|Reverend John Davies
|Early life||Ministry||2nd marriage||Later years||Memorial|
|Photograph sourced from biographical article in book, "Oriel Coleg Caerfyrddin 1796-1899", by E. Pan Jones, published by Joseph Williams & Sons, Merthyr Tydfil, 1909|
John Davies was born in a farmhouse at Cwmffrwdd, Llandefeilog, near Carmarthen on 2nd Dec. 1807. His parents, John & Deborah Davies appear to have still been alive in the 1841 census, living by then, at Gellie farm, Coedgain hamlet, Llangunnor. His father was a Methodist, while his mother was a church goer, and until he was 12, John attended the parish church with her. Around this time, one of the parish priests promised John a Bible if he could learn and then recite, one of the longest psalms. He managed to do this, but decided soon afterwards to join Penygraig chapel in Llandefeilog. He began lay preaching at Penygraig by the time he was 15, when he apparently needed to stand on a stool to see over the lecturn. After attending Carmarthen Grammar school, he kept a school in Ffairfach near Llandeilo for a term until he was old enough to attend the Presbyterian College in Carmarthen. During his time at Carmarthen College (1824-1828), under the principal tutor, David Peter, John gained prominence as both a scholar and preacher. Following on his achievements, his mother chapel, Penygraig called on him to be their minister and he was ordained there on Easter Monday, April 20th, 1829. He proved a popular preacher and in 1830 also took on the care of the nearby chapel at Pontyberem.
Around this time (possibly on 21st October 1830), he married Mary Jones of Cwmgwyn, near Pant-teg. At least 3 children were born during the next few years: Margaret, circa 1831, Elizabeth, circa 1833 and Deborah, circa 1834. In 1835, after a successful period at Penygraig, John accepted a call from Bethel Chapel in Cwmamman, Betws and moved with his family, initially to nearby Gwauncaegurwen, Llangiwg, before later settling in Bettws. He was the 3rd minister to officiate at Bethel since it's foundation in 1773. A year later, he was also asked to take on the care of Nebo chapel at Felindre near Mynyddbach, Llangyfelach. During this time, for about a year, John also preached twice a month at Maesyrhaf chapel, Neath and in 1841, took on Seion chapel in Cwmafon, near Port Talbot for 2 years. Cannot find him on the census of 1841, but he may well have been preaching away from home on the night the census was taken. His wife, Mary was enumerated at Pwllywrach, Caegurwen with daughters, Elizabeth aged 8, Sarah, aged 2 and a female servant, Letys Landeg. On 3rd May 1843, John preached at the funeral service of Rev. Roger Howell of Baran chapel, Rhyndwyclydach and a year later in 1844, he himself received a call from the Baran members to become their minister. On 25th January 1846, John's wife, Mary died, aged only 37 and was buried at Hen Fethel cemetery, Cwmamman, alongside 3 of their previously deceased children. These were: John who had died on 28th September 1838, aged 11 months; Deborah who had died soon after her brother, on 6th October 1838, aged 4 and Ebenezer who had died on 8th May 1844, aged only 15 weeks.
On Christmas Eve 1847, John married one of Rev. Roger Howell's grandaughters, Ann Bevan of Nantygaseg isaf, Cwmgors. She was the 19 year old daughter of Roger's eldest daughter, Ann and her husband, Evan Bevan. Ann became step-mother to John's 4 surviving daughters and just over a year later, in January 1849, gave birth to her 1st child, a son, Roger who tragically died, aged 9 months, on 21st September. Perhaps unusually, the infant was buried with John's first wife, Mary and her children at Hen Fethel. The 1851 census shows John and Ann living at Prospect Cottage (near the Mount Public House) with Margaret, aged 20, Elizabeth, aged 18, Sarah aged 12 and Catherine aged 10 - all born in Llangiwg.
John continued as the minister of the 3 chapels at Cwmamman, Bethel and Felindre until 1859 when he relinquished Baran and Nebo to take on the nearby Gellimanwydd Chapel at Cross Inn (later Ammanford) on 1st June that year. As with Bethel, he became the 3rd minister to take on the pastoral care of this chapel. Under his successful ministry, the congregation at Gellimanwydd (which was usually called Cross Inn Chapel) increased, making it eventually necessary to build a bigger chapel. In contrast to the Biblical names that were traditionally conferred on such places of worship, this new church was called The Christian Temple. John Davies was influential in choosing a name that he felt would reflect the increasingly bilingual local community. A diligent Welsh speaker himself, he nevertheless apparently recognised the changes being brought about by the influx of workers attracted by the development of the coal and metal industries in the Amman Valley.
By this time, John and Ann's family had increased in size following the births of 5 children, who included 3 sons; George, Eleazer and Evan Garibaldi, and 2 daughters; Matilda and Ann. John's older daughters had all left home and the family were now living at Tynycoed cottage, Bettws. In the early 1860s, John attended a gymynfa in North Wales with another minister, J. Jones of Pentyrch and whilst climbing Snowdon to see the sunrise, caught a dreadful cold which debilitated him for months afterwards and caused him to suffer great pain. Although he eventually recovered, he never totally regained his previous health. Another 2 children, Claudia Ursula and Rufus were born during this decade, making John the father of at least 15 children, of whom 11 were still alive.
|Gellimanwyd Chapel on Terry Norman's Ammanford website|
|Ann (Bevan) Davies|
His ministry continued into the 1870s until, weakened by his illness, John finally retired in 1877, 48 years after he had first been ordained as a minister at Penygraig in 1829. He continued to live with Ann at, what was described in the 1881 census, as the "Minister's House" in Bettws. The eldest children from his 2nd family were by this time beginning to make their own way in life with 2 of his sons, George and Evan becoming drapers and a 3rd, Eleazer working as a doctor in Merthyr. John Davies died on Monday, 18th October 1886, aged 79 and was buried 3 days later at Old Bethel churchyard near the grave of his first wife and children. His memorial stone, close to the old chapel, bears the inscription:
| In Loving Remembrance of
The Rev. John Davies, Pastor of Bethel
Independent Church, Cwmamman, for 40 years.
Born Dec. 2nd 1807
Died Oct. 18th 1886
He was ordained at Penygraig,
Carmarthen in the year 1835.
Resigning his charge owing to
the Infirmities of Age in the year 1877.
He was an Accomplished Scholar,
an able Theologian, an Eloquent
and Powerful Preacher and
his Ministry was emminently successful.
|Dave Michael's information on Bethel Chapel||Dave Michael's Amman Valley history website|
|24 years later, Ann died on 26th December 1910 and was buried with John.
Rev. John Davies appears to have been an energetic, larger than life character and D. Trumour Thomas, who apparently knew him, speaks affectionately of him in the "Old Characters of Bettws", written in 1894 calling him:
"one of the chief notables of the Welsh pulpit in his time."