I am reading Theodore D.A. Cockerell: Letters from West Cliff, Colorado. (That is "Westcliffe" today, our county seat.)
Cockerell was one of the classic late-Victorian naturalists. He was born in a London suburb in 1866, and he and his brother used to visit William Morris, where they no doubt were caught up in pre-Marxist socialist fantasies of people living in organic communities and printing their own tasteful wallpapers.
He was passionate about natural history from an early age: "Very early, indeed, it was given out that 'Theo is found of animals," he writes in a memoir.
His brother Sydney, another boy naturalist, later directed the Fitzwilliam Museum. (Cambridge bloggers please copy.)
No one can write about Custer County in the late 19th century without quoting Cockerell, for the letters he wrote to his fiancee and her brother in 1887-1889 remain an important primary source for the social history of this county in that era.
Some lung ailment brought him to Colorado. It does not sound as though he had serious tuberculosis, but "lungers," many of them English, were a recognizable social group back then, particularly in and around Colorado Springs.
Working odd jobs to pay his bills and assiduously reading and collecting specimens, Cockerell founded his own Colorado Biological Association and solicited memberships. He returned to England in 1890 and obtained a curatorial job in Jamaica. (I lived there too, but in Mandeville, not Kingston.)
His lung trouble reoccurred, so he and his new wife returned to the Rockies, living and teaching in Mesilla and Las Vegas (I've been there). Then he moved on to Colorado College (I worked there too), and on to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he finished his career as professor of zoology. (I went to graduate school there).
The young Cockerell is a little too much of a naturalist some times, proud of his learning. Disembarking in New York in July, he writes, "It is very hot and the place swarms with Musca domestica." Like just saying "flies" is not good enough for him. But his essential good nature comes through. ("The green banks of Staten Island look good for snails!")
Right now I am reading of his trip west, which includes the inevitable digressions:
• The difference between British and American trains.
• The difference in prices. The US was more expensive then, at least for meals and travel. How things change.
• American "misuse" of "shall" and "will."
• The presumption of all these struggling little prairie towns with "City" in their names.
Cockerell's letters were also collected in an edition called The Valley of the Second Sons -- in other words, the Wet Mountain Valley.
More excerpts coming from time to time.