MORGAN JOHN RHEES AND HIS BEULA IT was in the autumn of 1796, or the fall as they called it now, that the first party came across the Allegheny Mountains.1 They came up from Philadelphia and the Great Valley of the Appalachians by boat and on foot, since only Esquire Jones, the surveyor, had a horse as yet. They found their way to the place by compass, cutting through a rolling sea of endless, blazing forest, down on to Blacklick creek and the Connemaugh, under the Laurel hills, whence they could see the lower ground sweeping on west, past the Ohio towards that far Missouri where, even now, John Evans might have found their lost compatriots, the Madoc Indians. 'And if such a nationality exists, and there seems now to be no great room to doubt the fact', wrote a breathless William Richards, the unorthodox Baptist minister of Lynn, to his brother-in-the-cloth, Samuel Jones of Pennepek, Philadelphia, who succoured the emigrants, 'it will then appear that a branch of the Welsh nation has preserved its independence even to this day'. Captain of the branch then at grips with the forest was Thomas Watkin Jones, the surveyor, a man of property from Glasbury in Brecknock, an able and passionate young freethinker, barely twenty-four years of age, who was to give himself with a cold and total fury to this knucklehard edge of wilderness and to leave his still-young bones there.3 There were other men of spirit-Rees Lloyd, who had been minister to the Congregationalists at Ebenezer in Pontypool and who was now painfully teaching himself the English language; his deacon, George Roberts, from a celebrated Llanbrynmair family; Theophilus Rees, a boyhood friend of William 1 This general account of the first settlement is based on a wide variety of sources, which are specified below. Basic was the material available in the courthouses of Cambria and Somerset counties, Pennsylvania and the Cambria County Historical Society in Ebensburg. I am particularly grateful to the Curator of the Historical Society. Miss Edna Lehman, who runs a remarkable little museum, for her invaluable assistance and her labour well beyond the call of duty; I also owe a heavy debt to the staffs of the courthouses in Ebensburg and Somerset who were almost incredibly tolerant of a peculiarly nosy foreigner; among them I must single out Mr. Mark Brown of the Cambria Deeds Office and, especially, Fred McCann, the Chief Assessor, who initiated me into the complexities of life in Cambria county. A great deal of material on Beula and Ebensburg has been collected and will be made available. 2 W. Richards S. Jones, 6 June 1791, in Mrs. Irving H. McKesson Collection (Jones section). Historical Society of Pennsylvania (henceforth Pennepek papers). Samuel Jones was the Welsh-born minister of Lower Dublin (Pennepek or Pennypack) Baptist Church. Philadelphia. 3 I call him a free-thinker because he affirmed and did not swear an oath, because he was a Freemason and because he called his son Voltaire; see below. His will, dated 30 May 1807. is in Will Book 1. p. 3. Register of Wills, Cambria county.