The first born child after the Moses family had moved up to Hendre Rhys Farm was a boy called Morgan. Arriving on the 30th of May 1841, or “Mai 24th” according to the Family Bible, Morgan was Evan and Catherine’s fourth consecutive boy. He was named after his maternal Grandfather Morgan Miles, and was baptised the following month at St. Gwynno’s Church Llanwynno on June 27th.
If we fast forward 19 years, and as the old Chuck Berry song goes – “It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well” as young Morgan married 18 year old local girl Elizabeth Stradling at the Carmel Chapel, Graigwen Nr. Pontypridd on March 10th 1860. Morgan was described on the certificate as a “Farmer“, and interestingly he appears to have been literate, as he signs his own name rather than simply just making his “mark”. His bride Elizabeth was one of two girls born to “Wheelwright/Carpenter” Lewis Stradling and his wife Jane. An interesting footnote to the wedding is that whilst the Carmel Chapel was demolished to make way for road improvements in 1970, the actual wedding certificate still exists, and is today in the possession of Morgan’s Gt. Grandaughter in California! Back to the happy couple, and by the census of 1851, both of Elizabeth’s parents seemed to have “disappeared”, so prior to getting married, she had been living in Graigwen with her Grandfather, widowed farmer John Llewellyn. In that same 1851 census, young Elizabeth was described as the local “Pauper“, which must have done wonders for her self-esteem! So the wedding reception was probably not that lavish, but it was undoubtedly a good honeymoon, as the first recorded John Moses arrived nine months later, on December 31st, to the couple who had set up home on the Rhondda Road (later Hopkinstown, where Pontypridd meets the Rhondda Valley’s). I would assume that John was named after his mother’s grandfather. By the following years census, Morgan had become a “Miner“, and was almost certainly working in one of the numerous coal levels which had been dug into the mountainside above Graigwen near Pontypridd.
Morgan and Elizabeth were soon to emigrate and start a new life in the U.S.A., but before they did there was another addition to the family – a girl Jane, named after her maternal grandmother. According to later U.S. records she was actually born on Christmas Day 1864; her birth for some reason was never registered on this side of the Atlantic. According to her future husband’s naturalisation application (in 1905), Jane was born in Mountain Ash; this suggests that shortly before he emigrated, Morgan had made the short move to the Cynon Valley. Perhaps he worked as a labourer on the Aberdare Canal, or as a coalminer in nearby Cwmbach, where Jane’s husband to be (Robert Brynn) was from. This makes the account of the emigration in the book “The transformation of a boy to a man in the coalmine” (see next chapter) even more unreliable. The reason behind Morgan’s emigration is touched on in the book “Hanes Plwyf Llanwynno“, which unbelievably records a conversation between Morgan and his mother Catherine/Catws. “Running away to the White Mountain,” said Catws. “No, mam,” he replied, “Running away from the Black Mountain.” I wonder if the irony of this was lost on Morgan, as the “Black Mountain” he was running away from was Graigwen (Hill), which is Welsh for White-Rock!
The lead up to Morgan’s departure from South Wales is covered in another book “The transformation of a boy to a man in the coal mine” by Eugene Henry Jobson, which can be downloaded from The University of Pittsburgh. The book describes Morgan’s family in1865 as living in a “long row of one-storey, white-washed, stone tenement house’s with blue roofs“. This is almost certainly describing Godre Wen Houses in Hopkinstown; – Godre Wen literally means “White skirt“, or in this case, white houses skirting the side of the valley. Morgan was “Running away” from poor pay and working conditions in the Rhondda levels, where at that time the miners were in effect independent sub-contractors; their earnings based on the quantity and quality of the coal they extracted. Morgan and his fellow colliers would have had to toil for twelve hours a day, six days a week, for an average wage which had scarcely increased in the previous 15 years! – no wonder he was disillusioned with his life on the “Black Mountain“. Sadly trailblazer Morgan should have listened to his mam, as the old saying “The other man’s grass is always greener” was to ring tragically true for him and his wife Elizabeth (read on).
After some no doubt emotional goodbyes at Hendre Rhys, Morgan was taken by “private conveyance” to a nearby town, from where he caught a stagecoach to the port of Liverpool in England. From here he sailed (via “Queenstown England“- present day Cobh Ireland) to New York on The Palmyra, where on the ship’s register he was described as a 25 year old labourer. The year was 1866; crucially the American Civil War had ended in May of the previous year. The actual facts surrounding Morgan’s journey differ wildly from the story as told in the book “The transformation of a boy to a man in the coal mine“. For some reason the author claims that Morgan travelled to America with his older brother Evan IV, and on arrival was sent to a Union army camp in Virginia in readiness to fight in the Civil War! The truth was not quite so “Hollywood”, as not surprisingly Morgan had the good sense to wait for the conflict to end before emigrating – no matter how disillusioned he was with his life on the “Black Mountain“, potentially having to take part in the Battle of Gettysburg would not have been a wise move! Morgan actually travelled alone on route to his new life, arriving on June 18th 1866. His wife Elizabeth and the two children travelled separately – in a later U.S. census, his daughter Jane gives her date of immigration as 1865. If that was the case then she, and presumably her mother, went before Morgan; perhaps Elizabeth had close family already over there. Just to confuse matters, we now know that eldest boy John arrived in the U.S. in 1867, the year after his father. Back to Morgan’s journey, and back then sailing vessels not steam engines were used for long haul trans-Atlantic crossings; this resulted in an arduous journey lasting between four and six weeks. “conditions were a disgrace to civilisation” whilst “the dread of hunger and thirst was overwhelming” – and there were no toilets on board!
