MADISON, Ind. (October 2003) According to legend, long before
Christopher Columbus set foot on the shores of North America, a colony
of Welshmen immigrated to this land. Led by Prince Madoc of Wales, these
early settlers arrived in Mobile Bay in 1170 and eventually migrated
to an area now known as Clark County, Ind.
by Don Ward
Valley Celtic Society marches
in the Madison Regatta parade.
There, near the Falls of the Ohio, they remained for many years before
most were killed in battle with the Red Indians. Walam
Olum, the chronological history of the Delaware Indians, references
these settlers, and remnants of their existence can be found scattered
throughout the Ohio River Valley.
This legend, the legend of Prince Madoc, is one of the countrys
most fascinating, and yet least known, traditions of the first white
settlers in America. And its one that Steve Thomas, owner of
the Thomas Family Winery in Madison, wants people to know about.
Its our heritage, said Thomas, who has traced his
family roots to the Celtic lands of Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Thomas isnt the only person in the area interested in Celtic
history and culture. In 1999 he and Thom Pommerehn, Jamie Edwards
and Kevin OConner, started the Ohio Valley Celtic Society to
explore, educate, share and celebrate the local history of Celtic
people, of which Prince Madocs colony played a substantial part.
Since then, nearly 40 families have been added to the organizations
Many members of the society, like Thomas, have traced their family
lineage to Celtic origins. But you dont have to be Irish or
wear a kilt to join the club, you just need to have an appreciation
for Celtic heritage that abounds in the area. Theres a
rich history here, Thomas said.
Empirical evidence of that history can be found in archeological remains
scattered throughout the countryside. The work of Irish and Scottish
stone masons is quite obvious, according to Thomas. In particular
are the free-standing stone structures built without mortar. These
are a trademark of the Scots, said Celtic society member and elder
Stewart, who lives in Madison with wife, Peggy, was among the Celtic
Society members who helped demonstrate construction of a freestanding
stone wall of the Scottish tradition at last years Lanier Days.
The group also demonstrated brick-making and handed out samples of
hard cider, a fermented Celtic brew made traditionally from foraged
Stewart joined the Celtic Society nearly two years ago but had been
researching his genealogy for about six years. He has traced both
his paternal and maternal lineage back several generations to Scotland.
His surname is more common in Scotland than any other family name,
he said. Stewart has also identified a particular red plaid as the
Stewart familys kilt pattern. History tells us so much
about ourselves, Stewart said.
Like Stewart, many family names common to southeastern Indiana and
surrounding areas can be traced to Celtic origins. In the Indianapolis
metro area, more than 400,000 individuals claim some level of Irish
ancestry, according to Thomas. Its a lot more than you
might realize, he said.
One of the Celtic societys initiatives is to help people explore
their Celtic roots. At Lanier Days, the organization provided an Encyclopedia
of Surnames, a tool for tracing ancestry, and eventually, Thomas said,
he hopes to partner with the library to increase its reference material
for all things Celtic and Gaelic. In addition to Lanier Days, members
of the society also manned booths at the Kentucky Scottish Festival
in Carrollton in May, and the Northeastern Jefferson County Celtic
Games in June.
Anyone interested in learning more about Celtic culture or becoming
involved with the society can contact Thomas at (812) 273-3755 for
Contributing writer Amy Petery contributed to this story.