Born 22 Oct 1861, Cefn Coed y Cymmer, Vaynor, Breconshire, Wales
Died 23 May 1912, Lake Shore, Utah, Utah, United States

Son of Thomas PARRY and Gwenllian LEWIS

Husband of Margaret THOMAS
and Mary Anna LEWIS JONES

William LEWIS PARRY, taken about 1894.

Notice: When an image has a blue border, you may click on it for a larger version or more information.

Life History of


compiled by Venita Parry Roylance, grandaughter
from other Parry histories and my own research
July 2005

---> Go to a tagged Google map of Cefn Coed y Cymmer.

Note: William's oldest daughter, Gwen, wrote a history of her father in her later years. Although she made errors, parts of her information is correct. I have quoted her writing when appropriate, each quote being followed by an asterisk (*). The complete document will follow this one.

Part One: The Early Years


William LEWIS' birth was recorded at the registration office of the sub-district of Merthyr Tydfil in the Counties of Glamorgan and Brecon on December 20, 1860, by his mother, Gwenllian LEWIS (photo right). The place of residence is listed as Upper Cefn, Vaynor parish, and the date of birth is recorded as "Nineteenth November 1860." William always reported his birthdate to be October 22, 1860. (The discrepancy could be explained by the fact that a fine was assessed if a child's birth was not recorded within 30 days.) The document was signed with an "X" by Gwenllian, and no father's name is recorded.1

Cefn Coed y Cymer (pronounced "kevvenn-koid-a-kum'mair") is a village located just north of Merthyr Tydfil. It is geographically within the borders of Breconshire and the eccliastical parish of Vaynor, but is most often listed as a civil sub-district of Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan. As are most Welsh place names, Cefn Coed y Cymer is descriptive: Cefn = ridge, Coed = woods/wooded, and Cymer = confluence; hence "the wooded ridge at the confluence of the rivers."

Prior to the 1840s Cefn Coed was a typical village of farmers, but things changed rapidly with the industrialization of Wales. It became a "boom town." In response to the coal mines and iron manufacturing in the area, people came from other villages to find work, including Gwenllian LEWIS' parents, David and Elizabeth. They were born in the neighboring county of Carmarthenshire, in the parishes of Myddfai (muth'-vey) and Cil-y-cwm (kil'-u-koom), where their ancestors can be traced for many generations. David LEWIS and Elizabeth DAVID were married in Carmarthenshire 1833 and had two children born to them there: William in 1834, and David in 1836 who died as an infant. Sometime between 1836 and 1841 they moved to Cefn Coed where three more children were born: Gwenllian in 1841, David in 1846, and John in 1854. David, the father, was an ironworker for the rest of his life, and the family lived in several different rented row houses which had been built especially for workers (below left).

William was raised by his grandparents, living in the household with his mother and her siblings and having the surname, LEWIS. In the 1861 census he is identified as Edward, a "son" of the head of the house, David LEWIS. In the 1871 and 1881 censuses he is identified as "William," a "grandson." When he married in 1886, he named his father as "David LEWIS, fireman," his grandfather. In the membership records of the Georgetown Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he is listed as William LEWIS, and the family emigrated to America in 1889 as William and Margaret LEWIS and their daughter Gwenllian.

As was typical, William started school at the age of four. He is said to have been an apt pupil. His daughter, Gwen, records that "when he was eight he was studying foreign languages and music."* The typical curriculum for Welsh children included reading, writing, reciting, arithmetic, and spelling, all couched in Christian beliefs espoused by the Church in Wales (Anglican). The age of 11 was a pivotel year for Welsh scholars. Those who passed the required tests and whose families had money were sent to private girls' or boys' schools for more education. Those whose families did not have money were put to work to help support the family. It is likely that William went into the coal mines at this age.

Gwenllian LEWIS and her two younger brothers were baptised (christened) at the Vaynor parish church (right) shortly after they were born, as was customary. William's civil birth registration has been found, but not a baptism record. It isn't clear whether the family was affiliated with the official Church in Wales, or a nonconformist church, or with no church at all. As the Welsh have a reputation as a spiritual people, it is assumed that the family espoused a Christian religion.

