Hay view from Castle

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

History of LDS Church in Llanfoist & Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (now Gwent). Llanfoist is the village south of the River Usk at the base of the Blorenge.
Levi Richards (1799-1876)
Missionary
After spending a few hours in the LDS Church History Library, I can now share the complete, official histories of these two branches from the Garway (Garaway), later Merthyr Tydfil, Conference of the British Mission. Sad, but true.

There are no membership records extant as far as the CHL is concerned. There are bits and pieces of additional information such as the December 17, 1841 baptism of my ancestress Elinor Jenkins Vaughan recorded in Elder John Needham's Missionary Journal. Any helpful records of contemporaneous LDS Missionaries Richard Blake[l]y, Theodore Curtis, Charles Tayson, and Lorenzo Barnes do not seem to exist in the CHL Archives.

I hope to add to this history in the future from additional materials in Elder Needham's journal. I also hope to get access to the relevant letters [I did. see below.] and missionary journal of Elder Levi Richards in the limited access files of the CHL. I don't want the privileged sacred material, I just need more of Llanfoist's history.

John Needham (1819-1901)
In an 1892 letter defending his claim as the first missionary in South Wales, and after consulting his journal, Needham summarizes his mission this way:
. . . went to my new fields in the fall of 1840. I had the charge of Garway [Herefordshire] Conference until I left in 1843. I ordained Elders and others and sent them out into Monmouth and Wales, but not anyone by the name of Henshaw that I remember. Elders Levi Richards and Curtis from America came and laboured in Garway Conference at times and was a great help to me and the other elders with their counsel and experience. I will give you the names of some of the Branches we organized - Abergavenny, Lantony [Llanthony] Abbey, Longtown, Hewshovell, Lanfoist, Llanellen, Lancathy [Llanelly], the Welsh Iron Works [Blaenavon, Abersychan, Pontypool]. Bros.
Richard Steele (1818-1881)
Palmer, Taysom, Harris, and others laboured with me. Some branches was organized in the winter of 40 and 41 and most of them in the year 1841. It kept 6 or 7 elders busy traveling from branch to branch in the years 1841 and 1842, for we had quite a conference of members and officers. In July 24th, 1842, we held a camp meeting in Llanellen. The next day we had a social Tea Party of Elders and members of the church. Many of our branches was in the Welsh Hills, or I might say in small valleys between the Hills such as Lantoney Abbey and Longtown. Those in Monmouth even was just on the border of Wales and spoke the Welsh language.

Llanfoist Wharf on Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal looking over the Usk Valley & Abergavenny to Sugar Loaf
Courtesy Pip Rolls, Creative Commons License
HISTORY OF THE LLANFOIST BRANCH, MONMOUTHSHIRE, ENGLAND/WALES

Source: Manuscript History of the Units of the Church – Abergavenny Branch, Garway Conference, British Mission. LDS CHL LR_1140_2 #4.

LLANFOIST BRANCH (Garway Conference)
Compiled by Chas. D. Gosslind, under direction of Andrew Jenson. Eva J. Olson, typist.

DESCRIPTIVE
The Llanfoist Branch consisted of the Latter-day Saints residing in the town of Llanfoist, which is situated three miles southwest of Abervanney [sic] in Monmouthshire, England.

REFERENCES
Millenial Star

HISTORY
At a general conference of the British Mission held at Liverpool Apr. 6, 1844, the Llanfoist Branch was represented by Elder Richard Blakley, as part of the Garway Conference. (Mill. Star 4:195).

As no further record appears, it is presumed the branch was disorganized.

From Missionary Journals:

1841
Elder John Needham made several preaching trips to Llanfoist and Abergavenny in his walking circuit of the Garway Conference in Monmouthshire and the borders of Herefordshire. The conference also included branches in Garway, Ewyas Harold, Monmouth, and Llanthony.

Elder Richard Steele recorded a visit to Abergavenny on May 4, 1841:
on Tuesday we went to Abergavenny to see if anyone would open their house for us to preach in. But the people made some excuse or other and some of them said they had heard of us but would not tell us what they had heard. But I told them it was no good I expected. And on Wednesday we went to the Baptist chapel and we heard them preach in Welch and English and Brother Watkins asked them to let one of us preach but they would not. RSJ, 65.
On Wednesday, September 3, Elder Steele preached in Abergavenny. RSJ, 75.
Friday, November 12, is the first mention of preaching in Llanfoist. Elder Needham later claims that he "was the first that opened a house and preached in this town." JNJ 195. Elder Needham spent his nights at the Sayer home in nearby Abergavenny.

