Llanfoist and Abergavenny LDS Branch Histories

[Note: to see more recent updates, please see this page on our family history blog. Thanks!]
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (now Gwent). Llanfoist is the village south of the River Usk at the base of the Blorenge.

Levi Richards (1799-1876)
After spending a few hours in the LDS Church History Library, I can now share the complete, official histories of these two branches from the Garway (Garaway), later Merthyr Tydfil, Conference of the British Mission. Sad, but true.

There are no membership records extant as far as the CHL is concerned. There are bits and pieces of additional information such as the December 17, 1841 baptism of my ancestress Elinor Jenkins Vaughan recorded in Elder John Needham's Missionary Journal. Any helpful records of contemporaneous LDS Missionaries Richard Blake[l]y, Theodore Curtis, Charles Tayson, and Lorenzo Barnes do not seem to exist in the CHL Archives.

I hope to add to this history in the future from additional materials in Elder Needham's journal. I also hope to get access to the relevant letters and missionary journal of Elder Levi Richards in the limited access files of the CHL. I don't want the privileged sacred material, I just need more of Llanfoist's history.

In an 1892 letter defending his claim as the first missionary in South Wales, and after consulting his journal, Needham summarizes his mission this way:
John Needham (1819-1901)
. . . went to my new fields in the fall of 1840. I had the charge of Garway [Herefordshire] Conference until I left in 1843. I ordained Elders and others and sent them out into Monmouth and Wales, but not anyone by the name of Henshaw that I remember. Elders Levi Richards and Curtis from America came and laboured in Garway Conference at times and was a great help to me and the other elders with their counsel and experience. I will give you the names of some of the Branches we organized - Abergavenny, Lantony [Llanthony] Abbey, Longtown, Hewshovell, Lanfoist, Llanellen, Lancathy, the Welsh Iron Works [Blaenavon, Abersychan, Pontypool]. Bros.
Richard Steele (1818-1881)
Palmer, Taysom, Harris, and others laboured with me. Some branches was organized in the winter of 40 and 41 and most of them in the year 1841. It kept 6 or 7 elders busy traveling from branch to branch in the years 1841 and 1842, for we had quite a conference of members and officers. In July 24th, 1842, we held a camp meeting in Llanellen. The next day we had a social Tea Party of Elders and members of the church. Many of our branches was in the Welsh Hills, or I might say in small valleys between the Hills such as LantoneyAbbey and Longtown. Those in Monmouth even was just on the border of Wales and spoke the Welsh language.

Llanfoist Wharf on Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal looking over the Usk Valley & Abergavenny to Sugar Loaf
Courtesy Pip Rolls, Creative Commons License

Source: Manuscript History of the Units of the Church – Abergavenny Branch, Garway Conference, British Mission. LDS CHL LR_1140_2 #4.

LLANFOIST BRANCH (Garway Conference)
Compiled by Chas. D. Gosslind, under direction of Andrew Jenson. Eva J. Olson, typist.

The Llanfoist Branch consisted of the Latter-day Saints residing in the town of Llanfoist, which is situated three miles southwest of Abervanney [sic] in Monmouthshire, England.

Millenial Star

At a general conference of the British Mission held at Liverpool Apr. 6, 1844, the Llanfoist Branch was represented by Elder Richard Blakley, as part of the Garway Conference. (Mill. Star 4:195).

As no further record appears, it is presumed the branch was disorganized.

From Missionary Journals:

Elder John Needham made several preaching trips to Llanfoist and Abergavenny in his walking circuit of the Garway Conference in Monmouthshire and the borders of Herefordshire. The conference also included branches in Garway, Ewyas Harold, Monmouth, and Llanthony.

Elder Richard Steele recorded a visit to Abergavenny on May 4, 1841:
on Tuesday we went to Abergavenny to see if anyone would open their house for us to preach in. But the people made some excuse or other and some of them said they had heard of us but would not tell us what they had heard. But I told them it was no good I expected. And on Wednesday we went to the Baptist chapel and we heard them preach in Welch and English and Brother Watkins asked them to let one of us preach but they would not. RSJ, 65.
On Wednesday, September 3, Elder Steele preached in Abergavenny. RSJ, 75.
Friday, November 12, is the first mention of preaching in Llanfoist. Elder Needham later claims that he "was the first that opened a house and preached in this town." JNJ 195. Elder Needham spent his nights at the Sayer home in nearby Abergavenny.

Baptisms in Llanfoist:
26 November 1841 - Elizabeth Davies.
17 December 1841 - Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, Elizabeth Davies, Catherine Davies.

Elder John Steele traveled a circuit north to Dorstone, west to Hay, south to Llanfoist and back near Monmouth. He occasionally traveled with Elder Needham. The 1841 British Census finds him in Dorstone at Brother John Lovett's, Lanarch Farm (just west of Dorstone), on June 6, matching his journal entry.

When visiting Llanfoist, Needham stayed at the Davies [most likely James & Elizabeth Davies], Edwards, and Morgan homes. Brother and Sister Edwards and Bother Morgan are referenced as members.