The Unitarian/Presbyterian Church (a "non-conformist" church) had built a chapel just across the street from the Lewis home on Old Chapel Road. There was a school next to the Hen-Dy-Cwrdd (hen-du-koorth') chapel which William may have attended. Singing was taught there, using the Sol Fa method, and Sunday School and night classes were offered for the convenience of the workers. This may have been where his musical talents were first exhibited and appreciated. He is said to have had a beautiful singing voice and could play several instruments.

Eisteddfod (ize-teth'-vod) is a Welsh tradition. It's an annual celebration and competition of the arts held in a different town every year. Individuals and groups practice year-round hoping to gain the honor of a prize for their village or town. Many musical groups, poets, storytellers and others of all ages perform during the festival. The organization of the many famous men's choruses of Wales may be attributed in part to this tradition. One such chorus was created in Cefn Coed and it became well known for it's expertise in choral skills. As a young man, William was a member of this renowned group.

Victoria was Queen of England during most of William's life. For her birthday in 1879, a special celebration was held to which many were invited to perform. One of the groups was the Men's Chorus from Cefn Coed. William was among those who visited the palace for three hours and performed in the Queen's presence. It is said that she was so impressed with their skill that she requested encores. Then, as a gift to the young men in the chorus, she made it known that they were to serve in her Royal Navy instead of the regular army when they became of age to do so. William became 18 years old in October of that year and claimed his appointment. He served for four years in the British Royal Navy, the greatest Navy in the world at that time - the time when "the sun never set on the British Empire."

During his service he visited the lands of the British Empire which included India, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. He also visited the United States and spent time in New York City where he especially enjoyed attending the musical shows. When his enlistment ended in 1883, he returned to his grandparents' home in Cefn Coed and began working in the Mt. Ash Iron works as a blacksmith's striker.

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1 The father's name was later revealed to be Thomas PARRY and further consultations have identified him as Thomas PARRY who emigrated to America in May 1861 and eventually lived in Malad, Idaho.

Gwen is listed as being single in the 1871 census and living with her parents on Yard Lane. Her occupation is listed as "Domestic Servant." There is evidence that Gwen married Thomas LEWIS sometime between 1871 and 1891. In the 1881 census, the Thomas LEWIS family was shown to be living at 81 High Street, Cefn Coed y Cymer, but the wife's name was recorded as "Mary." The 1891 census shows Gwen as the wife of Thomas LEWIS and living at 81 High Street, Cefn Coed y Cymer. They have same three children as shown in the 1881 census: Thomas, age 16; Howell, age 14; and Martha, age 11. Gwen's brother, John LEWIS, is in the same household with his two sons, David, age 13, and Daniel, age 12. Before the 1901 census the family was had moved to 1 Old Chapel Road, just around the corner from the previous residence, and Daniel Lewis is also there as a "Boarder." When Gwen died in 1902 she was recorded as the wife of Thomas LEWIS residing at 1 Old Chapel Road, Cefn Coed y Cymer. Photos of the homes on High Street and Old Chapel Road are shown on my web page, " Cefn Coed y Cymer."

Part Two: Marriage


When William met his future wife, Margaret THOMAS, is not known. Margaret's mother, Ann EDWARDS THOMAS, became a widow in January of 1879 when her husband, David, was killed in a mining accident at the age of 36. Ann's family (EDWARDS) had lived in Cefn Coed y Cymer for several generations, in fact had been landowners, but she had lived near her husband's family in Pen yr Heolgerrig (Pen-urr-Hayoll-gehr'-rig = "top of the stoney road") since their marriage in 1864. (It is now known as "Heolgerrig.") Sometime between January of 1879 and April of 1881 she moved with her children to a house at #18 Pont y Capel Road, Cefn Coed y Cymer, less than half a mile from the LEWIS home.

Margaret was born October 16, 1867, the second child of David and Ann EDWARDS THOMAS. Her older sister, Mary Ann, was born in 1865. The younger children were Edward David, born January 13, 1870; Elizabeth, born 1872 and died as an infant; John, born February 17, 1875; and Elizabeth, born November 5, 1877.

Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had found the THOMAS family at Pen yr Heolgerrig in the 1870s. David was baptised a member of the church on Dec. 5, 1874, and Ann in March of 1875, after the birth of her fourth child, John. They became active members of the Georgetown Branch, Merthyr Tydfil Conference, Glamorgan, Wales. Cefn Coed is less than five miles from Heolgerrig, and the family remained members of the same branch after their move. The THOMAS home in Cefn Coed y Cymer was the Conference House for the Merthyr Tydfil area providing board and room for the missionaries. Ann and her children took care of the home, prepared meals, washed laundry and acted as a surrogate family for the young men.

Margaret may have been the first to tell William about the restoration of the gospel, possibly early in their relationship. William was surely in the THOMAS home on frequent occasions and met the missionaries staying there. Two of them were David Thomas LEWIS from Spanish Fork, Utah, and Willet HARDER from Kamas, Utah. These three young men became friends, and William listened to their message.

William and Margaret were married at the Register Office in the District of Merthyr Tydfil on January 9, 1886, and William was baptised a member of the LDS church on June 1, 1886. Their first child, Gwenllian, was born October 2, 1886. She (Gwen) later recorded the wedding this way: "... the parents all thought her [Margaret] too young to get married, and would not give their consent. Margaret was working at a dairy, and on her day off, they surprised everyone by getting married. It was in January 1886."*

Gwen goes on to say, "William became a vocal music teacher, teaching sight singing by the Sol Fa method. Later he added instrumental music and taught harmony and composition. Some of the time he taught languages."* William and Margaret also became actively involved in the missionary work in their area. They helped in cottage and street meetings by singing and by acting as interpretors, translating English to Welsh and Welsh to English.

The time came for the missionaries to return home to Utah. Before leaving they encouraged the THOMAS and LEWIS families to emigrate to Utah. Elder Lewis and Elder Harder promised to help them get settled in "Zion" and to find land for their own. Not only was the dream of America beaconing, but also the dream of gathering with the Saints in the tops of the mountains of Utah. The two families agreed that they should leave their homeland and preparation began.2

Ann EDWARDS THOMAS left Wales first sailing from Liverpool, England, June 23, 1888, on the steamship Wyoming with her three unmarried children, Edward (age 18), John (age 13), and Elizabeth (age 11). They arrived in New York July 3, 1888, after a fairly pleasant trip. They went by ship to Virginia, and travelled from there to Utah by train, arriving in Salt Lake City in July 1888. Ann left behind her married daughter, Mary Ann, who had married John MORRIS and had one child.3 Also left behind were her daughter Margaret with husband, William, and baby, Gwenllian, but she knew that this family would soon join her in Utah. With the help of Elder Harder, Ann made her home in Kamas, Utah, near other pioneers from Wales who had come earlier.

William, Margaret and three-year-old Gwen LEWIS (right) sailed from Liverpool August 31, 1889 on the steamship Wisconsin and arrived in New York September 11, 1889, after twelve stormy days at sea. The remainder of the trip to Utah was via railroad. Near Lynchburg, Virginia, there was a train accident during which Margaret received a "badly bruised leg" and one of their trunks was washed into the river and lost.

That trunk is said to have contained the family's papers, including a document from William's father, Thomas PARRY, which acknowledged his paternity and gave William permission to use the PARRY surname. It is not known when he learned who his natural father was or when and where he met him. It appears that when they stepped on American soil the "LEWIS" family disappeared and the "PARRY" family appeared in their place; William LEWIS became William Lewis PARRY, Margaret THOMAS LEWIS became Margaret THOMAS PARRY, and Gwenllian LEWIS became Gwenllian Lewis PARRY, the names they carried for the rest of their lives.

The folowing was published in the Deseret semi-Weekly News, 24:68 (Sep 20, 1889): "The steamship Wisconsin sailed from Liverpool, England with 172 Saints including nine returning missionaries and 10 visitors, in charge of William P. Payne. The company arrived in New York Sept. 11th, and continued the journey by rail the following day. The train on which they traveled over the Norfolk, and Western Railway, was wrecked early in the morning of Sept 15th, near Lynchburg, Virginia; several of the emigrants were hurt, but none killed. The company arrived in Salt Lake City Sept. 20th." (For more information about this star-crossed voyage, go to "Immigration to America," below.)

