Residence of William John, built
along the Wissahickon Creek
near present day West Point
carved a plantation out of the forest and lived along the
Wissahickon Creek near today's West Point. It appears that he
was the wealthiest landowner in Gwynedd, being as he had three
times as much land as any other settler. He lived there with his wife Jane,
his son John,
and five daughters - Gwen, Catherine, Margaret, Ellin and Gainor.
The last name of his children was Jones, an
evolution of the surname John. In keeping with Welsh tradition
William John's last name became his son's first name, therefore
his son's name was John Jones (instead of John ap John).
William John, born about 1660 in Merionethshire, Wales died on November 1, 1712 in Gwynedd,
Pennsylvania. His will
showed that he had planted the area in wheat, rye, oats and hay. In
addition, he had 21 cattle, 6 horses and 7 bee hives. Interestingly, dates marked on William Johnís
it was completed in the year he died. The house and 1400 acres were left to his son John.
(The daughters inherited another tract of land in the lower part of the township.)
Upon their arrival, men, women and children went into the woods where their lands
were laid out without any mark or path to guide them. There
was nothing to support human life but the wild fruits and
animals of the woods, yet in short time they had built log
cabins, then stone houses, and had planted corn and then
wheat, oats and hay. Using no machinery, they cut down the
forest of Gwynedd and turned it into farmland. They purchased cattle, horses and sheep and became prosperous. This was a well planned
adventure and they brought with them tools and furniture,
utensils, implements and clothing. The Welsh were the most
numerous, wealthiest, and most influential inhabitants of
the Township for many years.
Each land owner had a commodity that was both an
impediment and a financial resource. The forest. Wood was
needed in Philadelphia. Wood for building and wood for fuel.
The Welsh always maintained a part of their forest, not
cutting it down unless it was necessary to create farmland
or pasture. It was money in the bank, to be used when
In July and August of 1745 an epidemic of
Diphtheria spread through the Gwynedd Friends. More than 60
people died, almost all of them children, the entire next
generation of Welsh. One may imagine the grief of their
parents as they tried in vain to comfort their children, as
their throats swelled from the toxin released by the
bacteria. Then they either suffocated or died of heart
failure. Probably in their mother's arms.
From this time on the birthrate of
Gwynedd Welsh dropped dramatically. Some of the settlers
purchased land in the great Welsh Tract (Merion, PA) and
relocated there. The influence of the Welsh in Gwynedd then declined.
Gradually, they were replaced by Germans.
were a religious sect from Harpersdorf, Germany. They
suffered religious persecution which in many ways mirrored
the miseries of the Welsh Quakers. They escaped to America
in six migrations from 1731 to 1767.
The third migration, the largest, consisted
of 44 families of 170 persons. They left Haarlem, Holland
aboard the Saint Andrew in June of 1734. After a tragic and
grueling voyage they arrived in Philadelphia on September
The landing of the Saint Andrew on September 22, 1734
Unable to find a
large contiguous tract of land to settle in as a group,
these third migration settlers spread out in Montgomery
County Pennsylvania in what were called The Upper and Middle
Districts. The Middle District was located in the
forest above Gwynedd Township in what today is Towamincin,
Salford, Worcester, Skippack, and Schwenksville. The
Middle District was called
the Central Church. (The beautiful meeting house of the
Central Schwenkfelder Church stands today on Valley Forge Road in
By 1776, 45 of the 113 land owners in
Gwynedd Township were Germans. 100 years later West Point
would be founded by people of German decent. The Welsh names
of Evans, Thomas, Hugh and Foulke would give way to the
Heebner's, Kriebel's, Luken's, Vaughan's and others.