On Wednesday, February 2, Elder Richard Steele arrived in Llanfoist.
On Thur we held a tea meeting at Lanfoist. Elders Curtiss, Pitt, Gailey, Palmer, Bourne, Matthas, Steele and Brother John Watkins addressed the meeting. On Friday Elder Curtiss pr. at Lanfoist. On Sat. we left Abergavenny and went to Garway. RSJ, 87.
Baptisms in Llanfoist:
2 February 1842 - "Sister Vaun" [probably Catherine Vaughan, age 19]
6 March 1842 - James Davies, Sister Edwards - both confirmed that night.
[James Davis appears to be the James Davis (1794-1847) who died at Winter Quarters. His wife was Elizabeth Sykes Davis (1797-1855). They were apparently re-baptized in Nauvoo, 21 October 1842, and received endowments and sealing in Nauvoo, January 1846. Elizabeth came to Utah in 1847 with the Smoot/Wallace Co. arriving by Sept. 29. NFS, POT.]

9 March 1842 Letter from John Needham to Levi Richards:

Elder Levi Richards,
Beloved Brother I received your kind letter a few days since, and would have answered it sooner, but had not an opportunity. It does really as you say, seem a long time since you left us in the part, and we are anxiously looking for you back again. As regards the work of the Lord. About Abergavenny it is going steadly onward, there seems a general spirit of inspiring and the people are general very civil and kind to us. Sunday morning I baptized Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Davies of Llanfoist. I don’t know that you are acquainted with them, but Mrs. Edwards is a very intelligent woman. She believed the word with all her heart. She had been joined to the Methodists for some years. I assure you there’s no little stir amongst the Methodists, and the people of Llanfoist, for every one thought her to be a sensible woman. But, Alas, she has lost her character entirely. . . .
. . . . I desired to acquaint Elder Pratt of it [Church Disciplinary problems in Garway] . I feel I have done all I could in this case as well as all others But I find I want more wisdom, Tis as an Elder said, an easy thing to deliver the testimony to the people, but not so easy to get the saints perfected. Elder Curtis is coming for a short time, to labour with me, I am glad to get in the company of my Elder Brethren, so as to get a little counsel, for I stand in great need of it. . . .
. . . . I preached at a new place near Abergavenny last Monday. There was a many people come together. And my attentive Brother and sister Curtis have suffered a great deal from want so [—] they have been in challenge. I would say a good deal about it, but perhaps you know.
I went to see about a woman to preach at Abergavenny yesterday. I have partly agreed to it. Will hold about 300 people. E[—]-to  at when elder Curtis comes over, I hope we shall soon see you again here [---] with some send their love to you.
Brother in the Lord, John Needham
[LDS CHL MS 1284, Box 2, Folder 1]

On Thursday, April 29, 1842, Elder Needham and Elder Richard Steele arrived in Abergavenny. They appear to have stayed at Abergavenny and Steele preached at Llanellin. Six people were baptized by Elder Needham. On Friday the 30th, Steele preached at Abergavenny and he and Needham confirmed the six baptized the evening before. RSJ, 91.

There was a camp meeting at Llanellen, just south of Llanfoist on Sunday, July 24. Steele reports:
Brothers White and Harris and me spoke in the morning and Elders L.  Richards and Curtiss in the afternoon.  In the evening scra [sacrament] was ad.[ministered].  On Mon we held a tea meeting. On Tues Elders Richards, Needham and me and Sister Martha Evans and Sister Griffiths left Abergavenny and came to Monmouth. RSJ 95-96.
Elder Steele was back in Abergavenny on Friday, August 27. On Saturday the 28th, he went to Llanfoist and attended a meeting there Sunday morning at 11 a.m. He preached that afternoon at Llanellen and was back to preach in Llanfoist at 6 p.m. RSJ, 97.


Source: Abergavenny Branch Manuscript History and Historical Reports, Abergavenny Branch, British Mission. LDS CHL LR 10467 2

ABERGAVENNY BRANCH (Garway Conference)
Compiled by Charles D. Gosslind, under the direction of Andrew Jenson, Eva J. Olson typist.
The Abergavenny Branch consisted of the Latter-day Saints residing in the town of Abergavenny, which is situated fifteen miles west of Monmouth, in Monmouthshire, England, and about 16 miles east northeast of Merthyr Tydvil, Wales.

Abergavenny is where lots of emigrating Saints in early days took train to Liverpool, en route for Zion.