Baptisms in Llanfoist:
26 November 1841 - Elizabeth Davies.
17 December 1841 - Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, Elizabeth Davies, Catherine Davies.

Elder John Steele traveled a circuit north to Dorstone, west to Hay, south to Llanfoist and back near Monmouth. He occasionally traveled with Elder Needham. The 1841 British Census finds him in Dorstone at Brother John Lovett's, Lanarch Farm (just west of Dorstone), on June 6, matching his journal entry.

1842
When visiting Llanfoist, Needham stayed at the Davies [most likely James & Elizabeth Davies], Edwards, and Morgan homes. Brother and Sister Edwards and Bother Morgan are referenced as members.

On Wednesday, February 2, Elder Richard Steele arrived in Llanfoist.
On Thur we held a tea meeting at Lanfoist. Elders Curtiss, Pitt, Gailey, Palmer, Bourne, Matthas, Steele and Brother John Watkins addressed the meeting. On Friday Elder Curtiss pr. at Lanfoist. On Sat. we left Abergavenny and went to Garway. RSJ, 87.
Baptisms in Llanfoist:
2 February 1842 - "Sister Vaun" [probably Catherine Vaughan, age 19]
6 March 1842 - James Davies*, Sister Edwards - both confirmed that night.
[James Davis appears to be the James Davis (1794-1847) who died at Winter Quarters. His wife was Elizabeth Sykes Davis (1797-1855). They were apparently re-baptized in Nauvoo, 21 October 1842, and received endowments and sealing in Nauvoo, January 1846. Elizabeth came to Utah in 1847 with the Smoot/Wallace Co. arriving by Sept. 29. NFS, POT.]

9 March 1842 Letter from John Needham to Levi Richards:

Elder Levi Richards,
Beloved Brother I received your kind letter a few days since, and would have answered it sooner, but had not an opportunity. It does really as you say, seem a long time since you left us in the part, and we are anxiously looking for you back again. As regards the work of the Lord. About Abergavenny it is going steadly onward, there seems a general spirit of inspiring and the people are general very civil and kind to us. Sunday morning I baptized Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Davies of Llanfoist. I don’t know that you are acquainted with them, but Mrs. Edwards is a very intelligent woman. She believed the word with all her heart. She had been joined to the Methodists for some years. I assure you there’s no little stir amongst the Methodists, and the people of Llanfoist, for every one thought her to be a sensible woman. But, Alas, she has lost her character entirely. . . .
. . . . I desired to acquaint Elder Pratt of it [Church Disciplinary problems in Garway] . I feel I have done all I could in this case as well as all others But I find I want more wisdom, Tis as an Elder said, an easy thing to deliver the testimony to the people, but not so easy to get the saints perfected. Elder Curtis is coming for a short time, to labour with me, I am glad to get in the company of my Elder Brethren, so as to get a little counsel, for I stand in great need of it. . . .

. . . . I preached at a new place near Abergavenny last Monday. There was a many people come together. And my attentive Brother and sister Curtis have suffered a great deal from want so [—] they have been in challenge. I would say a good deal about it, but perhaps you know.
I went to see about a woman to preach at Abergavenny yesterday. I have partly agreed to it. Will hold about 300 people. E[—]-to  at when elder Curtis comes over, I hope we shall soon see you again here [---] with some send their love to you.
Brother in the Lord, John Needham
[LDS CHL MS 1284, Box 2, Folder 1]

On Thursday, April 29, 1842, Elder Needham and Elder Richard Steele arrived in Abergavenny. They appear to have stayed at Abergavenny and Steele preached at Llanellin. Six people were baptized by Elder Needham. On Friday the 30th, Steele preached at Abergavenny and he and Needham confirmed the six baptized the evening before. RSJ, 91.

There was a camp meeting at Llanellen, just south of Llanfoist on Sunday, July 24. Steele reports:
Brothers White and Harris and me spoke in the morning and Elders L.  Richards and Curtiss in the afternoon.  In the evening scra [sacrament] was ad.[ministered].  On Mon we held a tea meeting. On Tues Elders Richards, Needham and me and Sister Martha Evans and Sister Griffiths left Abergavenny and came to Monmouth. RSJ 95-96.
Elder Steele was back in Abergavenny on Friday, August 27. On Saturday the 28th, he went to Llanfoist and attended a meeting there Sunday morning at 11 a.m. He preached that afternoon at Llanellen and was back to preach in Llanfoist at 6 p.m. RSJ, 97.

1847
From the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of 16 April: "The Mormonits [sic] at Llanfoist lately baptized a woman in the canal, out of whom they say that three devils were cast."

