This particular Lewis family first appears in the records towards the last quarter of the 18th century with the marriage of Evan Lewis, son of David Lewis circa 1770, and Margaret Jenkins daughter of Borth mariner Thomas Jenkins b.1770. Evan and Margaret lived at Pant y Gardde (location unknown) Dolybont. All their 10 children were born there except for William b.1827, who was born at his mothers family home in Morfa Borth. The children were Margaret b.1818, Anne b.1820, John b.1822, Sarah b.1825, William b.1827, David b.1829, Thomas b.1831, Abraham 1834-36, Jane b.1836 and Abraham b.1838.
Some of the seafaring Lewis brothers moved to live in Aberdyfi after 1855 to further expand their maritime careers. John, William, David and Thomas became ships captains. Their younger brother Abraham's seagoing career is currently unknown; but we know that he married Borth widow Jane Hughes b.1841, in 1869. They had a master mariner son Evan Morgan Lewis b.1869. By 1893 Evan was first mate and at 27 years of age he passed as master mariner. He commanded the S.S. Annie Hough from 1906 to 1910 and the S.S. British Coast in the 1920's.
John 1822-87, was a master mariner and a sailing ship owner who made a major contribution to Aberdyfi's maritime history. In the latter half of his busy career he became involved with Mostyn based steamships. He married Jane Watkins b.1818 in 1847. There were to be 5 children. Of John and Jane's children the first two were born in Borth and the others in Aberdyfi. They were Margaret b.1850, Enoch b.1852, Jane b.1854, Ellen b.1855 and Elizabeth b.1857. Their son Enoch became a master mariner by the age of 21. He often commanded his father's vessels the S.S. Electra and the S.S. Estella. Enoch married Frances Morgan b.1856 of Llantrisant. Sadly their only seafaring son John b.1878, died at 21 years of age on the S.S. Eira. After Jane's death John 1822-87, married Margaret Williams b.1845 at Aberdyfi in 1885, but there were no children from this union.
The careers of the four master mariner Lewis brothers are dominated by John b.1822 who began seafaring at 16 years of age and a decade later had commanded several local vessels including the Midas which had originally been a sloop but lengthened to become a schooner in 1848. In 1850 John gained his master's certificate. Shortly afterwards in 1852 he persuaded investors to finance the building of the schooner Catherine and Jane which his brother David commanded. The latter also captained the 94 ton schooner Deborah which was built in 1860, the investors included David, Thomas and John Lewis. The Deborah's registration was transferred to Caernarvon in 1885. David was noted as mate on the S.S. Estella for 8 years from 1879-87 and mate on the S.S Lizzie in 1888.
At 30 years of age John was so highly regarded that local ship builder Thomas Richards along with William Hughes and the Rev Robert Williams became his financial backers. After only 2 years of trading their first investment the Catherine and Jane paid for itself. This was just as well as 6 years later she was driven ashore at Holcombe beach Norfolk in 1858. In 1855, 3 years after his first ship building venture, John along with his brother William, Owen Daniel, Edward Morgan and the Rev Williams invested in the building of the 84 ton schooner Frances Poole. William became its captain for a number of years, but unfortunately died on board her in October 1863 at Newport when he was only thirty six years old. This vessel was eventually lost off the coast of Cornwall in 1869.
Barely a year later John commissioned John Jones aka Jac Y Traeth to build the 96 ton schooner Jane Owens. His fellow stakeholders were Robert Owens, Rev Williams and Thomas Lewis. The latter was John's brother who had married Jane Owens the daughter of shareholder Robert Owens. Thomas passed as master in 1863 and took his wife Jane with him on several voyages. On one such voyage Jane recorded that “her husband Captain Thomas Lewis came down to the cabin exhausted but thankful at the schooners behaviour during a stormy night in the English Channel stating that the vessel had done everything for him that night but talk”. (D.W.Morgan Brief Glory p.124). Shareholder Robert Owen arrived in Aberdyfi in the 1820's. He had been a mining engineer but saw a business opportunity as a coal importer. In 1864 Borth captain John Davies ran the Jane Owens with an all Borth crew. Later another Borth man Thomas Williams captained her for a time. This was a common practice whereby other masters took over command at different times. The Jane Owens foundered off the Pembrokeshire coast in January 1889.
