Monday, August 12, 2013

Racial identity data from the 2010 Census

Nothing like census data to occasion a once-a-year post. I'm fascinated by this map of reported racial identity in the 2010 U.S. census produced by Dustin Cable and theCooper Center for Public Service at UVA. They've mapped racial identity data nationwide but I've zoomed in to just Durham below:

Compare this with the famous map of race by block done in 1937:

Trinity Park, Walltown, Hickstown, and the still-extant parts of Hayti look somewhat similar but the demographic differences are even more striking. I'm especially taken by the patchwork-quilt nature of Duke's East and West campuses in 2010 (not mapped in 1937 though the student body would have been 99% white). Elsewhere in Durham though residential segregation is still very much in evidence. Adding labels to the map shows the reported makeup of entire apartment complexes pretty readily:

I've highlighted two examples. One, the Deerfield in American Village, which appears more heterogeneous than its surroundings, and Duke Manor which stands out for its homogeneity . In any event, I'm so used to looking at maps of Durham's historical bifurcated black/white residential divide that this multi-nodal view of hispanic/black/asian/white racial identity is a thought-provoking and welcome sight.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

1940 U.S. Census

Though I no longer live in Durham (alas!) I found myself getting sucked back in to Durham history while looking through the newly released 1940 U.S. Census schedules. The National Archives interface for using the census can be, well, difficult and I thought I'd put up my first stab  at experimenting with making it easier to use. I hope other folks in the Durham mapping community will take it from here! I'd especially encourage everyone interested to attend this event at UNC on April 10th which my friend Pam Lach and the digital innovation lab are putting on for this interested in projects stemming from this new census data.

 Below I've crudely overlaid the downtown Durham census enumeration map on Google Earth and provided links to one district's worth of census sheets. If you zoom in you will see tiny numbers on each block which will help navigate within each district's sheets. The enumeration district numbers are written-in more faintly in pen. For a list of all Durham county enumeration districts and further census sheet images see the National Archives site here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rosenwald Schools in Durham

The wonderful Lynn Richardson at the Durham County Public Library recently sent out an email about one of their new digital projects and I had to share the news.  They've put up an online exhibit entitled "The Women who Ran the Schools" about teachers in Durham's "rural" Rosenwald schools in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit includes amazing photos of the school buildings and students as well as information about each Durham county Rosenwald school. I'm most interested in those schools which though considered rural at the time are now very much within the city. One of the schools was located on or near Anderson Leather's land (see my older post) in what is today's Northgate Mall:

 Photo from Fisk University, Franklin Library at "Women Who Ran the Schools"

The Hickstown Rosenwald school has always interested me and the DCPL project satisfies my long search for photographs:
 Photo from Fisk University, Franklin Library at "Women Who Ran the Schools"
The photographer taking this picture was likely standing directly in front of the Hickstown cemetery (see my post here).

My congratulations to Lynn, Joanne Abel, and all the others who worked on the project.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Redlining Durham

More than two years ago I posted a striking map of Durham from the 1930s which purported to be from the public works department and which coded playgrounds, parks, public areas, and streets either  "White" or "Negro."

 I remember wondering at the time about what exactly the impetus behind the creation of this particular map had been. Later at a lecture given by the wonderful Trudi Abel of Digital Durham (which also features the above map), several audience members asked the same question. Though I don't blog very frequently about  Durham anymore I thought I would share a set of maps which helps answer this question.

First I should say that I would never have known where to go looking for these maps without the work of the T-RACES project at UNC run by Prof. Richard Marciano et al. I was introduced to their work on California mortgage redlining maps at a wonderful web conference whose complete proceedings are available here (thanks especially to Pam Lach and Molly Bragg). In the T-RACES project, Prof. Marciano and others have used maps of several California cities generated by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (a Federal agency of the New Deal era) to display patterns of residential/commercial segregation through a google maps interface.

