Prince Madoc

    Upon the death of Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, Prince of Gwynedd from 1137 until 1170, there was a great deal of competition among his many children.  One of the illegitimate sons, Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd was eager to get away from all the trouble.  He and his brother Riryd led a group of presumably peace loving countrymen to a new land where they could start afresh . . . or so the story goes.

    According to the legend, Madoc and Riryd sailed west in 1170 with 2 boats and a number of colonists, and landed in the area of what is now Mobile, Alabama.  One of the boats returned to Wales, fitted out an expedition of 10 ships, and returned to North America to stay.  Prince Madoc and his settlers moved up the Alabama and Coosa Rivers to the Chattanooga area.  They built a series of forts along the route, one of which at DeSoto Falls, Alabama, is said to have been nearly identical in setting, layout, and method of construction to Dolwyddelan Castle in Gwynedd, Wales.

    Prince Madoc is also said to have settled in the West Indies and Mexico where he became known as Quetzacoatl, the white Aztec god.  However, according to the most popular and persistent version of the legend, the Welsh settlers moved further and further inland from Alabama, and eventually moved in with the Mandan Indians on the Missouri River in North Dakota where they were assimilated into the aboriginal culture.

David Pryce has published a fact based, historical fiction novel featuring Prince Madoc. The first in the Madoc Trilogy, it is a lusty tale, rich with colourful characters, humour and bawdy adventure.

For details, click here to visit his website.
Forgotten Dragon Header

    One of the "forts" said to have been built by Prince Madoc and his followers is located at Fort Mountain State Park in Georgia. This is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest close to the Cohutta Wilderness area, in North Georgia.
Fort Mountain, Georgia
The following photographs were shared by Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie Lee Robbins 
who visited Fort Mountain in the early spring of 2006.
Approaching the wall
Approaching the fort wall from the South. 

This wall is well over 800 feet long. It is 7 feet in high and 12 feet wide in many places. It seems to be generally agreed upon that the wall was originally much higher.

Looking along the wall
Looking along the fort wall in an westerly direction.

Many of the stones appear to have been knocked over and some areas behind the wall have filled in with earth washed toward the rock wall.

Defensive semi circle
The wall has many semi-circular structures as shown here. 

These "pits" as they are referred to by the state authorities appear to have a defensive purpose. This view is from the south side of the wall; i.e., the side an enemy would see when approaching the fort. 

West end of wall
West end of the fort wall. 

Access becomes very difficult at this point thereby suggesting that this may have been a defensive structure.

North West View
North West View

Jimmie Lee Robbins wrote: 

". . . looking out from the North West side of the Mountain.  This is typical of the land around the summit except for the side that has the Stone Wall.

"The South side is the only place that would need protection."

    Some authorities feel certain this wall was built Prince Madoc and his followers as a defensive structure while others argue with equal certainty that the wall was built by native North American Indians for religious and/or astromical purposes. Unfortunately, no artifacts have been found.
For further details, please visit Georgia's Fort Mountain.

    Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, tales appeared to the effect that various aboriginal tribes of North America spoke a form of ancient Welsh, had pale complexions and blue eyes, cherished ancient relics including Bibles printed in Welsh, built little wicker-framed, hide-covered boats similar to Welsh coracles and Irish curraghs, and so on.  At various times, the Shawnee, Delaware, Conestoga, Comanche, along with least nine more actual tribes and eight imaginary ones were said to have been blue-eyed Welsh-speaking Indians.  Eventually, the Mandan of North Dakota became the most favoured tribe, possibly because their dwellings, and to an extent their social structure, differed from those of their more nomadic neighbours.
Mandan Lodge Inside a Mandan Lodge
Not all horse-riding, buffalo-hunting plains Indians lived in tepees.
The earthen lodges of the Mandans each housed several families, a few favourite horses,
a number of dogs, and a wide range of equipment for cooking, hunting, and ceremonial observances.
(John A. Garraty:  The American Nation, New York, 1966, pages 462 & 463)

    The rumours were so persistent that in 1790's a Welsh clergyman named John Evans was appointed to search for Madoc's descendants and reconvert them to Christianity.  After an adventurous journey as far west as the Rocky Mountains and spending a winter with the Mandan, John Evans reported that he had met no Welsh-speaking aboriginal peoples.  He wrote: "from the intercourse I have with Indians from the latitude 35 to 49 I think you may with safety inform my friends that they (Welsh speaking aboriginal peoples) have no existence."  Lewis and Clark came to a similar conclusion, but the legends persisted.

    In November 1953, The Daughters of the American Revolution even went so far as to erect a bronze tablet on Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay that reads:  "In memory of Prince Madoc, a Welsh explorer, who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language".

(see Samuel Eliot Morison: The European Discovery of America, New York, 1971 for further information)
For information on Madoc's voyage to North America, see these web sites:
Georgia's Fort Mountain and Prince Madoc of Wales
Origins of the Mandan
The discovery of America a Welsh Prince?

Click to return to Owain Gwynedd in the Gwynedd and Wales page.

For another story of pre-Columbian discovery of North America,
click on:  Prince Henry Sinclair

Please visit the Sewell Genealogy Site Map for other pages in this series.