Dictionary of Welsh Biography

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

MATHEWS , ABRAHAM ( 1832 - 1899 ), Independent minister, colonist, and writer ;

b. at Llanidloes in 1832 . He was at the Independent College at Bala under M. D. Jones ( 1856-9 ), and in 1859 was ordained minister of Horeb chapel , Llwydcoed , Aberdare , where he remained for five years. He m. in 1863 . In 1865 he went out to Patagonia with the first batch of colonists and there he remained for the rest of his life, working hard both as a minister and a farmer . He was one of the outstanding leaders in the first phase of that venture. In 1874 he visited Wales and the U.S.A. , and succeeded in both countries in persuading a fresh lot to try their fortune in the Colony. In the course of his visit to Wales , 1893-4 , he was minister of Canton chapel , Cardiff , and wrote his book on the early history of the Colony, Hanes y Wladfa Gymreig ( Aberdare ). This is the most unbiased and authoritative book on the subject. He edited the Drafod , 1896-9 . He d. 1 April 1899 , and was buried in Moriah graveyard ; in 1949 a memorial tablet was unveiled to him in that chapel.


  • Y Dravod newyddur y Wladva , May 1949 ;
  • W. M. Hughes , Ar Lannau'r Camwy , 173;
  • R. Bryn Williams , Lloffion o'r Wladfa (Denbigh, 1944) , 23-5;
  • id., Rhyddiaith y Wladfa (Denbigh, 1949) , 22, 32-3.


Reverend Richard Bryn Williams, M.A., (1902-81), Rhuthyn / Aberystwyth

Corrections and additions:

MATTHEWS , ABRAHAM ( 1832 - 1899 ), ( MATHEWS , DWB , 618), minister (Congl.) and one of the pioneers of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia ;

b. at Llanidloes, Mont. , Nov. 1832 , son of John Matthews , weaver , and Ann Jones , but brought up by Edward and Ann Lewis , farmers living nearby who moved to Blaencwmlline , in the parish of Cemaes . At 12 yrs. of age he was apprenticed to a factory in Cwmlline for three yrs., becoming a craftsman working around Montgomeryshire and south Merionethshire . When 22 yrs. old he decided to maintain himself as a student of the master of Cemaes British School because he had had no formal education as a child. He left Llanwnnog (Congl.) church , where he had been a member since his conversion at the age of 17, and joined Samah (Congl.) church . He began to preach there before entering Bala College ( 1856-59 ) where he came under the influence of Michael D. Jones ( DWB , 495-6) . He was ord. minister of Horeb , Llwydcoed ( 1859-65 ) and Elim , Cwmdâr ( Cynon valley , 1859-60 ), and was minister of Adulam , Merthyr Tydfil ( 1861-65 ). In May 1863 , at Ynys-gau chapel , Merthyr , he m. Gwenllian Thomas , sister of one of the chief figures in the Welsh settlement in Patagonia , John Murray Thomas .

His public life did not diminish the ardour for establishing a Welsh settlement which had gripped him ever since he had been at the feet of M.D. Jones . In May 1865 he resigned from his pastorates to join the first party which sailed from Liverpool that month in the Mimosa to found a Welsh settlement in Patagonia . He arrived at New Bay on 28 July 1865 and landed at Porth Madryn . All the settlers were in very straightened circumstances, and Matthews became seriously ill after crossing the prairie between Porth Madryn and the Camwy valley . Life was so hard by the end of 1866 that Matthews and seven others went to Buenos Aires to seek government assistance to move the Welsh settlers to the province of Santa Fe . The minister for Home Affairs , Dr. Rawson , pressed them to spend another year on the banks of the Camwy , and in Apr. 1867 three of the eight returned to seek the views of their fellow- Welshmen . Edwyn Roberts and R.J. Berwyn wanted to stay; but Matthews thought it wise to move. Most of the settlers agreed with him, and the three were sent back to the capital to procure a ship to carry them all from there. In the hamlet of Patagones they happened to meet Lewis Jones ( 1836 - 1904 ; DWB , 493) , who persuaded Matthews to change his mind and return to the Camwy valley . He persuaded the majority to stay there for another year and at that critical hour saved the great venture from disintegrating. By that time he was the chief (if not the only) public figure there. He farmed the land to support his family; but he strove voluntarily for years to minister the churches in the Camwy valley , particularly those at Trerawson , Glyn Du , Moriah and Tair Helygen . It is said that the only stipend he received for his ministry to the first emigrants was their assistance in enclosing the land near the river bend where he established himself. He called his home Parc yr Esgob (the bishop's field), and he was known as esgob y Wladfa (the Bishop of the settlement).

He saw the need for new blood and new spirit if the settlement in Patagonia was to survive. He went to Wales in Jan. 1873 , to U.S.A. in Aug., and to Wales a second time in Nov. until Apr. 1874 to give lectures and renew enthusiasm for the venture. As a result two groups were raised in 1874 , one being carried by the Electric Spark of New York (33 persons) and the other by Hipparchus of Liverpool (49 persons); and also parties from Wales in 1875 which brought 500 emigrants to reinforce the original settlers and treble the population. He visited Wales twice again, in 1889-90 and 1891-94 when he took charge of Severn Rd. Chapel , Cardiff ( 1893 ) and wrote Hanes y wladfa yn Patagonia ( 1894 ). This is the most comprehensive and objective history written at that time on the subject.

He was a member of the first elected Council in the Welsh settlement and one of the key speakers in discussions with Buenos Aires , and he was on the committee of Oneto (representing the government of Argentine ) to control assistance to the Welsh settlement in 1875-76 . He constantly promoted opening new Welsh elementary schools in the Camwy valley and was J.P. three times. He was also a member of the committee that steered the Welsh opposition to the central government order that every native over 18 yrs. old should be drilled on Sundays; and he was arrested along with all the other committee members by local officers in Feb 1899 as a result. He was editor of Y Dravod , 1896-99 . He d. 1 Apr. 1899 and was buried in Moriah cemetery where he had been a minister for twenty years. He left a widow, two sons and two daughters.

One of his grandchildren is the historian Matthew Henry Jones , Trelew , author of two books on the history of that town : Trelew: un desafio Patagonico ( 1981 ; 1989 ).


  • Bangor Manuscript at University College North Wales Library, Bangor 8060;
  • Y Gwladgarwr , 1865-74 ;
  • Y Dravod newyddur y Wladva , Apr. 1899 ;
  • Y Tyst , May 1899 ;
  • Tarian y Gweithiwr (Aberdâr) , Aug. 1899 ;
  • A. Matthews , Hanes y wladfa Gymreig yn Patagonia (Aberdare, 1894) (1894) ;
  • Lewis Jones , Y wladva Gymreig yn Ne America (1898) (1898) ;
  • R. Bryn Williams , Y Wladfa (1962, 1969) (1962 and 1969) ;
  • personal research.


David Leslie Davies, Aberdare

Published date: 1959