The HOLC, whose mandate it was to subsidize and secure mortgages, commissioned maps  of cities around the country to guide and restrict the availability of their mortgage subsidies by neighborhood. The HOLC and other banking organizations coded neighborhoods and areas by how desirable they felt they would be for investment. Those areas of a city with working class and non-white residents would be outlined and coded in a way to prevent mortgage underwriting while those with wealthier and largely white residents would be coded as open for federal support.  In their extensive documentation on the project, the T-RACES team  included a list of all the cities nationwide for which these maps exist. Not surprisingly, I was excited to see that Durham was on the list. While I believe the T-RACES team plans to extend their project outside of California to include Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem (the NC cities covered by HOLC maps), they are not yet online and have been only available at the National Archives to date.

I decided then while on a trip to DC to take a few snapshots of the maps (I will leave it to UNC to produce the high-res scans and detailed overlays!). The Durham maps below were created in the mid-1930s by consulting with local real estate agents and bankers about their perceptions of different parts of the city.  Using these descriptions, HOLC staff created discrete zones handily coded by their desirability for investment. Sample descriptions of these neighborhoods are below:

This neighborhood (close to the Morehead area) gets a C ranking (C-6), the second to worst and notes "Infiltration of: Negroes - gradual."
The Hickstown area above  is coded D (D-4) virtually excluding buyers there from receiving federal underwriting. Note that the HOLC examiners have singled out its unpaved roads, location near the RR tracks, population of "Mill Workers, laborers, mechanics," and its "many" families needing government relief as reasons for exclusion.

Below is a first draft of the map using a standard Durham street map (the same as that used in the public works map mentioned at the beginning of the post) and featuring hand drawn boundaries for neighborhoods with their designation.

This draft map was then officially printed (below) with slight alterations for use by HOLC officials and bankers. Note the A (or those deemed most underwriting worthy) areas: of Watts-Hillandale (A-1) and Trinity Park (A-2) whose houses were secured by racially restrictive covenants and which have received willing support from lenders up through the present day.

I can't say for sure but I suspect that the black/white coded map mentioned above was produced as part of a contemporaneous data-collection project to solidify race and class segregation. As such this set of maps should be seen together as examples of just one of the ways cartography can encode and maintain social inequality.

* For more on HOLC and residential redlining see Amy Hillier's excellent article in a 2005 issue of Social Science History (available to all as a pdf here ). The maps and documents from HOLC relating to Durham and reproduced above are stored at the National Archives (College Park, MD) in Record Group 195 MLR # A1-39 (Box 12).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Morreene Dairy

I drive to and from work every day on Morrenne road - which today runs from Erwin rd. until becoming Neal rd. at the bottom of a hill near the Cookout RR trestle. I've long tripped over the spelling and wondered where the name came from. I know from older maps that the road was once called the Morrenne Dairy road and ran from Erwin to Hillsborough rd. I've also seen bottles from the Morreene Dairy (below) but had never been able to figure out where the dairy was located until this week when I stumbled across an explanatory document in the Duke University Archives.
Courtesy Duke Forest Artifact Collection
This document in the building reference collection, compiled by librarian Florence Blakely in 1964, gives the origin of the name of Morreene road and a brief history of the dairy's owners. Knowing the original owners of the dairy helped me to figure out exactly where it had been located - directly on the site of the contemporary Forest Oaks condo development.

Rough overlay of the Redmond farm plat with Morreene Dairy land highlighted

On August 22, 1922 Ben and Dora Bridge[r]s bought two lots (53+54) of the former W.T. Redmond farm south of the Hillsboro (now Hillsborough) road. These lots were located at the very end of a new dead-end road extending south from where the Hillsboro road and the NC railroad intersected. By 1925 the Bridgers had opened a dairy which they named using a combination of Mrs. Bridgers' two brothers' middle names: Vester MORRis Dorrity and Robert GrEENE Dorrity - hence Morreene.
In the 1930s the city extended the road leading to the dairy all the way to Erwin road, naming it Morreene Dairy Rd.