When they arrived in Salt Lake City they were met by both Elder Lewis from Kamas and Elder Harder from Spanish Fork. Both old friends begged them to come live where they lived. They chose Kamas, undoubtedly to be close to Margaret's family, and settled in Marion, a village about six miles north of Kamas in Summit County.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

2 There is no evidence that any other members of the LEWIS family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

3 The John MORRIS family were members of the LDS church who chose to stay in Wales. They had four children: Elizabeth Ann born in 1885, Thomas in 1889, David in 1891, and Mary in 1896, all in Cefn Coed y Cymer. Mary Ann THOMAS MORRIS died in 1901 at the age of 36.

Part Three: Utah

One wonders how pioneers from green and wet Wales felt when then arrived in the desert environments of Utah. The same rolling hills are seen in Summit County as in Cymru (cum'-ree = Wales), but they are covered in sagebrush and juniper trees instead of grass and old forest. Surely they thought they had come to a different world, one which would require every bit of faith and work they could muster to make a living.

Gwen says: "They finally decided to go to Kamas where, with the help of Brother Harder, William took up a quarter section of land to homestead...The farm was composed of some foot hills and some level land in Marion, five or six miles north of Kamas. There were many hardships in living on this homestead. There was no house or equipment, and by now no money. William knew nothing about farming."*

With the help of his neighbors, William built a home for his little family and began learning how to farm. In the winter they went where he could work in the coal mines, places such as Grass Creek, Schofield or Castle Gate. In the spring they would go back to the farm. During this time, four more children were born to them: David William in 1891, Ann Beatrice in 1893, Thomas Reese in 1895, and Margaret Jane in 1898. (The photo, right, taken about 1894, shows the three oldest children: Gwen, David, and Annie.)

William and Margarent again became active participants in the church and social activities of the community. William organized a Sunday School at Grass Creek and was undoubtedly contributing his musical skills wherever he could. When it was known that Utah was to become a State in January of 1896, he arranged a celebration that included everyone in Kamas Valley. He wrote it in shorthand, which caused some comment among the people because it was a skill rarely seen in Kamas at the time.

He may have also organized a band which played for dances and other occasions. The following was published in the Wasatch Wave (newspaper), Heber, Utah, March 7, 1893, Kamas Kinks: "The ball given on the eve of the 1st was one of the most enjoyable there has been in Kamas for some time. A good many of the boys seem to like the Parry Band better than any music thay have danced after in the Opera House. Come again boys, you will always be welcome." There is no identification of the members of the band, but there were no other Parry families in the valley at the time.

After five years William had "proved-up" on his land and was granted a deed for it. He had not learned to love farming, however, and wanted to move his family to Schofield where he could make a living at what he understood. In 1897 he rented his farm to John Hoyt, a sheepman, and moved to Kamas till after the birth of Margaret Jane in February of 1898. When she was old enough, the family moved as planned.

That year was the happiest William had spent in Utah until winter came and his beloved wife, Margaret, became ill with Typhoid Fever. She was treated with great love and care, but she did not respond. As there was no doctor available in Schofield, William took her and the children to Salt Lake City by train to find help. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done for her. Margaret died there on January 16, 1899, and was buried in the Salt Lake City cemetery. She was 31 years old.

The bereaved father took his young family to their grandmother, Ann THOMAS, in Kamas. She welcomed them and agreed to care for them until their father returned for them. At that time Gwen was 13 years old, David 8, Anne 5, Thomas 3, and Margaret 11 mos. Grandma THOMAS' two youngest children were also still at home - John, age 23, and Elizabeth, age 21.4 William returned to Schofield and the coal mines.

Trains regularly traveled from the mining towns in Carbon County down the canyon to Utah County and on to Salt Lake City with stops all along the way. One of the stops was at Spanish Fork in Utah County. William had friends among the many Welsh who had pioneered the area. It is safe to assume that he visited Spanish Fork occasionaly, especially when special Welsh Jubilies were held. An Eisteddfod was held there in 1900.