1850
[in Utah] Ann Jones Married James Davies 5 November 1850 in Salt Lake City, Utah. James Davies was born 26 May 1826 Llanfoist, Monmouthshire, England son of James Davies and Elizabeth Sykes. He had come to Nauvoo, Illinois with his parents in 1843 and joined the Mormon battalion in 1846 and arrived in Salt Lake City 29 July 1847. Their home was located on 400 West and between 3rd and 4th North. James Davis died 3 August 1865 age 39, leaving Ann to care for her six surviving children. She died two years later 27 Oct. 1867 age 42. Her children aged 4-15 were taken care of by relatives. Her eldest daughter Catherine married George Vernon Morris 9 Nov. 1869. James Davis and Ann Jones were the parents of nine children all born in Salt Lake City. From Bio of Ann (Jones) Davies at WMH.

1892
24 December, Thomas Biggs married Ellen Pittman in Llanfoist Church. Thomas Biggs Sr. was born February 7, 1869 at Coty, Blaenavon, Monmouthshire. Several members of their family were also LDS, went to Utah, and were killed in the Schofield mine disaster.  For several years Thomas and Ellen lived at Holly Tree Cottage, Varteg with her parents. There was no LDS Church in this area. They soon moved to Abertillery. WMH
  
HISTORY OF THE ABERGAVENNY BRANCH, MONMOUTHSHIRE, ENGLAND/WALES

Source: Abergavenny Branch Manuscript History and Historical Reports, Abergavenny Branch, British Mission. LDS CHL LR 10467 2

ABERGAVENNY BRANCH (Garway Conference)
Compiled by Charles D. Gosslind, under the direction of Andrew Jenson, Eva J. Olson typist.
The Abergavenny Branch consisted of the Latter-day Saints residing in the town of Abergavenny, which is situated fifteen miles west of Monmouth, in Monmouthshire, England, and about 16 miles east northeast of Merthyr Tydvil, Wales.

Abergavenny is where lots of emigrating Saints in early days took train to Liverpool, en route for Zion.

REFERENCES
Millenial Star
Library Books Nos. 1616, 1618, 1619

1842
Under date of March 28, 1842, Elder Lorenzo Barnes wrote from Bristol, England, that he had recently visited Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, where he had preached three times. The work appeared to be on the onward march. (Mill. Star 2:190)

At a General conference of the British Mission held at Manchester May 15, 1842, the Abergavenny Branch was represented by Elder John Needham, then in charge of the Garway Conference. (Mill. Star 3:29)

1843
At a general conference of the British Mission held at Manchester June 4, 1843, the branches of the Garway Conference were represented by Elder Charles Tayson. The Abergavenny Branch belonged to the Garway Conference at this time. (Mill. Star 4:34)

1844
At a general conference of the British Mission held at Liverpool Apr. 6, 1844, it was resolved that the Abergavenny Branch be attached to the Merthyr Tydvil Conference. (Mill. Star 4:197)

1854
"On the 22nd [of July] I went to Abergavenny eight miles away [from Conference HQ in Abersychan, Monmouthshire]. I had a meeting on the 23rd at night and baptized nine of the Saints." -Edmund Ellsworth. (EEJ)

1856
The Usk Observer, 13 December 1956
Mormons listed along with the Christian Church members voting against the church rate (tax) 

The year Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, formerly of Llanfoist, born at Stowe Farm, Whitney, Herefordshire in 1789, left for Utah via Liverpool, Boston, Iowa City, and the Overland Trail.

1863
Wednesday, Feb. 11
On this day Elders Geo. W. Grant and W.G. Smith visited Abergavenny, a small town on the banks of the River Wye [sic. – actually the Usk], which for romantic scenery cannot be surpassed [still true!]. (Mill. Star 25:190)

1870
Monday, Feb. 28.
Elder Levi W. Richards wrote rom Tredegar, Wales, as follows: “The Abersychan, Newport, Abergavenny and Llandevaud Branches were attached to the Monmouthshire Conference in July last and since those branches have  attached to larger branches, a change, I believe, for the better. In the former place the saints have excellent meetings, a number of baptisms have taken place and there are prospects for more." (Mill Star 32:172)

1873
Sunday, Jan. 5.
At a council of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported in good standing by its president with few exceptions. (Lib. Book No. 1616 p. 8)

1879
Sunday, June 22.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Cardiff, There being no representative from the Abergavenny Branch, it was reported by District President Wm. N. Williams, in common with that of the whole conference which was in a healthy and flourishing condition, with bright and encourageing prospects for the future. (Mill. Star 41:417)

1880
Sunday, Aug. 22.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil, Elder Charles Abbott was sustained as president of the Abergavenny Branch. (Mill. Star 42:566)

