Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, according to myth, was a Welsh Prince who is reputed to have sailed to and discovered America in 1170 well before Columbus discovered it in 1492.
The story of Madoc and John Evans
The story of Prince Madoc was always very important in Wales and it so inspired John Evans of Waunfawr that he set off to find a tribe of First National Americans (known at the time as Indians) whom he was sure would be speaking Welsh.
Arriving in St. Louis in 1793 he was promptly imprisoned as a spy with his very unlikely story. The Spanish governors relented and even gave him some money, so he set off up the wild Missouri river where few white people had dared to venture. He eventually found the Mandan tribe but sadly they could not understand his Welsh. He spent the winter with them anyway; by then he had travelled 1800 miles up the Missouri and produced a map showing the course of the river. President Thomas Jefferson gave the map to Lewis and Clark who used it to cross America the first time, to the Pacific coast and back.
Looking for Mr Hudson
The story of Prince Madoc may only be a myth, but Welsh explorers were discovering the new world in 1612. Sir Thomas Button from Lythans, Glamorganshire set sail in the ‘Resolution’ to search for the North West Passage.
He was also looking for Henry Hudson, the famous explorer who had been set adrift by a mutinous crew the year below. Reaching Hudson Bay in North Canada he named an island after his ship ‘Resolution Island’. Many of the crew died during this voyage. Button named the whole area New Wales (now Manitobul).
Unfortunately Button didn’t manage to find a route through the frozen lands, and neither did he nor anyone else ever find Hudson.