A Yorkshireman in America Part 1

I recently came across the Norman Mellor collection (ref: C407) and was amazed by the fascinating letters and photographs showing the life of an English emigrant in America during the late 19th – early 20th Century. It was too interesting to not write about, so join me for this 3 part mini-series where we’re going to explore Norman Mellor and his immigration experience.

But first…who was Norman Mellor?

Norman Mellor

Norman was born in 1863 in South Crosland, a village near Huddersfield, to John and Alice Mellor.  They were a big family, with Norman having nine siblings, although this was not unusual in the 19th century. His parents had gotten married in 1853, with John working as an agricultural labourer, but by 1871 John was a farmer with 13 acres. He was clearly good at his job because 10 years later this had grown to 50 acres! The family were Church of England with Norman and two of his siblings, Jonas and Sarah, being baptised together in the local Holy Trinity Church on the 26th September 1869. During this era many families stayed in the same area all their lives, but Norman clearly wanted something different.

He left South Crosland and travelled to America in 1880, when he would have been roughly 17 years old. He lost touch with his family, so his father askedacquaintance Edwin Bottomley to help search for him. On the 11th May 1881 Edwin wrote to John from Toronto saying “I am very sorry I cannot get to know anything about your Norman”.  By May of the next year though, Edwin had better news to report, “I received a letter from Norman this morning and he has given me another address…I will send you part of the envelope he sent me”.

So where had Norman been? In a letter home to his parents dated 29th January 1883 from his location in Las Vegas, New Mexico, he writes “you will wonder why I did not write before now but I hope you will forgive me. I have travelled through Canada and the States and now I am in Wild South West”. Unfortunately Norman hadn’t had an easy time of it writing “here men are shot and stabbed every day. Tis a common thing everyone carry’s a shooter and cartridge belt. I could write a book on what I have seen since I left home”. I don’t imagine this letter reassured his parents! He describes his plans for further travelling but his homesickness comes through strongly as he writes “I am tired of this sort of life and it takes all the money that you earn to live decently, I long to see the old place once more but its far far away.” In our day and age of instant messaging and where you can travel halfway across the world within a day, it’s easy to forget how difficult it used to be to communicate with loved ones over long distances.

To have crossed the Atlantic at 17 Norman must have had an adventurous spirit, and to keep going in a new unfamiliar environment would have required determination and resilience.

Photograph by Norman Mellor

You can continue reading Norman’s story in A Yorkshireman in America Part 2 and Part 3.

By Dominique Triggs, Wakefield Archive Assistant

2 thoughts on “A Yorkshireman in America Part 1

  1. Pingback: A Yorkshireman in America Part 2 – Catablogue

  2. Pingback: A Yorkshireman in America Part 3 – Catablogue

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