Welsh Tract

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European colonization
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The Welsh Tract, also called the Welsh Barony, was a portion of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania settled largely by Welsh-speaking Quakers. It covers 40,000 acres (160 km²) to the west of Philadelphia. The original settlers, led by John Roberts, negotiated with William Penn in 1684 to constitute the Tract as a separate county whose local government would use the Welsh language, since many of the settlers spoke no English. Notwithstanding this agreement, by the 1690s the land had already been partitioned into different counties, despite appeals from the Welsh settlers, and the Tract never gained self-government. A more successful attempt at setting up a Gwladfa (Welsh-speaking colony) occurred two centuries later, in the Chubut Province of Patagonia, Argentina.


The Roberts and other Welsh families became influential in the area, through the building of mills and the eventual introduction of the railroad. It is the railroad that gives the best-known part of the area its current name — the Main Line, referring to the main track of the now-defunct Pennsylvania Railroad. After the American Civil War, 104 Welsh families from this region migrated to Knoxville, Tennessee, establishing a strong Welsh presence there.


The area is now part of Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties. Many towns in the area still bear Welsh names. Some, such as North Wales, Lower Merion, Upper Merion, Bala Cynwyd, Radnor and Haverford Township, are named after places in Wales. Others, such as Tredyffrin or Uwchlan, have independent Welsh names.

Some communities in the area that formerly comprised the Welsh Tract were subsequently given Welsh names. Among these were Gladwyne, formerly "Merion Square" (which was given its new name in 1891 in order to imitate the stylish Welsh names of adjoining towns, although the name is meaningless in Welsh), and Bryn Mawr, formerly "Humphreysville" (which was renamed in 1869).

A second "Welsh Tract" of 30,000 acres (120 km2) was granted to Welsh by William Penn in 1701. It included what is now Pencader Hundred, Delaware, and a part of Cecil County, Maryland.

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