A Glamorgan Family History
|Sarah (Bowen) Phillips
Sarah Bowen was the 2nd daughter of Henry and Sarah Bowen (nee Howell) of Lletty'r crydd farm, Rhyndwyclydach. She was born on 19th April 1835, possibly at her father's family home of Nantmoel Isaf farm, Rhyndwyclydach where her paternal grandmother, Jane Bowen lived. This farm bordered on that of Nantmoel Uchaf, where her mother had been raised and which was still the home of her maternal grand-parents, Rev. Roger Howell and his wife, Sarah. Rev. Roger Howell was the founding minister of Baran chapel, which stood nearby on land leased from Nantmoel Uchaf. He also kept a school for the local community and offered free theological instruction for young men intending to enter the ministry.
As the 2nd daughter of the Bowen family, Sarah was probably named after her maternal grandmother and was described on the 1841 census at Lletty'r crydd as being 6 years old. This census also records that Sarah had an 8 year old older sister, Jane, and a younger sister, Rebecca, aged 2. Although 3 of her 4 grandparents were alive at the time of her birth and would have been familiar figures in her life, they all passed away during the early 1840s. On 20th February 1851, Sarah's mother died aged only 40 years, from the progressive wasting disease, consumption, now known as tuberculosis. While there is no record of the length of her mother's illness, she had probably been unwell for some time. Along with her older sister, Sarah may well have taken on some housekeeping and childcare duties after her mother's death.
Aged 15 in the 1851 census, Sarah is enumerated, at home with her father and 3 younger sisters at Lletty'r crydd. As her elder sister, Jane is enumerated as a servant in the household of their maternal aunt, Jane Jones at nearby Llechartfawr, Sarah is probably now the main housekeeper for the family.
On 14th August 1858, aged 24 years, Sarah married Rees Phillip, a 23 year old miner from Trebanos. By the time of her marriage, she apparently already had at least one child, a son, Thomas, born circa 1856 in Llangyfelach (according to the 1861 census). This is probably Rees' son - named after his deceased father, Thomas Phillip. At the time of the 1851 census, Rees had been enumerated, at Trebanos, as a 17 year old, blacksmith's boy. He was living at that time with his widowed mother, Margaret, younger brothers, William (aged 8), and Daniel (aged 4), older step-brother, Thomas (aged 24) and maternal grandmother, Catherine William (aged 84).
By 1861, Sarah and Rees were living at Park Street, Ynismond, in the Parish of Cadoxton - between Clydach and Neath. Rees was described as a coal miner and their son, Thomas, aged 5, was the only child enumerated. Sarah must have been heavily pregnant at the time of the census (taken on Sunday 7th April), as later that month she gave birth to a son, John. Another son, William was born in August 1863, followed by David in March 1866 and a daughter, Margaret (named for her paternal grandmother) in March 1868. A year later, in March 1869, the family emigrated to Lackawanna Township in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania where, alongside a large community of Welshmen, Thomas gained employment in the mines. At the time, this part of America was home to the largest population of Welsh people outside Wales - partly because of the religious and social freedom this new country offered, but mainly because of the huge resources of anthracite coal that lay under the Lackawanna Valley.
The family had already emigrated by the time that Sarah's father, Henry died on 3rd November, 1869 at Brynhynydd farm, Bettws. From the wording of his will, there is a sense that Sarah was not living locally. Unlike her 3 surviving sisters, she was not named as an executrix of the will and appears to have been omitted from one of the conditional bequests that included the other sisters. This bequest did however name Sarah's children as eventual beneficiaries in the event of her sisters' collective demise. Sarah is included in another bequest:
"Finally, I give and bequeath the sum of fifty pounds to be divided in equal shares between my Daughters Sarah Phillips, Rebecca Morgan, and Hannah Morgan, the said fifty pounds being now on interest in the following sums with William Evans, collier, Prospect Place, Cwmamman, Twenty pounds, with Howell Jones, Llachartfawr, in the parish of Llangyfelach, Twenty pounds, with Daniel Jones, Tresgyrchmawr, in the parish of Llangyfelach Five pounds, in the Swansea savings Bank, Five pounds."
