Building the Bull City

Durham began as little more than a stop on a railroad station in Orange county, North Carolina. In 1849, Dr. Bartlett Durham provided the land to build the railroad station and a small town slowly grew up around it. Before the war, Orange County held a mix of subsistence farmers including white and free black families, enslaved persons, and a growing merchant class in Chapel Hill and the county seat of Hillsborough. The county was also home to one of the largest plantations in the pre-Civil War South, Stagville. The Bennehan-Cameron family own Stagville and their combined holdings included approximately 900 enslaved persons and 30,000 acres by 1860. However, Orange county found itself more Unionist leaning in its politics, reflecting a larger divide over the issue of secession in North Carolina before the Civil War.

Instead of being the site of a large battle during the Civil War, Durham found itself the site of a great peace. In April of 1865, General Sherman of the Union and Confederate General Johnston met on the Bennett family's small farm to negotiate the largest surrender of the Civil War. After the war, the small railroad town began to grow thanks to the expanding tobacco industry in North Carolina. By the late 1870's families like the Dukes and the Blackwells had established tobacco successful manufacturing businesses based in Durham. The city soon became known for Blackwell's incredibly popular brand, Bull Durham, taking the nic-name the Bull City. However, even Blackwell's fame was soon eclipsed by the Duke family, who by the end of the century controlled the largest tobacco company in the entire world, the American Tobacco Company. For Durham this meant money from the Duke family given to schools, churches, orphanages, and African-American business. Very specifically it meant the move of Trinity to Durham and later, the endowment that made Duke University.