Madoc ab Owain (Madoc son of Owain) discovered America first in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus in 1492.
It’s well 'known' and taught in school that Christopher Columbus was the first person to find America, but here in Wales, we have a different view! Legend tells you that over 300 years earlier it was a Welshman who first discovered America, and his name was Prince Madoc. Madoc landed in what is now the town Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay in the State of Alabama.
A memorial plaque was placed in Mobile Bay in 1953 by the Daughters of the American Revolution to commemorate the discovery of America by Madoc.
Prince Madoc was the illegitimate son of Owain Gwynedd, one of the greatest and most important rulers in Wales. Madoc was born at Dolwyddelan Castle in the Lledr valley between Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
According to legend, in 1170 Madoc's father Owain died and there followed a bloody civil war amongst his 13 heirs (maybe as many as 19!!!) as to who should be the next King. Madoc and his brother Rhirid wanted nothing to do with this family feuding and they decided they wanted nothing more to do with their family or their homeland. They decided to set sail for a new world and left Aber-Kerrik-Gwynan on the North Wales Coast (now Rhos-on-Sea) in two ships, the Gorn Gwynant and the Pedr Sant. They eventually reached what is now called North America, landing in Mobile Bay, Alabama.
In 1771, Madoc returned home, not to stay but to persuade others to join him in the new world in America. Later in 1171, some one hundred men, women, and children sailed from Lundy Island for a new life in America. This was the last time Prince Madoc set foot in Wales and he never returned.
Many years after Madoc had discovered America, other Native American tribes were discovered speaking a language that sounded a little like Welsh This was particularly true in the Tennessee and Missouri river valleys and nearby lands. One tribe was discovered that seemed quite different to all the others was the Mandans. This tribe was described as being like white men who had built forts, towns and villages with streets. They claimed ancestry with the Welsh and spoke a language remarkably similar to it. Of particular interest was the boats they used for fishing and transport. Rather than canoes, the Mandans fished from coracles, an ancient type of boat still found in Wales today.
Despite our school teachings that Columbus discovered America, we now know that it is not true. Columbus was not even have been the first European to discover America. There is some evidence to support the story that the Vikings discovered America but here in Wales, we prefer to believe in the legend of Prince Madoc. Madoc, a descendant of the royal family of Gwynedd, discovered America as noted on the plaque erected in 1953 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The inscription says “In memory of Prince Madog, a Welsh explorer who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language.”
Whilst the facts remain somewhat inconclusive it is certainly possible that Prince Madoc did indeed land in the Americas in 1170 some 300 years before Columbus.
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Last update 4th February 2023