Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Mystery of John Vaughan 1825

This was prepared by our expert Researcher, Judy Vaughn Atwood, descended from John & Elinor through John Vaughan 1825, Thomas Vaughan 1850, George Robert 1886, and Augustus "Gus" Vaughan 1912:

John Vaughan was born in Hay, Breconshire Wales in 1825 to John Vaughan and Elenor Jenkins.

In 1841 he was age 16, with his family in Llanfoist, Monmouthshire, Wales and listed as a laborer on the canal wharf.

Llanfoist Wharf on Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal looking over the Usk Valley & Abergavenny to Sugar Loaf
Courtesy Pip Rolls, Creative Commons License
He married Maranah Watkins in 1846 and by the 1851 Census he was a puddler at the forge, age 25 with wife and children, George John (1847) and Thomas (1850).

Welsh Puddler at his hot and strenuous work
In the next 10 years, 4 more children were born to them: William (1852-1854), Elenor (1853-1854) William (1855-1922) and Samuel (1859-?). On the 1861 Census they were living in Bedwelty, Monmouthshire, Wales and John is listed as a puddler, they were living on Augustus Street, those in the household were: John and Maranah, Elizabeth, George, Thomas, William and Samuel. This is the first we hear of an older child named Elizabeth (age 17). She was born in Penrhos before John and Maranah were married and although she is listed as Vaughan here, there is evidence that she was Elizabeth Watkins and lived some of the time with her Watkins grandmother, Ester who was a widow.

A lot happened to them in the next 10 years. They moved to County Durham and 4 more children were born: Betsey (1862-?) Martha Maranah (1864-1936) Emily (1866-1869) and Jane Ann (1868-1945). John drops from all the records about this time. In 1870 Maranah marries John Lloyd stating that she is a widow.

In the 1871 Census Maranah is with her husband, John Lloyd and her children William and Jane Ann Vaughan. Martha Maranah (1864) is with her oldest brother George (1847) and wife Margaret. There is no sign of the father John, and children Elizabeth (Watkins) age 27, Samuel who might have died but, if not would be age 12 and Betsey age 9. Emily had died in 1869 of Rubeola. Thomas age 21 had not left Monmouthshire yet, and was found in Pontnewynydd (a suburb of Pontypool), He was a lodger in home of Arthur Jones, and he was a Puddler.

On the 1881 Census, Maranah is with her 3rd husband William Williams and her daughter Jane Ann Vaughan, age 15. John (1825) is not found, Elizabeth (Watkins or Vaughan) not found although we are pretty sure that she married John Davies, we have the certificate and are researching to find her children. George John is with his 2nd wife, Frances, Thomas is not found, William is married to Dinah Webster and has a family, Samuel likely died, Betsey and Martha Maranah are not found.

The 1880 decade finds that many of them have joined the L.D.S. Church. All the living sons have emigrated with their families. They all settled in Ogden, Utah. Even though Thomas was not on the 1881 Census, he was in the County Durham at that time. He married Isabella Bowman and they had several children before leaving for Utah. Maranah and husband William are still in the area of Stockton and so is Jane Ann who has married Richard Dobbing, they also joined the L.D.S. Church, had one child who died, they did not immigrate to Ogden. Those unaccounted for are Samuel, Betsey and Martha Maranah and of course the father John.

I believe that Samuel died young, probably before the family left Monmouthshire and settled in County Durham. That leaves John (1825) the father, and the 2 daughters Betsey and Martha Maranah. It is very likely that these three emigrated between 1868 and 1881, but not together.

So where are they? For years we have heard that John deserted Maranah and family, left for America, remarried and had children. The basis for this is an account related by Ren Vaughn (Willie Lorenzo 1892, son of Thomas and Isabella) who was visited by 2 elderly women saying that they were John’s daughters. They told him that John had come to America and had another family. One of the problems is that Ren didn’t write down names and addresses. He thought one of their names was Martha Wellington, he didn’t remember the other name, one lived back East and one lived in Walla Walla, Washington.

