Elihu Yale – The Great Welsh American


The princes of Deheubarth were ancestors of Elihu Yale and earlier of Owain Glyndwr and the Tudors. In the late 15th century the family came to Plâs yn Iâl and in the village of Bryn Eglwys at the church of St. Tysilio, the Yale chapel was ‘built by Dr Iâl in ye time of Queen Elizabeth of whose privy counsel he was’. Thomas Yale lived 1526 to 1577 was a distinguished ecclesiastical lawyer and Dean of Arches. Elihu Yale’s great- grandfather, a Dr David Yale, was rector of Llanarmon and Llandegla churches from 1564 to 1573. He was also Prebendary and Chancellor of the Cathedral Church of Chester from 1582 to 1608.

He died in 1613 and is buried in the Cathedral. The last of the Yales to be buried in Bryn Eglwys was Sarah who died in 1821. It was she who entailed the Plâs yn Iâl estates on a William Parry on condition that he assumed the name of Yale. The ancestral home however has been replaced by an l8th/19th century farmhouse.

Elihu Yale of course did not live at Plâs yn Iâl but at Plas Grono which was eventually incorporated into the Erddig estate. From Plâs Grono he could see the magnificent tower of St. Giles Church, Wrexham, where his father had been church warden. Elihu became a benefactor and in 1707 the Vestry gave him permission to erect a gallery across the east end of the nave and later in 1718 agreed ‘that Mr Yale… may remove the gallery from the east to the west of the Church being at his own charge and to make what alteration he thinks fit’. A.N. Palmer records an old memorandum of the Yale benefaction as ‘a pulpit and sounding board, a clock dial, and a carving of the royal arms of England. He reflagged and also rerailed the altar space and furnished it with a new altar table having a marble top, which was subsequently removed to Berse Drelincourt Chapel’.

Below:- Letter from Elihu Yale to Joshua Edisbury

‘Fort St. George, ye 20 April 1682’

‘Worthy Sir,

“I was much Surpriz’d by a letter from yar worthy Brother the Doctor and mare with its Generous contents, telling me of a present of four Rundletts of Sandpatch Ale, an honour I could no ways expect, nor hope, knowing of no obligation to such or a lesser favour from you, And can be imputed to nothing but my good fortune and your boundless liberallity. ‘Twas no less fame to yor noble Elixar too, that past too extractions of ye torrid zone, Stoutly persevereing its Spiritts, without (losing?) the least tincture of its native Complecti on, And certainly you have outarted the Virtuoso’s Notion of transfution, this being the only prackticall Hypothesis, to create and renew our English bloods, and outdoes the other as farr as the distance of the Experiment, and Jam sure had much contrary effect, Transcending the Cairaryan Nectar, But I well remember fair words and praises are no price Currant to Ale – ‘Tis a precious Comodity that requires present Sattisfaction wch the trewth is I cannot now so well discharge as I desire, therefore begg yor and yor good Lady yes acceptance of part in one of yor Vesselles fild with our best Mango Atcher to yorselfe & to her a Japan Skreen wch come upon this Ship – Bengall Merchant, recomended to yor good Brother for Conveyance to you. I should gladly have heard from you, and recd your comands, wch at all tymes Shall be wellcom ‘d and obey’d to ye power of
“Worthy Sir
“Your most oblig’d obed’t Seivant
“Elihu Yale.

“The humblest of my sezvice to yor excellent Lady & family. “A prill ye 21. Since the foregoing ’tis my misfortune not to prevail with the captain for to carry ye Skreens, his shipp being full already. So pray excuse me till next year. Yor, E.Y”

We have used the lines of his epitaph to tell the story of his life. He composed it himself and his Will directed that:

‘My Body Decently interred with My Ancestors at Wrexham Church yard in the ground I appointed at the west end of the Church with a handsome black raised tombstone with the Epitaph I long since made for it’. His heirs prepared a perishable sandstone tomb. Perishable though his tomb was, his benefactions to Connecticut College ensured that it be kept in good repair. Yale College paid for its renovation in 1874 and 1895 and again in 1968. The north porch was renovated by donations from the graduates in 1901, commemorating the University’s bicentenary.

A replica of the Wrexham Church Tower is erected on the Yale campus. A stone from Wrexham church tower was taken to Yale in 1918 and incorporated into the college tower, as is recorded on the replacement stone near the west door of St. Giles. On the 11 June 1944 British and American troops attended the Yale Commemoration Service and on the 12 September 1945 the colours of the US Marine Corps were presented and laid up in Wrexham Parish Church. On 6 July 1968 there was a service for the Commemoration of the two hundred and fiftieth Anniversary of the Naming of Yale College.

Reproduced from the booklet ‘Elihu Yale the great Welsh American’
ISBN:- 0 9517425 0 7
Copyright © Wrexham Area Civic Society