Segment of 1940s Duke Forest map with my addition of Cookout(!) and Old Hillsboro Rd.

Segment of 1938 aerial photo with my annotation.
Today's 15-501 bypass (not pictured) runs from middle-right to bottom left

Many thanks to Judd and Marissa at the Duke Forest office for showing me these aerials

The Bridgers stopped operating the dairy by the late 1940s and by the 1980s part of the Forest Oaks townhouse development was built over the site.
Contemporary Google map with the outline of the former Morreene Dairy
In September 1958 the Durham City Council changed the name of the road to just Morreene Rd. and over the years its exact course has varied. The most recent change coming with the introduction of NC-147 in the 1980s and 90s. Instead of meeting Neal Rd. before its turn under the railroad trestle, the builders of the highway connected Morreene and Neal into a seamless unit and parts of the old Morreene road became Bridgefield Pl.
Overlay of the planning map for NC-147 showing the former course of Morreene Rd. (red line)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Durham Marble Works

I'm always on the look out for printed books and pamphlets from 19th century Durham. Pamphlets and advertisements are particularly hard to find and so I was excited to run across an 1889 booklet distributed by the Durham Marble Works now in Duke's off-site storage.

The booklet contains a list of some 156 suggested epitaphs for the company's gravestones. Nearly all of them present a rather maudlin cheeriness somewhat jarring and unfamiliar to us (or at least me) today.

As the booklet mentions (above), the marble company was located in five points, it continued to function at that location until at least 1915. By the early 1900s, perhaps as a result of increased construction and growing population, there were two rival marble companies also located in the vicinity of five points including T.O. Sharp's marble company (below - from an excellent piece on that area at Endangered Durham) where the downtown loop and parking lot behind the book exchange are today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Durham Photos at the Library of Congress

A friend sent me a picture the other day from the Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration photos. The photo (above), taken by Dorothea Lange in 1939, shows a Durham county farmer drawing driving directions in the dirt. I'd used the fantastic Durham public library collection of Durham historic photos and seen Gary work his photo sleuthing magic on Endangered Durham but had never really investigated the FSA collection before. The Library of Congress has some 171,000 digitized black and white prints and negatives from the FSA and associated government agencies which took pictures throughout the country from 1935-44 (more description on the project's homepage). There are quite a few Durham photos in the collection that I had not seen before, including a number that I only found by browsing as they lack identifying information. Though not at all an exhaustive list, I've linked to a number of them below in my own categories. There are additional Durham photos in other Library of Congress collections including the Historic American building survey which do not appear listed below.

Note: When descriptions appear in quotes they have been taken verbatim from the contemporary titles assigned photos by their makers. Otherwise the photos are untitled and I have briefly described them. In some cases I have amalgamated titled photos with negatives and prints of other similar shots but left untitled by the photographer - these are educated guesses.

City Scenes:

1. "Center of city, with Chesterfield cigarette factory in background. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1940 Oct.

2. "Five points, center of city, with Chesterfield cigarette factories in background. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1940 Oct.

3. "Durham, North Carolina [showing Post Office and theater]"
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer.
1940 Jan.

4."Tobacco warehouses and factory. Durham, North Carolina."
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer.
1940 Jan.

5.Citizens National Bank:

6. "Bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

7. "At the bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

8. "Street scene near bus station in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

9. The "super market" in Durham, North Carolina.
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

10. Untitled downtown street scenes:

12. Interior downtown Store scenes:

African-American Durham:

13. Outside of the Depositors National Bank of Durham:

14. "Young Negro flower vendor [outside bank], Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

15. "Negro children reading the comics on Sunday morning, Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

16. "Street in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

17. "Houses in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer:
1940 May

18. "Backs of houses in Negro quarter [Hayti], Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

19. "Barber shop [Bob McCain's] in Negro quarter of Durham, North Carolina.”
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

Scenes from the Tobacco industry:

19. Diamond Feed Store:

20. "Tobacco warehouse in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

21. Banner Warehouse:

22. "Street scene in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May

23. Farmers cafe and pool hall sign outside warehouse

24. "Poolroom in tobacco warehouse district. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?:

25. "A cafe near the tobacco market, Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May:

26. "Cafe in tobacco warehouse district. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?:

27. "Cafe in warehouse district during tobacco auction season. Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?

