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Ulster American Folk Park

Mellon Homestead

Old World, building 9

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Where it all began

The Ulster American Folk Park developed around this cottage, the birthplace of Thomas Mellon in February 1813.  

This house was built by Thomas’s father Andrew and his father’s brother Archie. It began as a two-room house with two detached outhouses. The family farmed about 23 acres. They grew potatoes, flax and barley and raised poultry and some cattle. The Mellon family were prosperous tenant farmers. Other members of the Mellon family had left for America in previous years. Thomas’s father and mother received many letters informing them about life in America and its potential. They soon realised that if they too emigrated, they could have a better life.

They sold the lease on their land and their possessions. This raised £200.

In those days when friends and family left for America, they were often lost forever so a ‘living wake’ was held in the house.

Friends and neighbours spent the last night with them and stayed with them for some of the journey to the port in the morning, before bidding the Mellons a final farewell.

The family sailed from Derry-Londonderry to New Brunswick in what is today Canada. They then took another ship to Baltimore. This was a cheaper route than sailing direct to the USA. Next they hired a wagon to take them to west Pennsylvania for a reunion with Thomas’s grandfather and uncles.

The family found land and bought a farm. They used the remainder of the £200 and borrowed money as well. They struggled after the financial crash of 1819 but ultimately prospered.

The original bedroom was to the left of the kitchen. This is now a parlour and a small back room. Later owners added the room to the right of the kitchen. There is a ‘half loft’ over the original bedroom where servants slept. They needed a ladder to enter the room.