I have searched many years for news of John and what may have happened to him. None of the John Vaughans that I have found seemed to fit all the criteria. I finally found a John Vaughan in the 1880 Census, that was born in Wales in 1825, occupation- a puddler, could not read or write and lived in Pennsylvania, with wife Margaret and 4 step-children with the last name Morris. No daughter named Martha or other children named Vaughn. This was Sharpsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. I decided it could not be him.

Then I found a Martha M. Vaughan that immigrated, arriving in New York, 2 April 1881, age 16, on the ship City of Chester. This is very likely the daughter of John and Maranah. She married John Bartley Welliver and had a large family. Vaughn Family records show that Martha (1864) had married Bert Nelliver, I have never been able to find any sign of Bert Nelliver. I believe that there was a mistake in family records and her husband was John Bartley (Bart) Welliver instead of Bert Nelliver.

I have been unable so far to find a marriage or death of Betsey. Actually I have never found her on any record that was not generated by the family, as in submitting her name for Temple ordinances and including her on family group records. Our Family records say that she married David Lewis but I have not located any that seem to match our criteria. If she came to America, she might have already married David Lewis or she may have married in America.

Lately, I have revisited the information on John Vaughan in Sharpsburg, Allegheny, PA and believe it very likely that he is our John that left Maranah. I wish I could find one strong verification. I also feel that the two daughters that visited Uncle Ren were very likely Martha Welliver and Betsey Lewis. The name "Welliver" could be easily confused with "Wellington."  I am confident that Martha was one of them; the other could have Louisa Morris, his step-daughter or some other explanation I haven’t considered. All of this needs further proof.

I have collected several records on the John Vaughn from Sharpsburg, his family on the Census, Cemetery records and Obituaries. These show that John had one son, named Harry John Vaughn, born in 1881 in Sharpsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; he died in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, O’Hara Township near Pittsburgh. Harry had a son named Harry born in 1931 in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and died in Orrville, Ohio on 22 February, 1988 and buried there. He had a son named Roger living in Orrville at time of his death. There are 3 grandchildren mentioned but not by name.

Harry Vaughn Jr.’s widow Gloria married Ronzel Marks. Her obituary did not show that she had any Vaughn children, but, she had step children. I was able to contact her step-son Eric Marks, I actually only talked to his wife and she told me that there was a son but he was not on the obituary because they were not getting along. She did not know his first name, thought it might be Gary living near Orrville, Ohio. I have called the Marks back a second time as she was going to find out the name and phone number. They did not answer and did not return my call.

Since then I have received Harry Jr.’s obituary from the Wayne Co. Library in Wooster, Ohio, listing the son’s name as Roger. I have tried to contact the Roger Vaughns from whitepages.com; so far none of them have answered my calls. If I can locate him I hope he will be able to give information on his great-grandfather, John Vaughn (1825) to prove he is our John Vaughan (1825). The best would be if he was willing to take a DNA test and we would know for sure.

I may be a little harsh in saying that John deserted Maranah, he may have left to get work in America with the intention of sending for the family. I am sure that life was difficult there. The iron industry was in a slump and the iron workers were having a hard time, many were out of work. Maybe after arriving he just made a new life for himself, it seems that Maranah did, as she was married by 1871. John was probably sorry and missed them but, had other obligations and just went on as best he could.


  1. Anyone reading this might get confused if you are not familiar with the family. If you need a family group sheet, ask me, or go to family search, it will make it easier to follow. Any one with ideas or questions, make a comment and we will respond. It is a great mystery waiting to be solved!

  2. Interested in talking with you. John Bartley and Martha Maranah Welliver were my great grandparents. Their daughter, Bessie, was my paternal grandmother. I'm presently living in the UK, and would love to hear from you. - Dianne Gray

  3. And we would love to talk with you, Cousin Dianne! You can email me direct at grant[dot]vaughn[at]gmail[dot]com. I will share with my collaborator-cousin Judy, who wrote this piece. She and her sisters have communicated with some of the Vaughan descendants in Pennsylvania.


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