Saturday, March 15, 2008

Goronwy Owen and Virginia

We recently took a trip out to Lawrenceville, Virginia to see where Martha's nine times great grandfather lived in the mid-seventeen hundreds. Goronwy Owen was an interesting person. He was born in 1723 in Wales, and died in 1769 in Lawrenceville Virginia. He is a famous Welsh poet of his time, apparently known for reviving a form of Welsh poetry that is quit difficult to pen. He made his way to Virginia when he was appointed rector of the St. Andrews Episcopal Church in 1760. He also served as Master of the Grammar School at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.

Martha and I flew off to Richmond, VA. on Saturday, March 1st. Once there, we rented a car and drove down to Lawerenceville. Once there, we checked into the Three Angels Inn B&B. That was a very nice B&B, and the owners knew a lot about its history.

Martha had contacted the current rector, and he arranged for Wayne Gilley to take us out to Goronwy Owen's house. He picked us up at the B&B and after switching vehicles at his house and picked up his wife Shirley. Shortly from there we arrived the house. From what Wayne and Shirley had heard, the house had not been lived in for almost 100 years. After looking around the house we headed into the woods and found his grave near his barn.
house and road leading to it 02house interior 02house exterior 12house exterior 06house crawlspace 05goronwy owen househouse and road leading to it 01gravesite 01martha at grave 02barn and grave 01barn detail 01old barn 01

On Sunday we got up and took a walk around in the field behind the B&B. Along the way we made friends with horse. We also found this rusting out International truck. It has been sitting there long enough for a tree to grow between the front fender and the bumper, and another tree to grow right behind it, such that you would have to cut one or both down to get it out. Googling it, it appears to be from 1948ish.
goronwy owen cross in churchyard 03

After breakfast, went to the Sunday service at St. Andrews.

st andrews interior evening 02st andrews 04st Andrews with cross 02goronwy owen cross detail 04goronwy owen cross detail 01

After church,we hit the road and were off to Williamsburg.

On Monday, We drove out to Yorktown and took in the battle sites.
After that, we drove back to Williamsburg and toured its historic area and had lunch there.
bruton parish episcopal church est 1715 williamsburg 02

campus entrance

wren building

We then walked to the college campus to find a plaque that had been erected to Goronwy Owen. It was spring break so we had the campus to ourselves practically. We wandered around a lot of buildings. I even talked to someone at undergrad enrollment, and she directed us to the oldest building.

wren building grammar school room 02

This is the building he would have been teaching at, but alas, no plaque there. We did bump into another person and she was very apologetic about not knowing where the plaque was, but directed us to the library.
library with plaque location marked
Once there, I asked the librarian and she immediately knew where it was, and sent us up to see it.
goronwy owen plaque in swem library 3rd fl poets corner 03
Next to it is a set of shelves dedicated to him and houses all kinds of poetry from many authors.
swem library poets cornerowen poetry collection detail

On Tuesday, we headed up to the Airport. Our flight got delayed do to the massive snow happening in St. Louis, MO. It kept getting delayed until about 5pm, when they just cancelled it. Boo! (First time that has happened to me) So several of the passengers and us called the Days Inn. They didn't really have shuttle service, but one of the employees came over with his van and picked us up. This was a rather sad Motel. Its an old one with all the doors facing the road. I called my boss to let him know I was not coming in the next day, and then we went off to dinner. It rained like crazy that night.

In the morning, we got up, since they don't really have shuttle service, we had to get a taxi. Luckily, the weather had all passed and we managed to make it home.


Anonymous said...

How amazing. I'm also apparently related to Goronwy Owen, and so it gave me a real thrill to see your photographs. As a Welshman recently relocated to Los Angeles, I shall have to make the "pilgrimage" out to Virginia myself sometime.
Kind regards,
Mathew Parry

Trevor Lloyd-Jones said...

Greetings from another descendant of Goronwy Owen, on the side of my father's mother formerly of Bethesda north wales. I a journalist living in Dubai.
kind regards

Trevor Lloyd-Jones

Anonymous said...

Great Photos, had no idea his house(whats left) still stood. He is my wifes 4th great grandfather and would like to use a few of the photos for our Goronwy Owen family page on
Best Regards to a distant cousin,
Fred & Genie McCord

Stanford said...

Fabulous. He was also my 4th Great GF with lineage to Whyte Glendower Owen born in Nashville (1859) moved to La.
Hello to all cousins.

Sue said...

Hello Todd,

I am also a descendent. Thanks for your communication!

Sue Cross
Laguna Beach, CA

Anonymous said...

To add to the cloud of cousins - I am descended from GO's sister Elin.
Having visited Anglesey/North Wales still lots of interest in GO, works. And knowledge of Virginia spread but not the quality of photos you provide.
Matthew Richard Roberts

Anonymous said...

Correction to my previous post - and I knew it already! I am descended from Elin, sister to GO's father, OG and Jane Parry; parents of OG and Elin being Goronwy Owen and Margaret Humphreys.

Anonymous said...

Would you please contact me about the use of your photo of Goronwy Owen's grave. He is my wife's 6th ggrandfather. Thanks, Johnny

Unknown said...

Amazing!! I grew up not ten miles from the location of Owen's house in Brunswick Cty - and until this moment never knew it was there! He is a pivotal figure in my family history too - but not by blood. He was the school master at Pwllheli in Wales where my ancestor attended - and he became a tremendous, lifelong influence in the family. His student (David Ellis Jones) was father to William Ellis Jones (aka Gwilym Cawrdaf) a 2x Eisteddfod Bard chair winner. And Cawrdaf, who wanted to emigrate to VA to be with Gorony Owen, became too ill to travel, he instead sent his nephew, my G-G-G Grandfather. Long story short... that nephew was the founder of a Virginia clan of poets, playwrights and publishers. Gorony's influence was broad and deep and has had impact right down to the present generations. I cannot wait to make this pilgrimage! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PUBLISHING THIS MATERIAL!

Dula said...

I have just read a new book by Proal Heartwell entitled "Geronwy and Me." I recommend it. Thanks for the pictures.

Mike Bannister said...

In the church of the tiny hamlet of Uppington, East of Shrewsbury UK, there is a plaque commemorating Goronwy Owen( Gorowy Ddu) I remember seeing it in 1964, while photographing the incredible (pagan ?) naive carving of a mighty dragon above the North door.

Unknown said...

Hi, My name is Ruth Anne Clarke and I grew up in Brunswick County and Lawrenceville, Virginia. I attended The College of William & Mary and was there when Professor David Jenkins taught English. Dr. Jenkins was a Goronwy Owen scholar and learning that I was from Lawrenceville, he asked me to visit the house and make a study of the structure as I was studying archaeology and historic architecture. I took photographs and measurements of the house and drew floor-plans. I wrote a paper on my findings which is held in the Lawrenceville Public Library.

Neither the blog or any of the comments mention Goronwy Owen's heavy use of alcohol - the real reason he was booted out of Williamsburg and into the hinter-land of Brunswick County!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan Owen said...

Wonderful posting and great photos!

My family has compelling circumstantial evidence that our ancestor is Goronwy. But in order to definitively know, we need DNA proof from a known male descendant of Goronwy.

If anyone knows of a male descendent of Goronwy who would be willing to take a genealogical DNA test, please contact me at


Bryan Owen
Baton Rouge, LA
(originally from Tunica, MS)