Lead wasn’t the only export from the North Pennines. Over the years when lead was king and mining was pretty well the only source of employment, many hundreds of dalesmen and women left their native hills in search of a better life elsewhere.
They walked to Liverpool and sailed to the United States and Canada, often forming little colonies of Dales people in new lands. Others went to Australia or Alaska in search of gold. When the lead industry collapsed in the late 1870s, many sailed away to New Zealand, lured by promises of land and jobs. Others left to work in the coalfields of Durham.
Killhope gives a unique insight into the lives of lead mining families, and we welcome descendants of those hardy folk who come to see how their ancestors lived.
If your ancestors came from the North Pennines, a visit to Killhope will help you understand their lives.
In 1852 two young lead miners from the North of England, Joseph Graham of Killhope and John Peart of Swinhope, Allendale together emigrated to the United States.
They wished to be farmers, and opportunities for farming in the mining community where they lived were few. Land rents were high and the soils were poor.
Those who did farm, worked in the lead mines as well since they were unable to make a living from farming alone. The lands in America and Australia were attractive to many from England at this time, and Joseph and John joined the emigration to find opportunity abroad.
They settled in New York State and eventually prospered. Hannah Peart, John’s sister joined them in 1854 and married Joseph in 1857 .
During the next twenty five years or so Joseph and John received many letters from their families in England telling of the life which they had left behind.
The letters told of the pay and the partners in the lead mines, of the cost of living and the weather and of the births and, all too often, the deaths in the families.
Many of these letters were carefully saved and handed down to descendants of Joseph Graham. Today, over one hundred years later, when we read these letters, we are given a glimpse into the arduous and often short lives of the hard working people in these mining communities.
Joseph’s family continued to live in the family farm on the slopes at the top of the Killhope valley. View the Graham Letters. PDF here.