28. "Outside of the tobacco warehouses [Carver, Currin, Cozart] in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

29. "Cop in Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

30. Farmer' Supply Co., Roycroft

31. "At a cattle dealer's [Dillard+Gamble] establishment. Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

32. Roycroft's no. 2:

33. "Home of Roycroft family, one of the tobacco warehouse owners in Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer.
1939 Nov:

34. Mangum's Tobacco warehouse

35. "Tobacco warehouse. Durham, North Carolina."
Delano, Jack, photographer.
1940 May.

36. "Tobacco auction, Durham, North Carolina."
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910- photographer.
1939 Nov.?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More on Simeon Hester

I'm not really updating the site anymore but I thought I'd post a document I came across recently relating to Simeon Hester, former owner of much of today's Watts-Hillandale and the namesake of Hester Heights as featured in previous posts (1, 2, 3) and over at Endangered Durham.

Simeon Hester appears to have been born in 1837 in Oxford though the family most likely moved to Rougemount shortly afterward. Simeon joined the Orange Light Artillery (2nd co. G 40th NC Troops) towards the beggining of the Civil War. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections library at Duke holds copies of three letters relating to the Hester family of Rougemont (Adeline Hester Bowling papers). Simeon wrote the letter reproduced below while camped in Virginia with his regiment. The juxtaposition between his tender appreciation of a homemade cake and the disregard he shows the slave laborers building the very defenses he boasts of is jarring but not unexpected.

[From S.J. Hester to his Sister Addaline]

"Camp Near Drewry's Bluff Va
November the 20th 1862

Dear Sister it is with pleasure that I have the opportunity of answering your kind + most welcome letter which I received knight before last by the hand of Henry Bowling he reached here about dark + stayd with me all knight I was glad to got a letter from you + to hear that you was all Well. I am very much oblige to you for the Cake you sent me it was a very nice present + was very good it tased like home this leaves me well I hope this yo find you + father well + enjoying lifes Pleasures I have nothing interesting to write to you Times is quiet there is upwards of one thousand negroes camped in about one quarter of mile of us, they smell as strong as goats in flee time, they are throwing up Breastwork all over this whole country I think that thirty thousand men can keep one hundred thousand yankees at Bay, I hardly think they will ever attack this place any more, I am afraid they will make a strong attack on Weldon some time during Winter they tried to cross black water Day before yesterday + our forces succeded in stopping them + taking twelve prisoners they were brought to petersburg yesterday I was there though I did not see them Bartlet Bowles + Alexander Beasley was over there in the Hospille Bowles' wife was there with him she said she was going to start home in the morning, you wanted to know wheather McFarlin [?] had heard from his son he has not more than he has left Petersburg Lieutenant Dixon did not get him off, Dixon told me that father lost his pocket book at Hillsborough which I was very sorry to hear, he did not know how much money they was in it I hope they was not much, you must let me know when you wright I will bring this to close give my love to father + accept the same your self nothing only to remain your brother

Simeon Hester

Tell Father his neck tie is here"

Simeon and Adeline remained in North Carolina but their brother Davis moved to Texas where he wrote a glowing letter back to his siblings in 1870, extolling the richness of the soil and the openness of the land. He closed his letter by asking Simeon and Adeline if they were ready to move themselves. Simeon obviously chose not to, instead buying his massive 576 acre tract in Durham in 1873.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Durham Immigrants

Like the last post, this one is more about documents than maps. I was at the State Archives in Raleigh recently in a quest for some early legal records when I ran across a volume in their Durham County collections that caught my eye. It was conveyed to the state archives along with other older court records from the Superior Court building in Durham and contains bound copies of all petitions for naturalization and citizenship filed in Durham from 1909-22. Curious as to the immigrant makeup of Durham in the years when North Carolina actually saw a drop in total number of foreign-born residents, I decided to flip through and take some pictures.

