David Evans was born in Carmarthenshire in 1681. He spent his formative years in the parish of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth, where he learnt various trades and dreamed of becoming a scholar. Evans emigrated to North America at the turn of the 18th century, in search of wealth and opportunity. He first settled in Pennsylvania and worked as an indentured servant to repay the ship’s captain for passage across the Atlantic. After four years of hard labor, Evans finally settled the debt and trained as a carpenter. However, he was determined to continue studying and by 1714, he had graduated from Yale University and been ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

Nonetheless, Evans would spend the next three decades embroiled in disputes with his parishioners and the presbytery. Accused of not preaching enough in the Welsh vernacular, and of heterodoxy and church tyranny, he was pushed from congregation to congregation until he finally settled in Pilesgrove, New Jersey. He served as pastor there until his death in 1751. Near the end of his life, Evans composed an autobiographical poem in the Welsh language, outlining his journey from an indentured servant to a beleaguered clergyman.

The manuscript was bound in half calf over marbled boards, 105x120mm, likely in the late 1880s by Samuel W. Pennypacker. Pennypacker also provided an English-language summary, with a revealing quotation from Evans: ‘He had some differences with his congregation at Tredyffrin and left them. His farewell sermon was short and terse being simply: “Goats I found you and goats I leave you.”’

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