Welsh Speaking Red Indians

It was DBM Army Number 9 (Book 4) - Eastern Forest Americans - that got me thinking about Madog ap Owain Gwynedd again. The comments say that this army can be used against the Welsh Settlers "of Prince Madouc in 1171".

A decade ago, I wrote a piece for the 500th Anniversary of Columbus discovering America. It appeared that the Celebrations were an anticlimax with people more concerned about the events that followed the discovery, rather than Columbus' achievement. So my piece that said up until recently there were people who didn't believe Columbus had been the first man to sail across the Atlantic to the New World Went quietly unnoticed. No one was interested that in the 19th century people believed that over 350 years before Columbus a Welshman had set sail and landed in Florida.

The story began during the reign of Elizabeth the First. In 1582 Richard Hakluyt published his book '' Divers Voyages 7auching the Discovery of America ". In it he told the story of how Madog ap Owain Gwynedd set sail with ten ships from Wales for America in 1170. He had taken the story from an I5th century Welsh poem.

A Bit of Welsh History

Madog was a legendary figure whose tales had attached themselves to the court of the prince Owain Gwynedd. Similarly, the legends of Robin Hood attached themselves to the real King Richard and Prince John.

Owain ruled from 1137 until about 1170, and during that time he made Gwynedd the most powerful principality in Wales. He was an historical figure and that may have led people to believe the stories about Madog. "Ap" means son of' in Welsh, and since Madog was the "son of" Owain Gwynedd many believed Madog was a real person and that the stories told about him were true.

So strong was that belief that at the end of the 18th century a Welsh preacher from Caernafonshire went exploring the upper reaches of the Missouri River. He was looking for the "Padoucas", which is the Anglicised way of saying "Madogwys" ? the descendants of Madog. John Evans was quite serious as he travelled the Missouri looking for Welsh(?) speaking Indians!

The story was still believed as late as the 1840's. A Dr. David Powel published a Welsh manuscript and added some notes of his own. These stated that Madog had sailed southwards from Wales, passed Ireland, and across the Atlantic to arrive at a land that must have been Florida or New Spain. Apart from these notes the Doctor produced no evidence and there never was any factual proof to confirm the legend of Madog's journey. 

The story was eventually disproved in the 1 840's and today no one believes the legend of Madog journeying across the Atlantic. Columbus has the honour of being the first European to discover the New World. Madog Ap Owain has become a legendary figure again and is no longer a real explorer. Unless of course you know any Padoucas - the Welsh speaking Indians.

And I thought that was the end of the matter. But the American writer and publisher Bill Biles was intrigued enough by the story to do some research. He told me that along the banks of the Ohio River, not far from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers lies the town of Paducah, Kentucky. The following is taken from a book entitled Kentucky Place Names. "'Paducah is said to have been named for the legendary 'Chief Paduke' of a sub tribe of Chickasaw Indians known as the Paducahs.' 

According to noted author Irvin S. Cobb, the name of the chief and the sub tribe 'were derived from a compound word in the Chickasaw tongue meaning 'wild grapes hanging' or, more properly, 'place where the grapes hang down.' Pakutukah or Pak'tuka.' Cobb believed that the site of the later city was named for the wild grape vines there or that the 'chief was called some form of that word meaning 'wild grape.' The chief is said to have died in 1819 and been buried at the site of the later town. Authorities on the Chickasaw Indians, however, say there was never such a sub tribe or chief by that name or anything like it, nor such a word in their language. 

It is now believed that Clark (William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame) adopted the name by which the Comanche Indians, with whom he was acquainted, referred to themselves (?) 'Padoucas.'"
Bill said that he did not pretend to know anything at all about this bit of history. "What we have here is one of those interesting coincidences that history is so full of and that drive scholars crazy".

So could you use DBM Army number 9 Eastern Forest Americans against Madog and his welsh settlers? If I had both armies I certainly would, but whether they would be historical opponents is open to question. Perhaps all those Indians in the old westerns who raised their hands and said "how" should have been saying "Yakky da". And that old classic "white man speak with forked tongue" takes on a different meaning when you talk of "Boyo" or "Taffy" .

I remain confused and am still waiting to hear from a Welsh Speaking Red Indian.

Bob Black


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