It was from Henry's will that I first learnt Sarah's married name and also gained the impression that the reason she couldn't be found in any British census after 1861 was because she might have emigrated.
|Full transcript of Henry Bowen's will|
|I now know that the family arrived at Castle Garden, New York on the 24th March 1869 aboard the steamship, Minnesota of the Guion Line. Castle Garden, today renamed Castle Clinton, is situated on the southwest tip of Manhatten and was the immigrant processing centre that preceeded Ellis Island during the period 1855-1890. The family's journey from Liverpool via Queenstown in Ireland would have taken about 10 days by steamship - giving them a departure date of mid March. The Minnesota, which was launched in February 1867 had a service speed of 10 knots and was able to accomodate 72 1st class and 800 steerage passengers - the Phillips family amongst them. The ship's manifest (I.D. No. 31091) lists 7 Phillips passengers: Rees, aged 32; Sarah (listed as Mrs. Phillips) aged 32; Thomas, aged 7; John, aged 6; William, aged 5; David, aged 3 and infant, Margaret.
The manifest details created a mystery with regard to the age of Sarah and Rees' eldest son, Thomas. From the details of the 1861 census Thomas should be aged about 14 years in 1869 rather than 7 years. Possibly, the 1861 census record should have read 5 months rather than 5 years or, the original Thomas died and another son born circa 1862 was also named Thomas in honour of Rees' father. The mystery deepened when, soon after their arrival in America, the family were enumerated in the American census of 1870. Thomas was missing from this record, suggesting that he had either died or was living apart from his family. The second option was only likely if Thomas is actually 13-14 years old rather than only 7-8. I wasn't able to find him enumerated elsewhere or identify his birth registration in Wales.
|Update: July 2009
Whilst reading Alan Conway's book, "The Welsh in America: Letters from the Immigrants", I came across a letter written by Rees and Sarah Phillips to a friend at home in Wales and subsequently published in "Y Gwladgarwr". Sent from Bellevue, Hyde Park in Scranton and dated 20th November 1869, the letter makes reference to the death of their son, Thomas - which must have occured fairly soon after their arrival in America:
|Transcript of Rees Phillips' letter|
In the 1870 census at Lackawanna, both Rees and Sarah are recorded as being unable to write and their eldest boys, John and William are recorded as having attended school in the last year. In common with many of his neighbours, Rees' personal estate is valued at 100$. The column detailing the real estate value of their home is left blank suggesting the family rent their home. Their neighbours are mainly Welsh, with the menfolk being occupied as either miners or labourers. Some of the many mines that were situated in Lackawanna Township included: Greenwood colliery, Taylor Shaft, Bellevue Shaft, Continental Shaft, Sloan Shaft and Brook Colliery. The nearest Post Office to the family's home was at Hyde Park, Scranton.. Neither Lackawanna Township nor Luzerne County exist today. The Township became incorporated into several neighbouring townships (Moosic, Old Forge, Taylor and Scranton) and Luzerne County became Lackawanna County.
The family arrived in Pennsylvania at a time of great unrest in the local coalfields. This was marked by several, protracted strikes over pay which, on at least 2 occasions, (in 1871 and 1877) culminated in riots. The detrimental effect on the mining industry locally may be the reason why, 4 years after their arrival, the family moved further east to the mountinous village of Carbon Run in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Carbon Run village was located about 2 miles west of Barclay Township on the Barclay Mountain and was famed for it's veins of peacock coal - so called because of it's brilliant, irridescent colour. The coal was retrieved from 3 mine openings: Frazer drift, Flynn drift and Curry drift. At the time, Bradford County mines were the most North-easterly situated mines in the country, supplying the growing populations of Northern cities such as New York. All the land in the area was owned by coal mining and railroad companies - who also ran company stores from which all goods were purchased. The wages were good and the standard of living relatively high with large families being common. The mountain climate was said to be invigorating, but the winters were harsh with snowfalls being recorded as late as May in 1884 and starting as early as the last week in August in 1885.