The volume contained naturalization paperwork for around 63 individuals (there were some refillings so perhaps this number is slightly higher than actual) - this out of a Durham urban population of 18,231 in 1910, 21,719 in 1920. Of course this is only reflective of those who actually filed for naturalization while in Durham and does not include those immigrants filing elsewhere before moving to Durham. Two of those filing for naturalization were born in the United Kingdom (both Scotland I think) three were from Cyprus (then part of the British Empire), nine claimed to be Greek from Greek territories in the Aegean (many escaping from Asia Minor during the Greco-Turkish war), one was born in Belgium, and the vast majority (48) had been born in Russian territories.

Most if not all of these 48 were from the Jewish pale of settlement, including many from today's Latvia and Lithuania. The Jewish immigrants listed in this particular naturalization volume came well after the wave of Jewish tobacco workers of the late 19th century and appear from their petitions and other sources to have been store-keepers and small merchants. For those interested in these immigrants and Durham Jewish history more broadly, Leonard Rogoff's recent (2001) book covers the subject in exhaustive detail (he also cites this naturalization volume on at least two occasions).

I've reproduced a couple of the naturalization petitions to give a sense of what they entailed.

The above is Harry Cohen's 1911 petition, relating that he was born in Russia and had come to the US in 1902. It is witnessed, as was required, by two US citizens who had known him at least five years, in this case two Durham Jewish merchants, including Sam Hockfield, who was then an officer of the Durham Hebrew Congregation. Unfortunately for Harry there is a letter glued to the back of the certificate saying that it had been rendered void because one of the two witnesses seemed to have known him for fewer than the five years required.

Though Rogoff describes the generally un-hostile reception of Jewish immigrants in Durham, the racialization of Eastern European jews is hard to miss in Sam Swartz's 1909 declaration of intent to become a citizen (above). It lists his "visible distinctive marks" as a "prominent nose" and "circumcised." Accordingto Rogoff Sam Swartz and his wife Clara became quite succesful merchants and came to oen substantial real estate in the area by the 1920s.

These last two snippets from naturalization petitions are of more particular interest to me as documents in and of themselves.

This snippet is from an attached certificate to a petition. It was made in New York at the time of Sam Berman's arrival into the US. I like the use of a "Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias" stamp (I would love to get ahold of one!) and the interchangability of the "subject, citizen" line. Rogoff claims Berman was the first permanent Jewish resident of Chapel Hill (in 1914).

While almost all of the petitions and documents in the volume have rather florid and literate signatures attached, Philip Kaplan's signature (above) is decidely rough and indicative of someone less literate (at least in roman characters). Kaplan was a shoemaker from today's Lithuania who later brought the rest of his family to Durham.

And finally, because I had to include a map, below are the addresses of the four people discussed above plotted onto a contemporary satellite view of Durham (must click to enlarge). (1): Cohen (2): Swartz (3): Berman (4): Kaplan.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Agricultural and Mechanical census schedules

For a few of my previous posts I've made use of the agricultural and mechanical census schedules which accompanied the more familiar decennial population census. Unlike the population census though, these are a bit harder to find, especially online. I thought I'd link to scans (warning - somewhat large pdfs) I've made of these schedules for what is now the Durham area in 1850 and 1860.

The 1850 manufacturing census for all of then Orange county takes up only one page. You can see that grain mills (great map of many of the Eno mills) and tannery operations make up the majority of manufactures in the county, powered by water, hand, or horse. The Cheek carriage making business employed the most of any of the recorded industries, with six paid male employees.

The 1860 Orange county manufacturing census records the first tobacco factories in the area as well as the Shields+Bennett Alpha Woolen Mill (in today's Eno state park) s is enumerated as employing 3 men and 5 women to produce "Jeans etc." Also enumerated are John Leathers' (an important figure in the last post) mill as well as the mill at Orange Factory which had by far the largest industrial workforce in the county at 20 men and 30 women.

