POMEROY – Many years ago when the Welsh pioneers from Syracuse, N. Y. came to the Bend area to work in the mines here, they brought with them their Bibles and their tradition of religious festivals which featured gospel singing and preaching.
Many settled in Minersville and the area above which they called Syracuse.
One of their festival traditions was “Gymanfa.” It is still observed today and Sunday, Sept. 25, the 139th annual Gymanfa of the Central Southeast Ohio Association of Welsh Congregational Churches will be held at the Welsh-American Heritage Museum, formerly the Welsh Congregational Church, located at 415 East Main Street in Oak Hill.
Morning services will start at 10:30 a.m. followed by a catered luncheon at noon and an afternoon service starting at 1 p.m. Preaching the morning session will be the Rev. Robert Hughes of Akron returning for his 11th year as speaker.
Jay Williams, from Clinton, N.Y., will serve as chorister for the festival and has selected many familiar Welsh hymns to be sung in four-part harmony by the audience. Williams who has been involved with Welsh activities in Central New York for many years and has written two books on Welsh Americans, will be the afternoon speaker.
The trustees of the Gymanfa are inviting not only those of Welsh ancestry but others to the day-long festival of music and preaching.
The history of the arrival of Welshmen in Southeastern Ohio dates back to 1818 when six families set sail from Aberaeron, Wales for the United States. After their journey across the Atlantic they hired covered wagons for another long and hazardous trek across the mountains to Pittsburg, and from there placed their meager possessions on crude rafts for the journey down the Ohio River.
The story goes that after traveling 250 miles they ran out of provisions and tied up their rafts and went ashore in the Bend area, to finally settle in Meigs, Gallia and Jackson Counties.
The purpose for establishing the Heritage Museum many years ago was to foster Welsh family ties, to collect and preserve artifacts, to keep the Welsh culture and traditions alive in the area, an to preserve the old Welsh Congregational building.