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Dukes, Durham, and More

Hey, Everyone! So today, I’m picking up where I left off...with us in Durham...

The next morning, we got up, put ourselves more or less together, and headed out for Vincent’s place. But, I’m not going to talk about that just yet.

Instead, I’m going to take a brief break from my notebook and provide a little background. I’m going to talk about Durham and environs just in case you’ve not visited the place, but might want to some day.

So...relying on some things Vincent shared with us, plus a little cribbing from Wikipedia (,_North_Carolina) and the city’s official website (’s some history of the community, just to give you a feel.

The city exists on land that was for a long time the area of the Eno and Occoneechi peoples and was, apparently, an important point along the Great Indian Trading Path, a kind of Silk Road for Native-American peoples in the area ( Then, of course, European colonists came, and along with them Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. After that, there were the predictable and tragic end results.

The area became an agricultural center, and then got involved in the American Revolution. Both revolutionaries and loyalists were present, and there was much fighting back and forth. When the dust had cleared, things sort of got back to normal, with the local folk settling down to farming. Except, of course, there were some significant developments. For instance, several huge plantations were established...among them Stagsville (which you’ll recall from last time), plus a number of others, all using enslaved labor to produce cash crops, like cotton.

There were also smaller entrepreneurs who offered food and lodging to travelers. We’ll meet a family of these, the Bennetts, in a few more postings. They had, as it turned out, a remarkable role in history.

About the photo: again from the archives and nothing to do with the story at hand. This is Martha while we were traveling around 2015. As I say, nothing to do with the story, but I rather like the shot.

Around 1849, Durham finally got its name. The story goes that developers had formed the “North Carolina Railroad,” and they needed a fueling station between the existing towns of Raleigh and Hillsborough. But, according to popular report, the people who lived in what is now downtown Durham had no desire to see a train in their backyards. Supposedly, they said they had no confidence in “a new-fangled nonsense like a railroad” (

So, a local doctor, Bartlett S. Durham, donated land he owned some miles away from the homes of his recalcitrant neighbors. This land became the new fueling station and, needless to say, the community that grew up around it soon consumed the whole area. Much later, in gratitude for his contribution, the town’s folk named their community after Dr. Durham...and thus Durham Station (later just Durham) became a city.


A decade or so later, the Civil War came and that was the end of the plantations. But, it turned out to be the making of at least one industry in the area. Both sides had had armies in the Durham-area. Both sets of soldiers had discovered that tobacco from North Carolina was uniquely tasty for both smoking and chewing. After the war, the same men started mailing back to merchants in Durham for the tobacco they’d decided they liked.

That, in turn, led to a number of tobacco-based fortunes. First, Ruffin Green and W.T. Blackwell partnered to produce “The Bull Durham Tobacco Company,” which sold tobacco across the nation. It also gave Durham its “Bull” moniker, and the nickname “Bull City.” Where did the “Bull” come from? Well, that’s a bit of a puzzle, but apparently there was a British company that made mustard and had a bull on the label on its jars. Blackwell thought that the mustard was made in the city of Durham, England. He thought the bull was cool and adopted it.

Actually, by that time, the mustard was made in Norwich, England. But, no matter. The bull was there to stay.

Bull Durham Tobacco then became W.T. Blackwell & Co. After Green’s death, Blackwell partnered with Julian Carr. (Today, Carr is regarded as a bit of a villain. He was an ardent champion of White Supremacy.) But, anyway, the company went on selling its products for decades, going from owner to owner, until finally fading from the scene in the late 1980s. Today, its former offices in Durham are part of an historic district, which, in turn, is full of restaurants and shops, and is very much on the upswing (

And that was the first of the great tobacco fortunes of Durham.

The other, is even more important...

But I’ll get to it, next time.

More to come.


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I provide these blog postings for free. That’s fine and I’m happy to do so. But, long ago and far away, I was told that if you give away your material, that means you don’t really think it has any value.

So, to get beyond that, I’ve decided to make it possible for you to leave me a “tip” for my posts.

If you like what I write or the videos I produce, and feel you could make a small contribution to support my efforts, please go here:

That will take you to a Gumroad page where you’ll have the option of leaving me a few pence by way of encouragement.

Again, I don’t mind if you don’t. I just want to provide you with the option so that I won’t feel quite so much like I’m just tossing my works into the wind.

Either way, thanks hugely for dropping by the blog :-)



Copyright©2022 Michael Jay Tucker

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