While the manufacturing censuses are relatively short and cover the entire county, the agricultural schedules run to dozens of pages and at least for 1850 it is quite difficult to separate out what we now know as the Durham area from the rest of Orange county. I erred on the side of caution and scanned all the pages with the names of early Durham landowners familiar to me.

You'll notice many names familiar from Durham history (and Durham streets!) in the 1850 census. There are plenty of Greens, Markhams, Strayhorns, Mangums, Lattas, etc. as well as Bartlett Durham himself. The illustration above shows Willis Borland's agricultural production for 1849-50: 100 bushels of wheat, 300 bushels of Indian corn, 1400 pounds of Tobacco, and on the continuation (not shown) 30 bushels of peas and beans, and 200 pounds of butter.

The 1860 agricultural census helpfully situates some enumerated farms in the Durhamville post office area but I've also included additional pages containing farms I know to have been in what is now West Durham and elsewhere. Note on page 11 the truly massive landholdings of William N. Pratt. Much of Jesse Riggsbee's 200 acres (p.5) on which he grew 450 bushels of maize and 600 bushels of sweet potatoes became Duke's west campus in the 1920s (you can find his headstone near Wallace Wade).

Producing high quality scans from microfilm is somewhat time-consuming but I hope someday to also put up the Ag and Mech schedules from 1870 and 80. In the mean time they are available at the Durham County library and at UNC (NC counties A-C available online: 1870, 1880).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anderson Leathers - first black north Durham landowner

In February 1873, Anderson Leathers bought a modest 10 acre farm in Durham township for $62.50. His was not the largest or most important Durham purchase that year (Simeon Hester would buy much of today's Watts-Hillandale six months later) but it was nonetheless a remarkable achievement and one utterly impossible just ten years earlier.

Anderson was born around 1820, most likely on the lands of John B. Leathers in today's northern Durham county. Like so many other 19th century NC African-Americans, he lived much of his life enslaved. As such, his early life is difficult to trace. He was most likely a farm laborer working with some of Leathers' 30 other slaves on various tracts in then northeast Orange county. Anderson and other enslaved workers helped produce several thousand pounds of Tobacco every year for Leathers by 1860. While enslaved to Leathers, Anderson married and had at least seven children. In fact, his first appearance in official documents as a free man came in 1866 when he and his wife Caty (b.1825) joined other newly freed slaves at the Hillsborough courthouse to have their union (10 July 1849) recognized by the state.

Emancipation coupled with new economic opportunities in the growing tobacco and manufacturing industries brought Anderson and many other freed slaves from farms in other parts of the county to the area around the new city of Durham (for more on this generally see Leslie Brown's Upbuilding Black Durham pp.27-55). Anderson had certainly moved to the Durham area by 1868 when Washington Duke enumerated him as a voter for the federal elections that year (one imagines he voted for U.S. Grant).

In Durham township he lived near other former Leathers slaves and worked as a hired farm laborer and perhaps shoemaker along with four of his sons (ages 8-14). This hard work apparently paid off and he was able to buy his 10 acres "on the waters of Ellerbee creek" bordering Hampton Dollar, George Turner, and the Guess Mill road. Acquiring the farm was an achievement of some rarity for a man like Anderson. By the 1870s only around 5% of black men in NC owned property, many of whom were freed prior to the civil war (see Kenzer, p.12). As a slave until emancipation, Leathers had none of the advantages of antebellum free blacks and probably started the post civil war years with no capital or credit at all. By 1875 Anderson owned two cattle and five hogs and his 10 acres were evaluated at $75 by the county property tax assessor. In 1879, his 8 acres of tilled land produced 300 pounds of tobacco, 75 bushels of maize, 25 bushels of oats, and a half bale of cotton valued all told at $75 (Durham chicken enthusiasts should note that the farm only managed 20 eggs that year). Though he continued to farm without any hired labor, even expanding his holdings to 12 acres, the 1880 census lists Anderson's occupation as Shoemaker. Likewise, his sons, like many others, become tobacco factory workers.