Morgan’s American dream had been “a desire to own a coal mine“; alas he never really fulfilled his ambition, as the working conditions he encountered were as bad if not worse than back in South Wales. However the Moses dream would be more than realised later on by Morgan’s youngest son – see the chapter on Thomas Morgan Moses, who was the “boy to a man” referred to in the title of Jobson’s book. The family’s first Stateside census entry (1870) finds them in Banks Township, Carbon, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania; and the family had grown to five with the arrival, in 1868, of the first ever Moses baby born in America. Fittingly the boy was named Evan, and he becomes number VIII in our growing sequence. Curiously the next American born child (Thomas Morgan) is not mentioned in this census entry, despite being born in Audenreid PA 13 months earlier on August 18th 1869.
It was all change ten years later on the Moses family’s next census entry; they were now living in Wasbash Township, Fountain, Indiana – Thomas M. gets a belated mention; his brother Evan VIII (who by now would have been 13) had ominously disappeared; the birth places of John and Jane had shifted from Wales to PA; and perhaps most surprisingly of all, Morgan now had a new wife! Sarah (Ann) was Pennsylvania born (Buck Mountain) of Welsh stock and nine years younger than Morgan. This throws up lots of questions; not least what happened to first wife Elizabeth – presumably she had died, possibly in childbirth. In a later census new wife, and no doubt desperately needed stepmother, Sarah A. declared “No children“, which after probably at least a decade of marriage to Morgan in a pre-contraceptive era, suggests that she could not have children of her own. An intriguing footnote to all this, is that an Elizabeth Moses with the right birth year is buried in the Welsh section of Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton, Lackawanna County PA, having died on February 14th 1874 aged 32. Youngest son Thomas M. later states his mother died when he was “tow” (sic), whilst the family were still living in Pennsylvania; if this was right then that would put the date of Elizabeth’s death as circa 1871.
Following the coal, Morgan and his family finally ended up in Iowa via Alabama, (back to) Audenreid and Stringtown Indiana. The final (1885) family census address is given as Maine Street, Cleveland Township, Lucas Co. Iowa. Morgan had presumably moved his family here because the Township seemed like an excellent place to raise a family. To quote “The Cleveland Herald” of 1887 – “Many of the miners are members of some branch of the Christian Church. ..we seldom saw a boy on the street during school hours, and a more orderly town cannot be found in the state. We saw no one intoxicated and heard no profanity.” This was in stark contrast to one of their previous addresses, Stringtown Nr. Coal Creek, which was described thus – “A collection of cheap houses mostly erected by the Coal Company to be used by the miners.” By 1881 it apparently had about 17 saloons; clearly not a suitable place to raise young children. Morgan’s “American dream” was then cruelly curtailed on July 28th 1886 when, aged 45 years 2 months and 4 days, he died from injuries he had sustained on July 8th the previous year when he was struck by a falling slab of slate whilst working underground in Lucas Iowa. This “careless injury” was witnessed by his youngest son, “13” year old Thomas Morgan, who was also working underground. In reality Thomas M. was probably around 15 at the time of his father’s accident. Poor Morgan was now severely incapacitated from then until his death, and so had to rely on his two young son’s to support the family. By the time Morgan Moses did eventually pass away, his youngest son Tom would have been a young man of sixteen rather than the pathetic “half-orphan” portrayed in Jobson’s book. It seems Tom was needlessly trying to “sex up” an already remarkable story. The book also bizarrely describes Tom as an “only child“, making no mention of either his three siblings or his biological mother Elizabeth and her premature death.
Morgan’s youngish widow Sarah Ann made her final census appearance in 1900 when, aged 50, she was living in Georgetown Indiana close to Thomas M. and interestingly her other step-son John; making the airbrushing of him out of the story even more strange. She was sharing her home at the time with her 18 year old niece Ida M. Evans and several boarders. After nearly 24 years of widowhood, Sarah Ann died at ten past two on the morning of March 16th 1910 at the home of her step-son Thomas M. in Westville. Like her father before her, she also died from stomach cancer and sadly, aged just 59, was survived by her mother. In her next day newspaper obituary she was described as “a very highly regarded woman” and was a member of both the Rebekah Lodge and Rathbone Sisters, which were American fraternal and service organisations. She was buried in a Moses family plot at the Springhill Cemetery, Danville, Vermilion Co. ILL. Her late husband Morgan had been buried, with a very impressive gravestone (finally paid for by his widow in 1889), in the then recently opened Fry Hill Cemetery just outside the town of Lucas, on land once owned by the White-breast Coal Co. for whom he was working for at the time of his accident. Perhaps fittingly it is located “atop a high hill in a very isolated spot. There are no houses or traffic in view. The only sounds are those of nature. Such a peaceful place“.* The same words could have been used to describe Hendre Rhys Farm near the “Black Mountain” where Morgan was born and raised.
* Thanks to Lucille Stone (Lucas Co. LOOK-UP) for the quote.
Many thanks to Herb Depke for his help with this branch.
See the chapter entitled “The White Mountain and beyond” to follow the lives of Morgan’s children in the U.S.