Friday, July 19, 2013

Among the First of the Welsh Converts


My Welsh DNA is fairly sparse - but then, there is the issue of my surname. My Vaughns came to Zion in 1887 - on the train. Of course they married into some prominent pioneer families, myself inadvertently going perhaps the farthest with that by marrying a Kimball. At the time, her family name was the least thing on my mind. And I'm trying really hard not to be boastful or proud. But there seems to have been just something, maybe part of it self-imposed, that treated the Vaughns like second-class citizens in Zion.

The first Vaughn over died young and left a family in poverty. His son married and there were troubles in the family. His wife divorced him after the children were pretty well grown. Their oldest son, my grandfather, was never active in the church as an adult. It's a miracle my dad & siblings were. Grandma wasn't active either. She just made sure the children went. My dad and mom were married in the Temple and here I am.

There is a theme running here of faithful women propping up the Vaughns which brings me to . . .

Checking my blog for what my readers were searching, I noticed an interesting one looking for "Mormons in Llanfoist." Well, naturally they hit my blog. But I went to their search and saw something else - a link on BoAP to History of the Church, Vol. VI, and an 1844 conference in England with representatives from the Garway Conference including branches in Llanthony, Abergavenny, and Llanfoist! How could that be? Abergavenny is a substantial market town, but Llanfoist had 400 people in the 1840s and not much more than that today. Llanthony is that place up in the top of the mountains with the ruined abbey - less than a village.

Turns out John Needham, an 1838 British convert baptized in the River Ribble, was the first missionary in South Wales. And Needham's missionary journal is digitized and on-line at the LDS Church History Library site. I went through all 258 pages that night.

This is December 17, 1841(!). Right there in the middle is:
"after preaching I baptized Elinor Vaun"
Besides our known Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, the one born 1784 on Stowe Farm where I herded cattle on our visit to the Marches in 2010, there is only one other Elenor on the 1841 Census for Llanfoist Village - Elenor Meredith. Elinor "Vaun" is a match. Later, Elder Needham refers to another baptism of a "Sister Vaun" - no first name, likely the daughter, Catherine. And there are a couple more reports of "Sister Vaun" including that she washed the missionary's feet (just the dusty part of the "beautiful upon the mountains" bit).

This Elinor is the grandmother of our Vaughans who joined the church 40 years later in Durham, England, and came to Utah.

Dan Jones didn't even go to Wales until 1844 (oops. pride again).

It can't be a coincidence that Pres. Garff of the Bountiful Temple set me apart that same day of the research as a veil worker. He specifically referenced D&C 84:20 about the power of the priesthood being manifest in the ordinances - and blessed me with the Spirit of Elijah to turn my heart to the fathers (and mothers) and they to me to help me from across the veil - "the most sacred place in the temple" - (his words).

Finding "Peace" in Llanfoist, Wales, August 19, 2010. "Llanfoist" can be interpreted from the Welsh as "enclosure of Faith"


  1. Llanthony was actually a priory rather than an abbey. The distinction was lost on Elder Needham as it is for most of us. (Abbey for monks. Priory for priests.)

  2. I need to do a bit more linguistic/phonetic investigation the next time I meet someone from England. Elder Needham was not Welsh but English. It seems to me that when British English speakers pronounce my surname "Vaughn" there are two distinct vowel sounds for "a" and "u" in a diphthong. Spelling "Vaughan" as "Vaun" makes perfect sense phonetically as the "gh" is silent. In American English, it is generally pronounced "Von." (As an aside, my boy now serving a mission in Japan has his name phonetically in Kanji as "Bon"). Remember, the original Welsh name was "Fychan" -two syllables sounding something like "Vah-(gutteral "h" sound)-on." The Anglicized version, "Vaughan" dropped the two syllables in pronunciation as English simply doesn't have the Welsh "ch" or "gh" sound. Spelling the name "Vaun" makes perfect sense for someone like Elder Needham.

    The other interesting point being that Needham went no further west than Blaenavon just over the mountain from Llanfoist or north into Wales. Llanthony, a few miles north of Abergavenny, was still in Monmouthshire which switched back and forth between England and Wales in the 19th Century. He apparently did not preach among the Welsh speakers. The Lord saved that for Dan Jones a few years later and just a few miles to the west.

    1. Diary of James Palmer
      “…my labours were called for in another section of country I was...sent to Labour in the Garway Conference under the direction of President Kington of Bristol...”

      Wed. 9 Dec 1840 - ...I visited Monmouth and Skenfrith where the grandsires of the Morgan family resided. In company with Miss Margaret Morgan was kindly received and treated with respect.”
      Margaret Morgan was born in Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, and I believe she is probably the Margret Morgan baptized by Wilford Woodruff on 20 April 1840 at Greenway. If so, it would make her the earliest Welsh-born convert so far. If I understand James Palmer' s journal and the geography correctlt, she might be one of the first Welsh-born/Welsh-location missionaries as well? Margaret' s family resided at Little Garway Farm in Herefordshire. She later married Elder Theodore Curtis in Nauvoo. Unfortunately, we have never located a journal for either one. I am very interested in what you've shared about Theodore and the Garway conference. Thanks!

    2. Thank you, Susan! That's a great addition to this unfolding story. This may be the Margaret Morgan listed on the Welsh Mormon History site:
      There is not much information beyond the birth in Skenfrith, but there is a photo.

  3. My ancestor Richard Steele was one of the missionaries serving with John Needham in 1841. If you're interested, I can email you his journal entries for his mission time in Monmouthshire. Mark Steele, contact me at

    1. Thank you. The Richard Steele Journal is great! I shared this story on the blog:

      [you have to cut and paste the url]

  4. Thanks--I will check that out. I just found I was wrong about the first missionary to Wales! From
    " The first official Church missionary to Wales, however, was Elder Henry Royle, who was called at a conference in Manchester on 6 October 1840 to ‘to to Cly(sic), in Flintshire’.(MS 1:168)"

    I look forward to reading anything you find out about the Garway Conference...


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