Authors of Their Lives: The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century

By David A. Gerber | Go to book overview

8
Catherine Grayston Bond
Letter-Writing as the Practice of
Existential Accounting

I wish we was nearer so that we could see each other some times. I
feel lonely many a time so far from you all. We left to better our-
selves, but some times I thinck we should have done as well if we
stayed. We have our own home and our children are all with us;
but there is a lot of care.

—Catherine [Kate] Bond to her brother, January 9, 188?

Catherine Grayston Bond’s letters to her brother, Robert, and his wife, Ellen, record a deceptively simple story. A twenty-fouryear-old Englishwoman and her husband, James, leave Lancashire in 1869 to work at farming and domestic service on the Connecticut estate of a wealthy American. Then, at some time between 1874 and 1879, they and four children go to Russell County in central Kansas, which had only recently opened to white settlement, and realize the dream of many English emigrants. Using their savings, they buy a partially improved farm on the prairie from one of the area’s pioneers. Here they spend the rest of their lives, growing wheat and corn and raising livestock, while making a home for the six of their ten children who survived infancy.

Kate, as she often called herself, came from a family of agricultural laborers and estate gardeners, and had gone into service as a girl. James, too, was a farm laborer, who grew frustrated in England because of his inability to find a farm tenancy. They wished more than anything else to avoid working for wages and being dependent, as they had come to feel was their inevitable fate, if they remained in England. Writing from Connecticut and later from Kansas, Kate described their struggles to

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