By the 1880s, Anderson had a mix of black and white neighbors. These included white landowners J.W. Markham and J.A. Malone (produced 30 lbs. of honey in 1879!), as well as Bethel Snipes and John Trice, both black farmers (though Trice did not own land). Though Anderson's relationships with his black neighbors are unclear in extant records, Markham and Malone both played a role in Leathers' legal affairs - Markham as the executor of Anderson's will and Malone as a witness to its writing. Leathers also appears to have been active in civic life and interested in the life of the growing black population in the greater Durham area.

Perhaps because he never learned to read or write, Leathers took a particularly active role in the educational life of others. In 1882, the school board commissioners of newly formed Durham county appointed Leathers the head of Durham township colored public school committee no. 1 - his neighbor Markham was a committeeman for the parallel white school district. He remained the sole committeeman in 1883 when his district was carved up and became district no. 6 "south Piney Grove." By 1886 he was joined on the committee by N.E. Cain and famous Durhamite R.B. Fitzgerald. Whether from necessity, convenience, or a touch of self-interest the 3-man committee paid $62 in Feb. 1886 for half an acre of Leathers' land on Guess Mill road in order to erect a free school. That same year, the North Carolina supreme court declared racially based taxation (white taxes to white schools, black taxes to black schools) unconstitutional in Rigsbee v. Town of Durham (99 NC 341) and it's unclear if the school on Leathers' land was ever built (it was still called the "free school lot" in 1890).

By the 1890s, Leathers had begun selling off parts of his 10 acres, in one case selling 4 acres or so for $250. When he wrote his will in 1891, Leathers estimated he had about 6 acres remaining and singled out one daughter and one son for eventual possession of his farmhouse and the acre surrounding it - the rest of his land he ordered divided up evenly among his other six children.

Anderson Leathers' six acres in 1908 and 2009 . Click for rough(!) Google earth overlay.

In 1896 Anderson Leathers died after a long life and was buried a free man on his own land. Caty (or Katy, or Catharine) continued living into the early 1900s with her son William at her side. Out of 13 live births she had eight remaining children, now spread out around Durham, her daughters with new married names like Snipes, Hicks, Sims, and Geer. After Caty died, sometime before 1905, the Leathers children behaved like many others before them (and after) by commencing suits against each other for their inheritance. Court ordered commissioners had the map above made in order to parcel out the lots for sale so as to monetarily satisfy the children's claims. By the ninteen teens all of Leathers' Guess rd. land save for one parcel had been sold off.

Lot 13 of Anderson Leathers' land on today's tax map

What first drew me to Anderson Leather's story was this one unsold parcel. After writing the piece about the trinity park cemetery (less than a mile away) I started to look around for other small cemeteries in Durham proper. In looking through tax records, the unknown cemetery lot at 1700 Guess rd. popped up and I decided to dig a little deeper. A previous cemetery canvasser for the cemetery census had failed to find anything on the site indicated by the tax map and the county records for that parcel had no deed or plat references to go on. Luckily, the city had recently drawn up a survey of the surrounding area and I was able to use other property references nearby to follow the chain back to Leathers' lot 13 which the commissioners specifically referenced as the graveyard.

2008 Plat of Walltown park area DCPB 183/292 (x added)

The plan above showing the cemetery was done by the city only last year as part of the preparations for the new recreation complex in Walltown.

Rendering of Walltown complex. Site plan by CLH Design courtesy of Cherry Huffman Architects (x added)

Anderson's land also features in this site plan for the possible Walltown aquatic center to the rec center. You'll note that like the city planning map the architects' map includes land references, except that is for the Leathers cemetery, which appears as a blank rectangle next to the proposed parking lot.

