Thursday, July 12, 2018

He wore copper-toed shoes and a lace collar

Cooper-toed shoe
Thomas James Llewellyn (1877-1949), the great-grandfather of Melissa Murphy Oliver (my daughter-in-law), arrived as an immigrant from Wales in 1888 at the age of ten. When his mother, Mary Jane Hayden Llewellyn (1858-1901), recently widowed, and he and his three brothers arrived in America, she dressed up the boys for their arrival in New York.  According to Barbara Jeanne Weyant (1929-2017), one of Thomas’ daughters, Mary Jane dressed the boys in Buster-Brown brown-colored suits with tan lace collars, copper-toed shoes, and black bowler hats. I am sure she, and the boys, were excited about their arrival to America and wanted to make a good impression. However, as Barbara relates, “When they stepped out on the dock, some boys who were there made fun” of them. Thomas “clenched his fists and knocked the boys who made fun of them down on their behinds.” John, Thomas, Wyndom, and William “came to America smiling, making a victory for themselves” in the new homeland.

Buster-brown Suit

Typical lace collar

It is not known what caused the death of Thomas’ father, John Llewellyn, in 1887, but shortly before his death, he asked his good friend Edward W. Jones (1855-1937) to take care of his family, which Jones agreed to do. John and Mary Jane married in 1887 and then emigrated to America with the four boys.

The family ended up in Garrett, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, for employment in the Ponfey Coal Mine. The Welsh were well-known for their mining skills, and they readily found employment in the coal fields.  In fact, by 1890 more than 100,000 Welsh-born immigrants resided in the United States. As skilled laborers, the Welsh miners had been recruited by American mining companies. According to Ronald Lewis, author of “Welsh Americans: A History of Assimilation in the Coalfields,” the Welsh immigrants, unlike the Irish and Eastern Europeans, were readily accepted and assimilated into the culture of America.

PA child coal-miner
Thomas joined his step-father in the coal mines when he was 12 years old and stayed until he was 19 years old at which time, according to his daughter, he struck out on his own.  According the U.S. census, in 1920 Thomas was a foreman in a glass factory and in 1930, a stationary engineer.* In 1942, according to his World War II draft registration card, he was an employee of the Monessen Lumber & Supply Company. He lived in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, about 34 miles south of Pittsburgh and directly west of Somerset County where he worked in the coal mines.

*A stationery engineer operates industrial machinery and equipment that provides energy in various forms. 
Note: All images are Google images

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