A Yorkshireman in America Part 2

Despite the initial difficulties Norman faced, he obviously enjoyed being in America because he became a naturalised citizen on the 10th May 1884. We don’t hold all the letters Norman ever wrote home, but we do hold one for at least every 10 years, so we can see how life progressed for him as a Yorkshireman in America.

By 1892 Norman has settled in Arizona, and he sent some great photographs home, including this one of a Texas cowboy and a rancher he knows.

Photograph of rancher and cowboy by Norman Mellor

Norman seems much more settled in his environment in this letter and tells anecdotes of his life there, like the time he got caught out in a storm trying to find a missing horse. We also discover Norman’s love of art as he describes selling one of his paintings and refers to paintings he left behind in Yorkshire. This 1892 letter also tells us about life in Arizona for ranchers as he references the famous drought of 1891-1893 which resulted in the death of livestock – “the cattle are dying now and when the winter months come and the foliage drops from the shrubs on which they now subsist they will probably nearly all die”. He mentions he has been working in a mine and thinks “the ore I am extracting will pay well. I have been working for a month and have taken out about 3 or 4 tons of ore that I expect to yield about eighty dollars per ton”. He’s optimistic about how the mining is going but says “I have been disappointed so often that I intend to refrain from ‘counting my chickens before they are hatched’”. 

This optimism is gone 10 years later in our next detailed letter written by Norman, dated 20th September 1902, to one of his sisters. He is in the midst of a very low moment, “I am in debt, everything I have or had is pawned and I am worn to a shadow with work and worry”. He is hard on himself in the letter about the prospective failure of his mining project, and looks for sympathy and support. It’s nice that even after over 20 years in America he is still able to keep strong ties with his siblings and family who he’s likely not seen in person for a long time. He tells them not to worry and that he will be okay. Fortunately things have improved for him and in his letter dated 18th December 1908 he says “matters financial and commercial are improving greatly and mines that have been shut down are again opening up”. For context, he’s around 45 years old at this point, and says “truly I am living “the simple life” and if not exuberantly happy I am at least placidly content”.

Photograph by Norman Mellor

Norman’s descriptions of the area he lives and explores in are great “the panorama spread out all around me. Words are useful but they could not be put together so as to transmit to you a conception of the dazing vastness of the view”. In a letter dated March 1918, 10 years later, as the First World War is coming to an end (not that Norman knows that yet) Norman writes about the war and politics and rather movingly says “these are dark days but I hope we may all live to see the sun shine once more”. Reading this letter now, we know Norman didn’t have too much longer to wait, for the dark days of war came to an end that November.

Continue reading Norman’s story in A Yorkshireman in America Part 3.

If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

By Dominique Triggs, Wakefield Archive Assistant

2 thoughts on “A Yorkshireman in America Part 2

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

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

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