Eric the Red - George Upton

The Expedition of Madoc, the Welsh Prince

In the year 1168 or 1169 Owen Gwynedd, the ruling prince of Cambria, North Wales, died. A strife immediately arose among his sons as to who should be his successor. Madoc, one of the sons, who had command of the fleet, took no part in the strife. Disgusted with the quarrel among his brothers and the civil strife, and powerless to bring them to any agreement, he decided to leave Cambria and go to sea in quest of new lands. He thoroughly equipped his vessels and left his fatherland in 1170. After sailing southward from Ireland he took a westward course until he reached an unknown country where he made many important discoveries and selected a place for a settlement. Leaving a hundred and twenty men in the colony, he returned to his fatherland and informed the Cambrians about the rich and fruitful country he had discovered, which still remained unpopulated. "Why," said he to them, "should you be fighting each other for the possession of this rough and unproductive land? Why are you arrayed, brother against brother, daily cutting each other's throats? Now you have an opportunity to avoid all these dangers, to escape these scenes of civil strife, and take possession of that fair and extensive region."

His own people, as well as the Irish, were so convinced by his advice that they fitted out ten vessels and filled them with everything they might need. A great multitude said farewell to their fatherland and sailed with Madoc.

This information is contained in the old annals of Wales, preserved in the Benedictine abbeys of Conway and Strat Flur. These annals were consulted by Humphrey Llwyd for his translation and revision of Caradoc's "History of Wales." The wanderings of Prince Madoc were sung by many of the Welsh bards who lived before Columbus' time. Richard Hakluyt copied his report from the writings of the bard, Gultum Owen. Meredith, son of Rhy, composed these lines, in 1477, about Madoc:

In Welsh:

Madoc wyf, mwyedic wedd,

Jawn genau, owyn Gwynedd;

Ni fymum dir, fy enaid oedd

Na da mawr, and y morvedd.

In German:

Madok bin ich, der Owen Gwynedd Sohn

Bin stark, hab Muth, wie's freiem Mann geziemt;

Kein Gut zu Haus, noch's Land mir mehr gefallt,

D'rum zieh ich aus and such' ne andre Welt.

In English:

Madoc I am, the sonne of Owen Gwynedd,

With stature large, and comely grace adorned,

No lands at home nor store of wealth me pleas,

My minde was whole to search to ocean seas.

Later English version:

On a happy Hour, I, on the water,

Of Manners mild, the Huntsman will be,

Madog bold, of pleasing Countenance,

Of the true Lineage of Owen Gwyned.

I coveted not Land, my Ambition was

Not great Wealth but the Seas.

Hakluyt says at the beginning of the third volume of his history: "It is believed that this Madoc and his Cambrians whom he took with him were the first who came into possession of a part of the American continent." It is also significant that they, as Franz Lopez de Gomara relates, found Indians who worshipped the cross, which was also the case in Yucatan.

It is supposed that Madoc did not venture upon the high seas to discover new countries but to obtain information about the discoveries of the Norsemen, or his neighbors of the same race as his own, the Irish. It has already been stated that a part of the east coast of America had borne the name of Grossirland. Gudleiv heard the Celtic language spoken there. He had grown familiar with it in commercial visits to Dublin and during several years spent in Ireland, so that he may be credited when he says the natives used the Irish speech. Madoc and his people also spoke the Celtic, or Gaelic, language, which was in use all over England among the Britons when the Emperor Claudius (4154 A.D.), together with his generals, Galba and Vespasian, overran the southern part of Britain, and it remained in use until its overthrow by the Anglo-Saxons in the middle of the fifth century—the same language now heard in Ireland, in the highlands of Scotland, in Wales, upon the Isle of Man, and in Brittany.

It is conjectured that Madoc settled upon the coast of North or South Carolina, and that the colonists never returned to Wales but gradually were assimilated with the powerful Indian stock, though they preserved their language. At the beginning of the English colonization in these regions there are not lacking reports concerning this Welsh remnant of Madoc's and also of Gaelic speech used by the Indians. Some of these reports attracted little attention and were not credited at the time, but one of them, which deserves careful consideration, is that of Rev. Morgan Jones, who wrote a letter in 1686, setting forth his experiences among the Tuscarora Indians in 166o. In this letter is the following remarkable statement:

"In the year 1660, when I lived in Virginia and was Field Chaplain for Major General Bennett, the General and Sir William Berkeley sent two vessels to Port Royal, now called South Carolina, which lies sixty leagues south of Cape Fair and I was sent there to serve as chaplain. We left Virginia on the eighth of April and arrived on the nineteenth of the same month at the entrance of the harbor of Port Royal, where we waited for the other vessels of the fleet to arrive from the Barbadoes and Bermuda Islands with the Honorable Mr. West, who had been appointed Vice-Governor of this place. As soon as the fleet came, the smaller vessels sailed up the river to a place called Oyster Point. There I remained eight months and as we often suffered for the necessities of life, five other men and myself travelled through the wilderness until we came to the country of the Tuscaroras.

"The Indians made us prisoners and we told them we were going to Virginia. During the night they took us to their village and confined us in a secure place, much to our dismay. On the next day they held a council over us, after which an interpreter informed us we were condemned to die on the next day. At this intelligence I was greatly dejected and said in Welsh speech: 'Have I escaped so many dangers only to be killed like a dog?' Thereupon one of the Indians, who was a war chief, and the chief of the Doegs (who are descended from the old Britons or Celts) came up to me and seized me about the waist and told me in Welsh I should not die. Thereupon he took me to the 'Emperor of the Tuscaroras' and arranged for my ransom and that of my companions. They, the Doegs, made us welcome in their village and cordially entertained us four months during which time I had frequent opportunities for conversing with them in the Welsh language and I preached to them in the same language three times a week. They spoke to me about something which was difficult to understand. Upon our departure they provided us with an abundance of everything we needed. They lived on the Pontige River, not far from Cape Atios. This is a brief account of my journey among the Doeg Indians."

Son of John Jones, of Basateg,
at Newport, in the county of Monmouth.

I am ready to take a Welshman or others to that region, at any time.

NEW YORK, March 10, 1685-1686.

These Tuscarora Indians were of lighter skin than the other races and the difference was so marked that they were commonly called the "White Indians."