Washington DC WELSH

Cymdeithas Dewi Sant


Founded 1886 (Cambrian Society of Washington DC) and reconstituted 1924 (St. David's Society of Washington DC).

The 1986 centenary was celebrated at a Banquet which took place on St. David’s Day, March 1, 1986 at the Mayflower Hotel, at which the following historical note was given to participants.

Here it is in full:

The Cambrian Society of Washington D.C. was founded in 1886 by a small group of Welsh immigrants resident in the Nation’s Capital. They would meet informally in each other’s houses with the programs following a set pattern: business matters; entertainment in poetry and song; and then, the serving of refreshments. In 1891, a Constitution and By-laws were adopted with membership open to all Welsh men and women over fifteen years of age. One had to be proposed and seconded for membership with a fee of 50c to be paid on acceptance. Dues were 10c per meeting. The practice of holding a banquet on or close to St. David’s day was established early on with records showing a fairly elaborate affair held at the National Hotel in 1898. Those in attendance included: the Hon. Webster Davies, Assistant Secretary of the Interior; Hon. Ellis H. Roberts, Treasurer of the U.S.; and, Brig. Gen. George H. Harris. Altogether, 145 people were in attendance. The Cambrian Society continued in active existence until approximately 1918 at which time the interest appeared to have diminished.

In 1924, the Cambrian Society was reconstituted as the St. David’s Society of Washington D.C. under the presidency of Mr. Francis I. Jones with Miss Edith A. Williams as Secretary. The thirty-year period which followed saw the Society flourish with regular meetings held at various venues but often at the Auditorium of the Powell Junior High School, a Banquet on or about March 1st every year and a picnic almost every year. There was a remarkable continuity of leadership during this period. Apart from Mr. Francis I. Jones, there were only four other presidents – Dr. Robert J. Jones, Mr. Edward L. Roberts, Mr. Fred L. Harris (brother of Brig. Gen. George H. Harris) and Mr. Griffith Evans who served from 1933 – 1944. Vice Presidents during this period were Harry S. Evans, Daniel H. Edwards, Dr. David Breese Jones, William J. Hughes and David Powell Jones. Perhaps, most remarkably, there were only two Secretaries during this period. Miss Edith Williams served from 1925 until her sudden death in 1933 and was succeeded by Miss Katherine Williams who served until 1953. During this period other mainstays of the Society were Mrs. Mae Hoffman, Miss Rhoda Watkins (the first female President 1949/50), Mrs. Emilie Lewis Eckloff and Mrs. Marguerite Keat. Mr. Griffith Evans was for many years the Chief of the Editorial Division, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce.

The period after World War II saw a gradual but distinct change in the character of the Society. Two factors contributed to this – the war itself had turned thoughts outward and the greater ease of travel to the U.K. meant that Wales was more accessible to many people. Also, non-Washingtonian “transients” started to play a greater role in the leadership of the Society. The highlights of this period were the redrafting of the Constitution and By-laws in 1958 and the successful hosting of the National Gymanfa Ganu held in Washington D.C. over the Labor Day weekend in 1957. The Society benefited greatly from the patronage of Ambassador Joseph E. Davies and Mr. John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers of America, during this period. Also, by this time, Mrs. J. Elwyn (Sarah Ann) Davies was a leading force in the Society, and was to continue to provide leadership until her death in the 1970s. A number of names form this period include Miss Helen Lamberson, Mr. John C. Hully, Mr. Donald Boothman and Mr. G. Lloyd Roberts.

The period starting in approximately 1967 saw a heavy involvement of individuals who were born in Wales. This group included Dr. G. Wynne Griffith, Hywel M. Davies, Dr. D. H. Michael Bowen, Jenkin Thomas, John K. (Jack) Evans, Cyril Lloyd, Dr. P. Howard Patrick and Alwyn Pritchard. This group found effective foils and counter balance in Americans of Welsh extraction – the previously mentioned Sarah Ann Davies, together with Alice Deisroth, Dorothy Guerry, Nell Ashley, Gene Owen, Evan J. Parker Jr., Jackie Wintle and Sam Smith. This was an innovative and inventive period which saw the Washington Society formally incorporated as a registered charity, the establishment of the High School Choral Eisteddfod as an annual event, proposals made for the establishment of a Welsh School of Business in Cardiff, Wales, the founding of the National Welsh-American Foundation, and the formation of a Welsh language class. It is fitting that this period should converge on the centennial of the Society and the gathering at the Mayflower Hotel, the scene of many banquets in prior years.

We look back over 100 years with pride and some nostalgia but more importantly, we look to the future with enthusiasm and anticipation knowing that the Society can continue to play an important role in the affairs of the Nation’s Capital and be a dynamic force in the broader spectrum of Welsh-American affairs.