Millenial Star
Library Books Nos. 1616, 1618, 1619

Under date of March 28, 1842, Elder Lorenzo Barnes wrote from Bristol, England, that he had recently visited Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, where he had preached three times. The work appeared to be on the onward march. (Mill. Star 2:190)

At a General conference of the British Mission held at Manchester May 15, 1842, the Abergavenny Branch was represented by Elder John Needham, then in charge of the Garway Conference. (Mill. Star 3:29)

At a general conference of the British Mission held at Manchester June 4, 1843, the branches of the Garway Conference were represented by Elder Charles Tayson. The Abergavenny Branch belonged to the Garway Conference at this time. (Mill. Star 4:34)

At a general conference of the British Mission held at Liverpool Apr. 6, 1844, it was resolved that the Abergavenny Branch be attached to the Merthyr Tydvil Conference. (Mill. Star 4:197)

Wednesday, Feb. 11
On this day Elders Geo. W. Grant and W.G. Smith visited Abergavenny, a small town on the banks of the River Wye [sic. – actually the Usk], which for romantic scenery cannot be surpassed [still true!]. (Mill. Star 25:190)

Monday, Feb. 28.
Elder Levi W. Richards wrote rom Tredegar, Wales, as follows: “The Abersychan, Newport, Abergavenny and Llandevaud Branches were attached to the Monmouthshire Conference in July last and since those branches have  attached to larger branches, a change, I believe, for the better. In the former place the saints have excellent meetings, a number of baptisms have taken place and there are prospects for more." (Mill Star 32:172)

Sunday, Jan. 5.
At a council of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported in good standing by its president with few exceptions. (Lib. Book No. 1616 p. 8)

Sunday, June 22.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Cardiff, There being no representative from the Abergavenny Branch, it was reported by District President Wm. N. Williams, in common with that of the whole conference which was in a healthy and flourishing condition, with bright and encourageing prospects for the future. (Mill. Star 41:417)

Sunday, Aug. 22.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil, Elder Charles Abbott was sustained as president of the Abergavenny Branch. (Mill. Star 42:566)

Sunday, Feb. 12.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported by Elder W.G. Cornish to be in a satisfactory condition, the saints were alive to their duties and striving to live their religion. (Mill. Star 44:141)

Sunday, Aug. 5.
At a general council meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Mark Lawrence reported the Abergavenny Branch in good condition with few exceptions. (Lib. Book No. 1616, p. 157)

Sunday, Nov. 4.
A general council  meeting was held at which Elder Mark Lawrence was released as president of the Abergavenny Branch, he having removed from the branch. (Lib. Book No. 1616, p. 160)

Sunday, March 1.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported by the branch president to be in good condition. (Mill. Star 47:165)

Sunday, March 7.
At a session of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil the Abergavenny Branch was reported to be in fair condition. (Mill. Star 48:180)

Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Elder Richard T. Owen wrote from Merthyr Tydvil as follows: “On Friday morning, Aug. 20, 1886, I started from here in company with a few saints who were billed for Salt Lake City, Utah. At Abergavenny they were joined by five other happy young soulds, making in all twelve from the Welsh Conference who were bound for Salt Lake City, Utah.” (Mill. Star 48:589)

Saturday, Augst 6.
At a council meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elders Morgan Evans and Cornelius Green reported the Abergavenny Branch, where four baptized members had been confirmed and four children blessed. (Lib. Book No. 1618, p. 11)

On the following day, Aug. 7th, the presidency of the Abergavenny Branch was considered and Brother Wm. G. Cornish was honorably released as president and Thomas Berrington appointed as his successor. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 15)

Sunday, Dec. 4.
At a general Priesthood meeting held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being on the improve. There had been two baptisms during the month, the saints felt well and some were investigating the Gospel. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 38)

Sunday, March 4.
At a general Priesthood meeting of the Welsh Mission held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being few in number but they manifested a desire to live as saints should. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 53)

Sunday August 5.
At a general Priesthood Meeting held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder Morgan Evans reported the Abergavenny Branch as being very limited in numbers, the meetings were not held regularly, but still the members manifested a desire to live their religion and retain their standing in the Church. (Lib. Book No. 1618 p. 85)

Sunday, Feb. 3.
At a general Priesthood meeting of the Welsh Conference held at Merthyr Tydvil Elder E    L. Burgoyne reported the Abergavenny Branch where most of the saints felt well and were kind to the elders. (Lib. Book No. 1619 p. 38)

Thursday, Feb. 27.
President        Polland wrote from the Welsh Conference as follows: “After visiting the branches at Ystrad and Abertillery I made a visit to the isolated saints at Abergavenny, some of whom had not had a visit from the Elders for two or three years.” (Mill. Star 64:139)

Monday, April 18.
Eight persons were received into the Church at a baptism serviced held at Goytre near Abergavenny. Pres. Thomas Biggs and Elder Jay M. Booth officiated in the initial ordinance, and the confirmations were administered by Pres. Biggs and Elders Raymond Murphy, Ezra M. Parry, Albert Brain, Harold J. Butcher, Hilliard L. Rose, Jay M. Booth and Richard C. Thomas. (Mill. Star 89:287)

Abergavenny, Cross Street near Monk Street looking Northwest, August 19, 2010
BMH       British Mission, Manuscript Histories, LDS CHL
JNJ         John Needham Missionary Journal, LDS CHL
LC41       Llanfoist Census 1841
LC51       Llanfoist Census 1851
NFS        New Family Search
POT        Pioneer Overland Travel Database, LDS CHL
RSJ         Richard Steele Journal, Commenced September 3, 1840, Transcribed by Elbert G. Steele,
               Edited by Elizabeth H. Steele, 1985, Re-edited by Richard E. Steele, 1995.