the frontier. The first Welsh migrants in Ohio traveled down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania. Upon reaching the mouth of the Muskingum River, they traveled northward to Zanesville. Numerous other Welsh Americans followed them. Future migrants usually came along Zane's Trace. Eventually these people moved to present-day Licking County. Theophilus Rees and Thomas Phillips led these people to Ohio. These men had purchased nearly 1,800 acres in Licking County and founded the settlement of Welsh Hills. Most early Welsh Americans settled in the central part of Ohio.
In 1839, a second sizable Welsh migration began to arrive in Ohio. Several hundred Welsh migrants settled in Jackson and Gallia Counties, especially in the communities of Tyn Rho, Oakhill, Centerpoint, Bethel, Nebo, and Horeb. These Welsh men and women joined an earlier group of migrants that had arrived in the area in 1818. That year, six Welsh families settled on the border of Gallia and Jackson Counties. Together the earlier and the newer arrivals established several Welsh churches, and still today, interested persons can see at least eleven Welsh cemeteries in the region. Most of the Welsh residents in this part of Ohio became farmers or miners or they helped construct the state's roads, canals, and railroads.
During the late nineteenth century, Welsh migrants tended to congregate in the industrialized cities of northern Ohio. In 1900, 11,481 foreign-born Welsh people resided in Ohio. Over the next several decades, their numbers declined, as fewer Welsh migrants came to the United States.
Ohioans tended to welcome Welsh migrants to the state. Many other European immigrants, especially those from Eastern European countries, faced much distrust and even hatred from native-born Ohioans. Coming from Wales, part of Great Britain, most Welsh migrants were Protestant and practiced other cultural beliefs familiar to and acceptable to native-born Ohioans.
Several prominent Ohioans either were Welsh immigrants or were descended from Welsh ancestors. Some of the more prominent Welsh Ohioans include businessman Bob Evans and politician Samuel Jones. Several institutions continue to honor Ohio's Welsh heritage, including the Welsh-American Heritage Museum in Jackson and the Madog Center for Welsh Studies at Rio Grande University.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.