Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Welsh Tract, also called the Welsh Barony, was a portion of Pennsylvania settled largely by Welsh-speaking Quakers. It covers 40,000 acres (160 km²) to the north-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.
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 area its current name - the Main Line, referring to the main track of the now-defunct Pennsylvania Railroad.
The area is now part of Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties. Many towns in the area still bear Welsh names. Some, such as Bala Cynwyd, are named after places in Wales. Others, such as Tredyffrin or Uwchlan, have independent Welsh names. The former town of Merion Square was renamed Gladwyne in 1891 in order to imitate the stylish Welsh names of adjoining towns.
A more successful attempt at setting up a Welsh-speaking colony occurred two centuries later, in the Chubut Valley of Patagonia.
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