Strangers From A Secret Land

 The Voyages of the Brig ‘Albion’
and the Founding of the First Welsh Settlement in Canada

Usually bringing the cows  from the pasture was a simple task but tonight things didn’t go well. One of the young heifers refused to follow the bossy cow to the barn. Cliff and I had to get a halter and make a second trip to the back pasture. As we led her home, she kept stopping and mooing at the top of her lungs.

We were sure some glad to see Dad and Gramp coming up over the hill to meet us.

Gramp inquired, “Do you understand the language the heifer is speaking to you?”

When we shook our heads, he continued, “You should make a sign that says ‘Welsh-Not’ and put it on her halter.”

Once again, I didn’t have a clue what that man was talking about. But if I had lived in Wales and had been attending school there in 1847 or before and had spoken the mother tongue in the classroom or the schoolyard, I would have been punished by being made to wear a cow’s halter on my shoulder  with an attached sign ‘Welsh-Not’. It was the official policy to suppress the Welsh language which was the only language known by most of the children.     

The dream of many a Welshman was to make his escape from poverty by going to America. For one group, from the area of Cardigan, this became a reality in 1819 when they sailed on the Albion to Saint John, New Brunswick with Llewelyn Davies as master. But for some, the dream became close to being a nightmare.

When the vessel was out to sea for only a few days, death from whooping-cough claimed the two-year-old daughter of Iona Morgan, of Llangoedmore. William Jenkin of Trelech was next to meet a watery grave, followed by the little daughter of William Richard of Clydau.

In the late afternoon of 11 June 1819, sixty days after leaving Cardigan Town, the Albion anchored in the harbour of Saint John. Three days later, on Sunday evening, the emigrants held a church service, conducted  in their native Welsh language at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk.

Twenty-six families chose for a settlement, a rich tract of land, 10 miles eastward of Fredericton, between the Madame Keswick and the Nashwaak.

Fredericton became a temporary home to the families of the men who set out to clear this land and build their cabins in Cardigan Settlement.

Not being able to speak the English language, along with being sickly, destitute and with the women dressing in the strange costume of high hats and shawls, difficulties were created with the townsfolk in understanding and accepting this group, as well as helping to provide for their needs. Yet, the people of Fredericton along with others throughout New Brunswick,  rallied to the cause, by forming the Cardigan Society. They collected subscriptions to help care for these people while they established themselves. By November 13, the Society had assisted 18 Welsh families who had a total of 33 boys and 29 girls. But many of the settlers were still on the verge of starvation.

By the Fall of 1820, the settlers were on their own with a parting gift of a load of potatoes having been made in May by Jarvis Ring.

Fortunately their spiritual needs were met by David James, a Welsh Baptist missionary, who discovered them. For the next seven years, he ministered to them in their native language.

Over the years the Cardigan settlement grew. The early settlers and their descendants prospered. Some stayed while others sought a life in greener pastures. Many of the old ways were dropped.

In the cemetery beside the church at Cardigan a reminder  of a wife keeping her maiden names after marriage is recorded on the tombstone of Mary Nickles, a native of Pembrook, who died at age 47 in 1847, the wife of William Samson.

On the morning of July 26, 1977, a chance visit to this cemetery by Peter Thomas, sent him on a nine-year journey of searching for details of the lives of the settlers who founded this first Welsh settlement in Canada.

His 318 page publication, “Strangers From A Secret Land” - The Voyages of the Brig ‘Albion’ and the Founding of the First Welsh Settlement in Canada provides detailed information on not only the lives of the group who came to New Brunswick but on the events that influenced the years leading up to their departure from the homeland as well as those, who for one reason or another, chose to stay in Wales.

A copy of the book Strangers From A Secret Landis  available for purchasing at

Query 1193
Clarke: Colin Campbell Clarke, son of Alexander Keith Clarke, was  born 27 November 1876 and died 13 May 1963. He is buried in Fernhill Cemetery in Saint John. He had two sons and seven grandchildren.  Who was his wife?  I am looking for his descendants to whom I am related.
Bruce Clarke
152 Wedgewood Drive
Williamsville, N. Y.
14221, USA
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