THERE is a corner of Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, that has the Durham coalfield at its heart.

Biddy Breen, of Stokesley, was recently holidaying in the small town of Louisville in Colorado and was surprised to find that Durham miners had been there more than 100 years before her.

In fact, one part of Louisville is still known as “Kimbertown” after the Kimber family who built its first houses having emigrated with their neighbours – the Dixons, the Barkers and the Wardles – from Coffee Pot Row in Trimdon Colliery.

It should be no surprise that so many emigrated from the Durham coalfield. Many of them were the travelling kind, having come large distances to find work in the mines around the Trimdons – for example, many of the 74 who died in the 1882 Trimdon Grange Colliery Disaster had been born in Ireland and Wales, or were Yorkshiremen whose native leadmines had already been worked out.

The incomers to the coalfield were housed in hastily-erected colliery rows, which were primitive. One large room downstairs with a fire, with the zinc bath in front of it and the oven beside it, and a dining table and probably the parents’ double bed.

Up a ladder-like set of stairs was the upper floor where the children slept, and the toilet, of course, was the outdoor netty in the yard.

So having already travelled the length or breadth of the UK to find work in Durham, these people were then prepared to travel to the US to find a better life.

The first coalmine in Louisville opened in 1877, and within 30 years there were 12 mines operating around the town in the “northern Colorado coalfield”, many of them worked by immigrants from northern England. After being cooped up in the colliery rows of Durham, these immigrants were able to live the American dream: big, detached, timberclad homes, with gardens all set in the Colorado sunshine.

As well as pull factors drawing the Trimdon miners across the Atlantic, there were push factors: the Durham mines were dangerous, and one of the dead in the Trimdon Grange disaster, a 20-year-old Irishman named Michael Docherty, had been a neighbour in Coffee Pot Row of the Kimbers.

So led by George Kimber, the four families left Coffee Pot Row for Louisville.

“The English got Louisville off to the start it needed in order for its coalmining industry to succeed,” writes Bridget Bacon in The Louisville Historian magazine which Biddy has brought home. "They “re widely credited with developing the techniques of mining and they could teach other miners.

“Some English miners took management positions in Louisville; others brought with them a strong culture of worker solidarity and a desire to improve conditions and benefits. This sometimes led to the English being on opposing sides in labor conflicts.”

In the years before the First World War, the northern Colorado coalfield became notorious for its “labor conflicts”, with the “Long Strike” beginning in April 1910.

"Following the strike declaration, mine owners proceeded to fence off the mine properties, install searchlights and machine guns on towers, hire professional detective agencies to secure the compounds, and provide onsite living accommodations for the strikebreakers and their families," says another article in The Louisville Historian.

The United Mine Workers of America union shipped rifles to Louisville to arm the striking miners, and on the night of April 27, 1910, the machine gun guarding the Hecla mine opened fire on the strikers, killing one.

The Long Strike lasted until December 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson called in mediation. During the four-and-a-half years, seven men were killed and hundreds were beaten up.

The Durham coalfield, of course, had its labour conflicts, but nothing quite on this scale.

The northern Colorado coalfield was worked out by the 1950s and, like Durham, Louisville has had to reinvent itself. It now has a population of more than 18,000 and it regularly appears in top 100 lists of the best towns in the US – in fact, it recently made the top 10 of the “best town for families” and even the top four of the “best place to live in America”.

Coffee Pot Row in Trimdon is long gone as Durham also reinvented itself. Its name lives on as in Trimdon Colliery, at the junction of Horse Close Lane and Low Hogg Street is the Coffee Pot bus-stop.

THE obvious question is how Coffee Pot Row got its name. One suggestion is that a café owner, John Walker, had a sign showing a large coffee pot outside his premises, and another suggestion is that a peculiar-shaped engine worked the railway line near the houses. As it burbled steam, it looked and sounded like a coffee pot.

ARE there any tales of emigrating miners (or any other profession, come to that) in your family tree. Please let us know: either email or write to the address above. Many thanks to Biddy Breen for bringing the magazine back, and to Bridget Bacon of Louisville for helping with the article.