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Trying to renew a family tradition
May 28, 2013 - Jim Smith
Up until about 20 years ago, my wife's extended family would gather in Venedocia, Ohio, around Memorial Day to decorate the graves of their Welsh ancestors and have a Morgan-Hughes family reunion.
Like so many traditions, the family reunion fell by the wayside as the elder Morgans aged and the younger cousins either were too busy or lost interest.
This Memorial Day weekend, my 74-year-old brother-in-law took it upon himself to try and re-energize the reunion.
Since my wife and I were going to be in Raymond, Ohio, on Saturday for our great nieces high school graduation party, we offered to drive my brother-in-law to Venedocia on Sunday, getting to the tiny village in Van Wert County in northwest Ohio, by 9:30 a.m. to attend the historic Salem Presbyterian Church. The church founded by Welsh immigrants and still proudly recognizes and celebrates its Welsh heritage, including an annual song fest in Welsh every year. In fact, prior to 1895, all services at the church were conducted in Welsh.
A cousin from Michigan and his brother from Indiana joined us in attending morning services at the church where we were warmly welcomed as Welsh descendants returning home ... I didn't mention that my heritage traces to Bavaria in Germany.
According to the Venedocia home page: "Venedocia was first settled around 1848 and was incorporated in 1897 by immigrants from Wales. Some current residents still remember when the Welsh language was spoken in village homes and businesses.
"Today Venedocia is a very pleasant and inexpensive place to live. It is inexpensive because there is no local income tax and because the rather low local assessed valuation means that real estate taxes are quite low. It is pleasant because the village government tries to make it so. For example, the village snow plow not only plows the streets, it also plows out the entrance to private driveways of village residents at no additional cost."
My brother-in-law vows he will work on the Morgan clan over the next few months to get a larger gathering for next year's observance. Who knows maybe we will have so many Morgans that we'll need to rent the Lions building for the get-together like we did so many years ago.
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