1882
Sunday, Feb. 12.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported by Elder W.G. Cornish to be in a satisfactory condition, the saints were alive to their duties and striving to live their religion. (Mill. Star 44:141)

1883
Sunday, Aug. 5.
At a general council meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Mark Lawrence reported the Abergavenny Branch in good condition with few exceptions. (Lib. Book No. 1616, p. 157)

Sunday, Nov. 4.
A general council  meeting was held at which Elder Mark Lawrence was released as president of the Abergavenny Branch, he having removed from the branch. (Lib. Book No. 1616, p. 160)

1885
Sunday, March 1.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported by the branch president to be in good condition. (Mill. Star 47:165)

In an article of the Cardiff Times and Weekly South Wales News (Saturday, 6 June 1885) p. 7, an interview of unnamed Mormon Elders reveals that there were 19 members in the Abergavenny Branch.

1886
Sunday, March 7.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported to be in fair condition. (Mill. Star 48:180)

Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Elder Richard T. Owen wrote from Merthyr Tydvil as follows: “On Friday morning, Aug. 20, 1886, I started from here in company with a few saints who were billed for Salt Lake City, Utah. At Abergavenny they were joined by five other happy young soulds, making in all twelve from the Welsh Conference who were bound for Salt Lake City, Utah.” (Mill. Star 48:589)

1887
Saturday, Augst 6.
At a council meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elders Morgan Evans and Cornelius Green reported the Abergavenny Branch, where four baptized members had been confirmed and four children blessed. (Lib. Book No. 1618, p. 11)

On the following day, Aug. 7th, the presidency of the Abergavenny Branch was considered and Brother Wm. G. Cornish was honorably released as president and Thomas Berrington appointed as his successor. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 15)

Sunday, Dec. 4.
At a general Priesthood meeting held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being on the improve. There had been two baptisms during the month, the saints felt well and some were investigating the Gospel. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 38)

1888
Sunday, March 4.
At a general Priesthood meeting of the Welsh Mission held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being few in number but they manifested a desire to live as saints should. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 53)

Sunday August 5.
At a general Priesthood Meeting held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being very limited in numbers, the meetings were not held regularly, but still the members manifested a desire to live their religion and retain their standing in the Church. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 85)

1889
Sunday, Feb. 3.
At a general Priesthood meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder E    L. Burgoyne reported the Abergavenny Branch where most of the saints felt well and were kind to the elders. (Lib. Book No. 1619 p. 38)

1902
Thursday, Feb. 27.
President        Polland wrote from the Welsh Conference as follows: “After visiting the branches at Ystrad and Abertillery I made a visit to the isolated saints at Abergavenny, some of whom had not had a visit from the Elders for two or three years.” (Mill. Star 64:139)

1927
Monday, April 18.
Eight persons were received into the Church at a baptism serviced held at Goytre near Abergavenny. Pres. Thomas Biggs and Elder Jay M. Booth officiated in the initial ordinance, and the confirmations were administered by Pres. Biggs and Elders Raymond Murphy, Ezra M. Parry, Albert Brain, Harold J. Butcher, Hilliard L. Rose, Jay M. Booth and Richard C. Thomas. (Mill. Star 89:287)


Abergavenny, Cross Street near Monk Street looking Northwest, August 19, 2013

*Short history of James and Elizabeth Davies/Davis Family from Ancestry.com:

