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Thomas, Rees - Biography

Welsh Origins of Reese Powell Thomas

Nathan W. Murphy, AG®

 

            On 7 February 1815, Thomas Thomas and his wife Sarah (Powell) Thomas became the parents of Rees or Rhys Thomas.[1] In America, Rees would later go by the name Reese Powell Thomas. At present, his specific birthplace remains undetermined. His father Thomas Thomas, a native of Llantrisant Parish, Glamorganshire, Wales, settled in Carmarthenshire as an adult. He married Sarah Powell, from Llanllawddog Parish in Carmarthenshire in the 1810s. Their children included: Thomas (b. abt 1823), Hesther or Esther (b. abt 1826), Margaret (b. abt 1826), David (b. abt 1832), and a daughter whose given name is currently unknown, who married Mr. Coldwell.[2] These children would have grown up speaking the Welsh language.

            By the early 1820s, Thomas Thomas and his family settled in Llanfihangel-ar-Arth Parish, Carmarthenshire, Wales. In the 1840s, Thomas moved his family a few parishes eastward, and managed a 27-acre farm known as Ty-r-cae (House in the field) in Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn Parish.[3] The Thomas family's religious preference at that time is currently unknown.

            Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in this area in the 1840s. Led by stalwardt missionaries such as Dan Jones, they established a branch in Brechfa and another in neighboring Llanybyther. Brechfa was just a small village community with little over one hundred inhabitants.[4] Many nonconformists, such as Methodists and Independents, in addition to the Church of Wales operated in this area.[5] The LDS missionaries found the Jeremy family who became some of the strongest converts to come out of eastern Carmarthenshire. Church leaders appointed Thomas Jeremy as branch president of Llanybyther, and his brother, David Jeremy, as branch president of Brechfa.[6] The LDS Branch Records for Brechfa record that Thomas Jeremy baptized Rees Thomas, who was a grown man, on 19 Medi [September] 1847. Thomas Jeremy confirmed him on the same day. A few months later, David Jeremy baptized Rees's sister, "Ester" Thomas, age 21, and his brother David Thomas, age 15, on 14 Rhagfyr [December] 1847. Abel Evans confirmed the two siblings as members of the Church on 6 Ionawr [January] 1848.[7] All three identified their residence as Ty-r-cae, which is located near the village of Gwernogle, in the neighboring parish of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn.[8] Since there were only two LDS Welsh Branches in this area, these brothers and sisters had to travel several miles to worship with the saints. Church services were held at various members' homes in the area and conducted in the Welsh language.

            Rees Thomas became very active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while his siblings dwindled. On 9 Ionawr [January] 1848, Thomas Jeremy and his brother David Jeremy ordained Rees as a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. The 27 Mehefin [June] 1848, Captain Dan Jones ordained Rees as an Elder in the Church. When the Lord's servants called the converts to Zion, Rees Thomas obeyed. He left Brechfa Branch, with his sister Margaret, in February 1849.[9][10] The two boarded the ship Buena Vista, led by Captain Dan Jones, along with Mary Evans, Rees's future wife, and disembarked from Liverpool on 26 February 1849.[11]

            Rees's younger brother and sister did not heed the call to come to Zion. They remained behind in their dwelling at Ty-r-cae, and eight months after their brother's depature, were excommunicated from the Church. The leaders of the Brechfa Branch explained that the two had been disobedient.[12] Since the Brechfa Branch Minutes do not survive, we do not know exactly what they had disobeyed.

            Rees Thomas' parents and siblings continued to reside at Ty-r-cae following his emigration. The 1851 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn shows these individuals in that home: Thomas Thomas, 56, farmer; Sarah Thomas, 57, farmer's wife; Thomas Thomas, 28, farmer's son, unmarried; Hesther Thomas, 25, farmer's daughter, unmarried; David Thomas, 19, farmer's son, unmarried; John Coldwell, 6, grandson. Another excommunicated member of the Church, Methusalem Rees, lived at Llydiadmawr, in the same parish.[13] He may have been an acquaintance of this family. The Thomas family held this land, which consisted of 27 acres in 1851[14] and 53 acres in 1871,[15] until at least 1881. By 1881, Rees' parents had died, and his brother, Thomas Thomas Jr., his wife, and two small children owned the farm, which at that time had increased to 58 acres in size.[16]

            Little is known about what happened to Rees' brother David and his sister Hesther. Both of them left their parents' home before 1871.[17] Hopefully inquisitive descendants will pursue these families to find their long lost cousins. Rees Thomas must have demonstrated considerable faith to remain strong in his beliefs surrounded by a wavering family and he should be held in high regard amongst his posterity.



[1] Biography of Thomas Thomas. Progressive Men of the State of Montana. (Chicago: A.W. Bowen & Co., n.d.), 1837-1838.

[2] Thomas Thomas household no. 47, Tyr Cae. 1851 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 104,243.

[3] Thomas Thomas household no. 47, Tyr Cae. 1851 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 104,243.

[4] Wilson, John Marius. Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales. (Edinburgh: A. Fullarton, 1870), vol. 1, p. 255.

[5] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Library Catalog. Search for Brechfa Parish, Carmarthenshire, Wales. Internet, available at . Accessed: June 7, 2004.

[6] Private papers of Dr. Ronald Dennis, Provo, Utah.

[7] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brechfa Branch. Record of Members, 1846-1875. (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1953). FHL Microfilm 104,167 Item 2.

[8] Map identifying location of Ty-r-cae. Ordnance Survey Maps, 1891. Internet, available at . Accessed: June 7, 2004.

[9] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brechfa Branch. Record of Members, 1846-1875. (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1953). FHL Microfilm 104,167 Item 2.

[10] Jeremy, David. Record of the Brechfa and Llanybyther Branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Brechfa, Carmarthenshire, South Wales and Llanybyther, Carmarthenshire, South Wales, 1846-1952 Kept by David Jeremy of Llanegwad, Carmarthenshire, South Wales. (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1969). FHL Microfilm 599,525.

[11] Mormon Emigration Index. CD-rom. Available for purchase at .

[12] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brechfa Branch. Record of Members, 1846-1875. (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1953). FHL Microfilm 104,167 Item 2.

[13] Thomas Thomas household no. 47, Tyr Cae. 1851 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 104,243.

[14] Thomas Thomas household no. 47, Tyr Cae. 1851 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 104,243.

[15] Thomas Thomas household no. 12, District no. 8, page 2, Tyrcae. 1871 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 850,863.

[16] Thomas Thomas household, Ty-r-cae. 1881 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. Internet, available at . Accessed: June 7, 2004.

[17] Thomas Thomas household no. 12, District no. 8, page 2, Tyrcae. 1871 Census of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn, Carmarthenshire, Wales. FHL Microfilm 850,863.

Immigrants:

Thomas, Reese Powell

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