Site of Lewis Jones’ birthplace, Caernarfon

Site of Lewis Jones’ birthplace, Caernarfon

Not many people have lent their names to a town. One such person was Lewis Jones, the town being Trelew in Argentina. He was born in 1837 in a house near this spot. The house was on a tannery site, where his father worked as a skinner.

Photo of Lewis Jones with Patagonian chiefsThe family were members of Capel Engedi. Lewis was educated at the elementary school in the vestry under the chapel. About 1855 he became an apprentice in a print room.

He was a member of the Engedi Literary Society, known as Y Bwcis (meaning “the bookworms”). On Good Friday 1856, in a small room under Capel Engedi, the idea of a Welsh settlement free from the influence of the English language was discussed for the first time in Wales.

In 1857 Lewis bought his own printing press which he used in Caernarfon and soon after in Holyhead, where he settled after his marriage in 1859. The family moved in 1862 to Liverpool, where they joined people who were discussing establishing a Welsh colony in Patagonia, Argentina.

Before the end of 1862, Lewis sailed to South America to select a suitable location for the colony and receive the territorial government’s support. The first group of Welsh settlers sailed from Liverpool in 1865 on the Mimosa.

From the start of the Welsh settlement in the Chubut Valley, Lewis was one of the most influential men. He was Provincial Governor for a time – the only Welshman to hold the post. He spent time in government prison for issues such as resisting military service on the Sabbath and the continuation of Welsh-medium education.

The photo, courtesy of The National Library of Wales, shows Lewis in the centre, meeting indigenous chiefs in Patagonia in 1867.

He was the chief promoter of the Chubut Valley railway from Puerto Madryn, authorised by the government in 1884. The line opened in 1888 and the town that grew up around the terminus at Trelew was named in honor of Lewis Jones. Today Trelew is the valley’s most populous town.

Lewis died in 1904, the year Trelew’s first elected council was formed. He was buried in Moriah Chapel Cemetery, Trelew, near the river Chubut.

With thanks to Rhiannon James, of Caernarfon Civic Society

Postcode: LL55 2AE    View Location Map

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