Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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WILLIAMS , ABRAHAM ( Bardd Du Eryri ; 1755 - 1828 ) ;

b. at Cwmglas Mawr , Llanberis . His father, Thomas Williams , sent him for a time to the school kept by John Morgan ( 1743 - 1801 ) (q.v.) , curate of Llanberis ; Dafydd Ddu Eryri (q.v.) was there at the same time. Previous to that there had been two other curates at Llanberis in Abraham Williams 's boyhood; they were, David Ellis (q.v.) who was there from 1764 to 1767 , and Evan Evans ( Ieuan Fardd , q.v.) who was there for part of 1771 . It was through their influence that Abraham began to take an interest in Welsh prosody . He had a copy of Siôn Rhydderch 's grammar which he used to lend to other boys in the school. He went to work at the Penrhyn quarry , and Gutyn Peris (q.v.) lodged in his house at Gwaun-y-gwiail , Llanllechid . The two friends quarrelled and in 1791 we find Gutyn sending him a cywydd seeking a reconciliation; in this he has the line ‘ you taught me grammar ,’ which suggests that he was taught by Abraham . In another addressed to Gwilym Peris (q.v.) Gutyn says that Abraham Williams taught both of them.

In 1793 Williams sailed for America , landing at Philadelphia , from which he soon made his way to New York , where his wife d. of yellow fever . He married a second time, and in 1797 moved to Essex County , New Jersey . Rowland fab Owen , who tried to find out something about his history in America , states on the authority of his daughter, Catrin , that in 1798 he settled at Dorence , Luzerne County , Pennsylvania , where he bought land, set up a saw-mill on the river bank, and proceeded to manufacture chairs . Catrin showed Rowland one of the chairs her father had made; the seat was made of hickory strips and she said she had fixed the seats to hundreds of chairs when she was a girl. Rowland fab Owen was of opinion that when he was in Wales Abraham Williams inclined towards the Baptists , but that in America he became a Wesleyan . In 1816 he again moved, this time to Grist Flatts , a place on the west bank of the Susquehanna river , where he set up another similar factory. In 1828 he went to an election meeting held on behalf of Andrew Jackson , who subsequently ( 1829 ) became president of the U.S.A. , but the journey proved too much for him and he died shortly afterwards. He was buried in a cemetery near his house, and on his tomb-stone was carved: ‘ Abraham Williams , Died Dec. 27, 1828 , Aged 73 yrs. 3 m. 9 dys .’ An unfounded rumour that he had died before 1816 drifted to Wales , and Gutyn Peris wrote a lament for him in the form of an awdl ( Ffrwyth Awen , 60). Thus, Abraham Williams was privileged to read his own elegy, and in ‘ Cywydd yr Adfail ,’ which he sent to Wales ‘ from the dark forest on the bank of the great Susquehanna river , a long and winding river, May 30, 1819 ,’ we get a reference to the premature elegy and a vivid picture of the poet drawing to the end of his journey after his distant travels.

Sources:

  • Letters of Rowland fab Owen , 1866-70 ;
  • Hynafiaethau a Thraddodiadau Plwyf Llanberis a'r Amgylchoedd . [1892.] , 84-8;
  • Hanes Methodistiaeth Arfon , iv, 29;
  • N.L.W. Cwrtmawr Manuscript in the National Library of Wales 72;
  • Y Brython , iii, 154;
  • Y Cymmrodor , 1938 , 134.

Author:

Griffith Thomas Roberts, M.A., Llanrug

Published date: 1959