James Davis was born 12 August, 1794 at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, England. He was the son of Thomas Davies and Mary  ?. He married Elizabeth Sykes, born 29 August 1797 , at Cwmyey, Monmouthshire, England.  She was the daughter of  Samuel Simon Sykes and Rachel Price.  They were married late 1812 or early 1813.  He was 18 years old and she was 15.  The villages where they lived were quite close.  There was a castle at Skenfrith.  There are some walls left.  It was the trend of farmers and villagers to leave the land to work in the factories and mines.  It was probably for that reason that James and Elizabeth were in Llanfoist when all their children were born:  Ann ch. 12 Dec. 1813, William , ch. 29 Dec. 1816, Mary ch. 5 Oct. 1823 James born 29 May 1826, Elizabeth Jane Born 27 Mar. 1829, Mary ch. 8 Jan,1832, Mary Maria born 13 April 1834, Ann 11 Dec. 1839.  Only three of these children lived to maturity.
     James Davis was baptised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ  of Later Day Saints March 1842.  He was ordained a Teacher in the Monmouth Branch 21 Oct. 1842.  His son James join the church the same month as his father.  Elizabeth and the two girls also joined the church in 1842.  The family received their "letter" 26 July 1843  at Garway, England by Thomas Harris Elder.  From the LDS Church emigration records of 1843 we have.
     Twenty-second Company. "Metoka" had 208 souls aboard.  The splendid ship "Metoka", Captain M'Larea, sailed from Liverpool, 5 Sept 1843, under very favorable circumstances,.  The saints on board   gave expression to their feelings in various hymns, which they sang as the vessel was towed into the river.  The ship, which is admirable adapted for passengers together with the respectable appearance of the of the emigrants, appeared very much to surprise the bystanders, who were compeled  to acknowlege that they had not often witnessed the departure of such a people.  The "Metoka" made the trip to New Orleans in seven weeks, The captain, M'Laren, together with the other officers of the ship were kind and attentive to the emigrants during the passage.  Three deaths occured on board, namely one sister and two children.  From New Orleans the usual route was taken up the Mississippi River, and a majority of the emigrants landed in Nauvoo 11 Nov 1843.  There is no passenger list.
     James and Elizabeth did not live in Nauvoo during the first two years.  James received his blessing 21 Dec 1843 and Elizabeth received her blessing 17 Jan 1844.  James was ordained a High Priest 1 Dec 1844. On 24 June 1844 James was part of a group that was sent to Carthage, Illinois.  James and Elizabeth are registered as living in Nauvoo 22 March 1845.  James and Elizabeth received their endowments 6 Jan 1846 in the Nauboo Temple.  It was in Feb 1846 that the great exodus took place.  Most of the saints went ot Winter Quarters where they spent the winter and where more than 600 died.  James Davies was named to act as a Bishop 17 July 1846 at Council Bluffs.
     It ws during the time when the saints were in exile that the call went out for 500 men to join the U.S.  Army.  James Davis Jr. enlisted in the Mormon Battalion 16 July 1846.  He left 21 July 1846 to begin a 2000 mile trek to the west coast, but due to ill health he and other recruits and the women and children were released at Santa Fe, New Mexico and made their way to Pueblo, Colorado where they spent the winter of 1846.  The next year 1847, they found the first pioneer company and traveled with them.  They entered the Salt Lake Valley 29 July 1847.  James Jr. married Ann Jones daughter of John Owen and Catherine Pugh who came in 1849 with the Welsch group.  they were married 5 Nov 1850.  He died in Salt Lake City, Utah 3 Aug 1865 age 39.
     Meanwhile back in Iowa, James Davis died.  We do not know when or where he died.  He was thought to be alive in January 1847 when a letter was written to him and family by his brother-in-law Phillip Sykes, who was still living in Wales.  His widow and two daughters  Elizabeth Jane Age 17 and Mary Maria age 13 were left alone.  Peter Nebeker who was baptised 5 Mar 1847 married Elizabeth Jane in the spring of 1847.  The little family joined the A.O. Smoot  company which assembled the 17th and 18th of June 1847 at Elk Horn River.  This company arrived in Salt Lake Valley 24 Sept 1847.  Elizsbeth Jane Nebeker had two children and then died 10 March 1851.  She is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetary.  A year later 31 Jan 1852, Peter Nebeker married Mary Maria who was 17 years old.  She had 11 children all born in Salt Lake City. In 1876 Peter Nebeker and his family moved to Willard, Box Elder Co., Utah.  Mary Maria died in Willard 30 Dec 1886 age 52.
     Elizabeth Sykes Davis was living with her son James and his wife Ann in 1851 when the census was taken.  Their home was located 400-500 West 300 North.  Elizabeth received a blessing 31 Jan 1854 and another 9 Jan 1855.  This is the last that we know of Elizabeth Sykes Davis.  It is believed she died in Salt Lake City and is buried there.  It is impossible for any of us to realize the dedication of these pioneers who gave up their homeland, family and friends to cross the ocean and face the persecution of the mobs, give up their homes, face the sufferings of the wilderness and hardships of crossing the plains and begin anew to get enough food and shelter.  Their path to heaven was lighted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
____________________
Sources:
BMH       British Mission, Manuscript Histories, LDS CHL
EEJ         Edmund Ellsworth Journal, Arizona State University
JNJ         John Needham Missionary Journal, LDS CHL
LC41       Llanfoist Census 1841
LC51       Llanfoist Census 1851
NFS        New Family Search
POT        Pioneer Overland Travel Database, LDS CHL
RSJ         Richard Steele Journal, Commenced September 3, 1840, Transcribed by Elbert G. Steele, Edited by Elizabeth H. Steele, 1985, Re-edited by Richard E. Steele, 1995. (in personal possession) 
WMH     Welsh Mormon History Website maintained by BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy.

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