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Welsh, Settlement

Hidden by mist, the towering Welsh mountains of Snowdonia have captured the imagination of storytellers throughout the ages. The legends of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician are rooted in the Welsh folk tradition, and writer Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) created with words heartbreakingly beautiful descriptions of the Welsh countryside and people. However, then story of Wales as a nation is filled with battles and many hardships. Throughout her history a long-standing struggle for independence and economic survival has led to the immigration of Welsh people to Canada.

The first Welshman to arrive in Canada is believed to have been Sir Thomas Button, who led an expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1612. Other early Welsh in Canada came after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and following the aftermath of the American Revolution (1775-1783). Welsh mapmaker David Thompson was one of the great explorers of the North West Company in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and is often called "Canada's Greatest Geographer." He covered 130,000 kilometres on foot and surveyed most of the Canada-United States border in the early days of exploration.

One of the first efforts to encourage Welsh emigration to Canada began in 1812, when Welsh native John Mathews endeavoured to bring his family to Canada. Mathews left home at a young age and went on to become a successful businessman in America. When he returned to Wales, he found his family living in poverty and became convinced they should emigrate to Canada. In 1817 his family settled in the township of Southwald, near what is now London, Ontario. By 1812 he had brought over more relatives who built homes on the 100-acre lots granted to them by Colonel Thomas Talbot. The colony attracted 385 Welsh settlers by 1850 and retained its predominantly Welsh character until the late 1870s.

Early Welsh immigration to Canada was also spurred on by the Cariboo gold rush in British Columbia in 1858. The development of underground mining provided employment for many skilled Welsh miners who decided to remain in the area.

In 1902 Welsh immigrants arrived from Patagonia, which had been incorporated into Argentina in 1881. Compulsory military service and a series of floods that ruined Welsh farmers' crops led to the resettlements of the emigrants in Bangor, Saskatchewan, where they once again took up farming. A community of Welsh farmers was also established at Wood River near Ponoka, Alberta.

Many Welsh came to Alberta from their home country during the peak homesteading years after the turn of the century. Most came from the mining and industrial regions of Wales to work in the coalmines around Edmonton, where they soon became active in the trade union movement. David Milwyn Duggan, a Welshman, was the mayor of dmonton from 1921 to 1923, who came to Edmonton from Wales in 1905.

Fisher's harness shop, Nanton, Alberta.

Fisher's harness shop, Nanton, Alberta.