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Betws Garmon b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Betws Garmon in Gwynedd

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Betws Garmon, Gwynedd. “Betws” is said to be a Welsh adaptation of the English “bede-house”, and to date from the days of faith and pilgrimage; and Garmon is a name identified with the heroic missionary age of the Celtic Church. The village is set in one of the most impressive areas of Snowdonia. The approach from Caernarfon and Llanbeblig is over a three-arched bridge, with the first dominant heights of the mountain area in Moel Eilio and Mynydd Mawr to right and left. The place itself is something of a straggle, as befits a habitation adjusting itself to the narrow valley that falls into the Cwellyn lake. But, remote as it seems from the world, it gave birth to one of Wales's most curiously employed and far-travelled sons.

In 1804 the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was deeply interested in the future of the new territory of Louisiana, only recently acquired by purchase from France. To explore and survey the area, he relied in the main on a man of apparently Welsh extraction, one Meriwether Lewis, his own secretary. But Lewis was not to go unsupported by experienced travellers already knowledgeable in the region. Among them was another Welshman of undoubted ancestry.

“I enclose,” wrote Jefferson on the 13th January 1804, “a map of the Missouri as far as the Mendans, 12 or 15 hundred miles I presume above its mouth; it is said to be very accurate having been done by Mr. Evans by order of the Spanish Government.... Mr. Evans, a Welshman...whose original object I believe had been to go in search of the Welsh Indians said to be up the Missouri. On this subject, a Mr. Rees of the same nation established in the western part of Pennsylvania will write to you.”

John Thomas Evans was a native of Waunfawr, a place lying between Llanbeblig and Betws Garmon. He was oddly enough, in view of his later employment in the New World by the Spaniards of a stock deeply committed to the outlook and purposes of Welsh Methodism. His earlier life was given to the society of poets, antiquarians, and writers of imaginative history, including Iolo Morgannwg (Edward Williams), who created out of scanty material the bardic lore of modern Wales. One of the subjects most eagerly considered by this circle was the story approved by Humphrey Lhuyd of Denbigh, a learned Tudor antiquary; by Hakluyt in his tale of British voyages; and by Howell, the Royalist writer of the Familiar Letters from the recesses of the Fleet prison; and subsequently made into an epic poem by Southey of the journey made by Owain Gwynedd's son Madoc over the waters to the West and his discovery of the land later known as the Americas.

There is little to substantiate this medieval anticipation of Columbus, at least in the chief person of the drama. Evidence for the extent of early skill in navigation is being accumulated, however, and American learning today is inclined to suggest a contact between the Old World and the New antedating by several centuries not only Columbus but Madoc. Evans, like many Welsh-men of his time, paid attention to the story by one Morgan Jones, a minister resident in a wild region of the Plantations close to New York. Jones reported in 1686 that he had been captured by savage Indians but, though tied to a tree for slaughter, had managed to escape because he had consoled himself by uttering a few words in Welsh, and the Indians had understood him perfectly. These were Indians of the Doeg tribe. Another report mentioned the nation of the Padoucas, who also had excellent Welsh, and were traced back by way of their name to Madogwys, or people of Madoc.

This was the summons that Evans heard and obeyed. Service with the Spanish government or with the President of the United States was a means to an end. The nations of western Europe might war as they would over control of the North American continent; the fate of Madoc and his followers was the absorbing interest of the man from Betws Garmon and Llanbeblig.

With regret, one must repeat his last words on the subject: “I have only to inform you that I could not meet with such a people, and from the intercourse I have had with Indians from latitude 35 to 49 I think you may with safety inform our friends that they have no existence”.

The settlement of the New World by Welshmen was reserved for a 19th century colonization of the district of Trelew in Argentine Patagonia.

Nearby towns: Caernarfon, Llanberis, Porthmadog

Nearby villages: Aber, Bangor, Beddgelert, Bethesda, Bodorgan, Bryncir, Clynnog Fawr, Cwm-y-Glo, Dinorwic, Dwyran, Dyffryn, Gaerwen, Garndolbenmaen, Groeslon, Gwydir, Gyrngoch, Llanaelhaern, Llanaelhaiarn, Llandegai, Llandwrog, Llanedwen, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llanfrothen, Llangadwaladr, Llangristiolus, Llanllechid, Llanllyfni, Llanrug, Llanwnda, Menai Bridge, Nantlle, Newborough, Penygroes, Pontllyfni, Tan-y-Bwlch, Tanygrisiau, Trefor, Tregarth, Waenfawr, Waunfawr

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