John owned one vessel outright in the 1860's. This was the schooner Ceres built in 1862 by John Richards which traded for 30 years and later, with different owners, came to grief in the English Channel and was sold as a wreck The last schooner John built at Aberdyfi in partnership with Joseph Brindley was the 103 ton Cecil Brindley. This vessel built in 1871 voyaged successfully for 52 years before succumbing to old age and was eventually abandoned at Dublin in 1923; having like all the other Lewis ships made handsome profits. In 1873 Captain John Lewis handed over the command of her to Borth relative William Richards. The latter's first voyage from Mostyn to Santander included three of his brothers as crew members, John as bosun, Thomas and Evan as ordinary seamen. From 1874-77 Enoch Lewis, John's son, was the Cecil Brindley's master and later he captained the S.S. Electra from 1876 – 79 and the S.S. Estella from 1879-82. In 1878 David Davies of Glanwern was captain of the Cecil Brindley and sailed her for years, always with a Borth crew. From 1885 Captain David Davies and Captain John Francis were joint owners. In 1890 John Francis relinquished ownership and for eleven years the Cecil Brindley was solely owned by Captain Davies who eventually sold her to Irish owners in 1911; thus ending 40 years of Borth association with this vessel.
After successfully building and commanding sailing ships Captain John Lewis then moved effortlessly into the world of steamships. He took command of the S.S. Alcazar of Mostyn and in no time became a managing director of the Mostyn Steamship Company, whose small fleet of steamers included the Alcazar, Electra, Lady Mostyn, Estelle and the Rosamund.
Captains John, Thomas and David are mentioned on page 124 of D. W. Morgan's Brief Glory. William is not included yet in the same book he is noted as co-owner and captain of the 84 ton Frances Poole in the Chapter Ships Built on the Dovey, Period 1840-1888. He is however listed as first mate on the Eleanor Francis in the 1860's. To date there is no official record of a certificate higher than mate, but as often was the case many mariners captained coastal vessels. An example of this situation is that of Captain James Morgan, author D.W. Morgan's father, who commanded schooners for 28 years up to 1892 without a certificate.
John Lewis had at one time or another captained all the vessels he part owned. It is evident that he was the driving force of his family's shipping endeavours. According to his obituary he had an astute business sense coupled with an honest and amiable personality that was central to his success. Not only did he provide ships for his brothers to command, but, not forgetting his roots at Borth, continuously employed captains and crew members from the village on his sailing ships and later on Mostyn steamers. For example the schooner Cecil Brindley was almost always crewed by Borth men and the steamers Lady Mostyn and the Electra were captained by relatives William Richards and John Vaughan respectively. John Lewis partly owned the S.S. Rosamund which foundered in November 1880 near Tarifa Point, carrying a cargo of iron ore bound for Mostyn. Thankfully the crew were all saved; including Borth man Captain Jenkins who was in command. This vessel had only been launched in March of the same year.
Obviously one man who appreciated John's business savvy was the Rev Robert Williams whose abundant faith in him is manifest in his part ownership of all John's sailing vessels. This support for John's entrepreneurial efforts reaped the clergyman a generous financial harvest.
Captain John Lewis's obituary noted that he was from Borth as were his captain brothers. His energy was astounding as not only did he commission the building of several sailing vessels, he later became involved with the Mostyn Steamship Company as Managing Director as well as commanding some of their steamers including the Alcazar, Electra and the Estella. His story is that of a gifted sagacious man who triumphed against the odds in the vicissitudinous world of local maritime enterprise. He crammed a lot into his 65 years of existence. This segment indicates that steamers were as prone to accidents as sailing ships with the Estella, Alcazar and Rosamund having short "lives". The Estella lasted 6 years before being lost when she grounded 4 miles offshore from Corrobedo on a voyage from Cartagena to Mostyn with a cargo of iron ore. The Alcazar laster 8 years before sinking after a collision with the S S Flamingo on a voyage from Cardiff to Les Sables d'Olonne with coal and the Rosamund which lasted a mere 9 months
John Ellis has provided a vast family tree that reveals that this Lewis family are interwoven via marriage with the Vaughan, Richards and Jenkins mariners of Borth. The Lewis family profile also confirms the loyalty that villagers had for each other in maritime endeavours as family and friends often ran and crewed the same vessels, whether in sail or steam.