A local young Welsh widow, Mary Anna LEWIS JONES, is likely to have attended the same celebrations. Gwen suggests that she met William at the Eisteddfod. It is possible that she and William had also crossed paths in Wales since she was born in Cefn Coed y Cymer as well, on November 2, 1863. She had married William Nephi JONES in Salt Lake City in 1883, and he had died in May of 1898, leaving her with one child, Rose Eleanor (Ella). Mary Ann still lived on her farm in Lake Shore, about three miles from Spanish Fork. The two young widows found much in common and soon decided to marry. They were married on April 13, 1901, in Provo, Utah (right). Mary Anna looked forward with eagerness to having William bring his children to her, especially since she was unable to have any more children of her own.

Heartbreak had visited Grandma Thomas in Kamas on September 23, 1900, when Annie died of Scarlet Fever at the age of seven. She had not completely recovered from that sadness when William came to get his surviving children. The two youngest children, Thomas, age 5, and Margaret, age 2, had little or no memory of their mother nor did they recognize their father, not having seen him since their mother's death. Gwen, age 14, and David, age 10, remembered and welcomed him warmly. When William told Grandma Thomas he had come to take the children to Lake Shore, to a new mother, she would not agree to it. Perhaps she felt that their father had neglected them, not having visited till then. Perhaps she couldn't bear to have them so far away from her and feared she would never see them again. Perhaps she could foresee another trauma for little Thomas and Margaret if they were to be taken away from the only "mother" they had known. Whatever her reasons, a compromise had to be made; William took the two older children to Mary Anna in Lake Shore and the two youngest stayed with Grandma Thomas in Kamas.

Mary Anna was dissappointed to not have all the children with her, but soon created a warm and loving home with William. Gwen, David, and Ella Jones (age 11) grew to love each other as brother and sisters. Mary Anna helped William adapt to the life of a farmer and they both became involved in local Church activities.

In 1906 Gwen was engaged to marry Arthur HUFF, also from Lake Shore. It was decided that it would also be an excellent occasion for William to be sealed to his deceased wife, Margaret, and to have all of their children sealed to them. Arrangements were made with Grandma THOMAS to bring Thomas and Margaret to the Salt Lake Temple for the sacred ceremony. The agreed date was November 9, 1906.

It is said that Thomas and Margaret immediately recognized their father when they saw him walk around the corner of the wall around Temple Square and ran to meet him. Then had not seem him in five years, but there had been letters and a photo of him in the Thomas home. It is recorded that on that day in the Salt Lake Temple Gwen L. PARRY and Arthur HUFF were sealed as husband and wife; William Lewis PARRY and Margaret THOMAS were sealed as husband and wife with Mary Anna as proxy for Margaret; and all five of William and Margaret's children were sealed to them. Though the children were separated on earth, they would forever be an eternal family. (Right: The surviving adult PARRY children - back: Gwenllian Lewis and Margaret Jane; front: Thomas Reese and David William

Mary Anna had a strong testimony of the Gospel and helped William regain what he may have lost during his trials in Marion and Schofield. In 1910 he was called to serve a mission in Birmingham, England. Mary Anna supported him willingly, though times were hard while he was away. He is said to have made many converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several of whom later emigrated to Utah.

He returned in January of 1912 and was then called to be the President of the Seventies Quorum. He was again involved in his great love, music, being the choir director and a member of a men's quartet. At last he was happy with himself, his family, his life, and his testimony.

He had filled his mission on earth and passed from this life to the next at the age of 51 years on May 23, 1912, at his home in Lake Shore of "Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatism of the heart."5 He was buried in the Spanish Fork City cemetery.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

4 The other son, Edward David THOMAS, had gone to Alberta, Canada, where he married Helena Evalyn GASKELL and had seven children: Marjory Evalyn, born 1905; Edward David, born 1906; John Bryan, born 1908; Raymond Howard, born 1909 and died as an infant; Frank Raymond, born 1911, Lillian Audrey, born 1913; and Lawrence Gaskell, born 1917 and died as an infant. The family lived in Lethbridge where Edward died in 1942 at the age of 72.

5 As recorded on his death certificate: State of Utah - Death Certificate, State Board of Heath File No. 188.

Go to:

William Lewis Parry by his daughter Gwen Parry Huff

More about William L. Parry:

Immigration to America

History of Thomas Parry, Father

History of Ann EDWARDS THOMAS, Mother in law

Back to Histories Index

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