Despite his remarkable and successful life, many today, including the makers of maps and tax records, may not remember Anderson and his family, but I tend to believe the Leathers' story is worth preserving in the collective memory of Walltown and Durham generally.

Anderson Leathers graveyard 2009

This broken headstone fragment, pinned between fallen trees and a discarded couch, is all that remains of the Leathers cemetery. Though without a legible stone it's impossible to know, Anderson Leathers and his wife and perhaps a few other family members are most likely buried in the graveyard (there certainly seem to be other burial depressions on the site). Perhaps it's too much to hope that in the flurry of building construction and paving for the new rec center, some trash clearing might be done or even a small marker erected for one of the more remarkable families to live in Durham. I would hate his life to be marked as anonymously as that of many of his relatives and friends.

Many thanks are due to Trudi Abel at Digital Durham for pointing out the 1880 agricultural census and to Erik Landfried at Bull City Rising for his reporting on the aquatic complex.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Change in direction

I'm back from 8 months in the UK and I've realized that I can't keep up any sort of regular blogging pace. From now on I'll only be posting occasional much longer pieces.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More election maps

I've just spent some time finding old precinct data and coloring in maps hoping that something significant would come up. I'm going to stop for now as I'm not sure how significant the data actually is but I give you Durham precincts by presidential winner for 2000,2004, and 2008 (click to enlarge).

Thursday, November 6, 2008


In honor of all the election excitement I thought I'd put up some neat Durham county elections maps. These are all available on the incredibly helpful and easy to use state board of elections website. The biggest caveat for the maps from the 2008 election below is that one-stop early voting and absentee voting are not represented. This is a big deal as 97,429 votes were cast in early voting which is about 71% of the total 135,793 ballots cast. Nonetheless, I think the election day results are somewhat representative - it's not as if Rougemont would have gone blue had everyone been forced to vote in their precinct. (click on the images for higher res map)

First up - presidential results by precinct

Pretty solid division between the north and south parts of the county with a lone red holdout at the St. Stephen's episcopal church polling place to the SW.

The map for the senate race (went 74/23 for Hagan overall) looks much the same except for those flip-floppers at Glenn Elementary School in the eastern part of the county. While voters there went 53/46 for McCain they voted for Kay Hagan 49/46.

Bev Purdue won Durham handily (70/25) and even got the voters of Glenn Elementary on her side but for some reason folks voting at Forest View elementary (center-west) which went 57/41 for Obama decided for McCrory 50/43 with 6% going for Dukie Michael Munger.

Yet lo and behold when it came to the Lt. Governor's race voters at both Glenn and Forest View elementaries just couldn't bear to be consistent. Forest View went 49/45 for Dalton (D) while Glenn, which liked Purdue 48/46 seemed to prefer a Republican Lt. Gov also 48/46. Any voters there care to explain themselves?
Finally, I give you the big winner of the night, attorney general Roy Cooper (won 82/17). He garnered the most votes of any candidate or item on the ballot (107,786 or 5,500 more than Obama) and will I'm sure be handed the keys to the county at some point. Not even unopposed candidates managed as many votes. There are probably 240k or so men, women, and children living in Durham county so he did quite well though he obviously couldn't persuade the curmudgeons in the Neal middle school district to complete his all Durham sweep.

If the NCBOE site is right it looks like voter turnout ~70% was slightly lower than the ~73% in 2004 but this obscures the fact that there were 40,000 more registered voters this time around (~193,000) meaning that nearly as many people voted this year -135,000 (if +/-20,000 is nearly) as there were registered voters in total in 2004 (~154,000).

There has been a sharp jump in both registrations and the number voting for president as well. Below are the numbers of people who voted for president in Durham (not total number who voted) since 1996:

1996: 80,910 (60/38 Clinton)
2000: 84,604 (63/36 Gore)
2004: 109,651 (67/33 Kerry)
2008: 135,342 (75.5/23.5 Obama)

Big numbers and an exciting big win locally for Obama. This weekend I bring you a historical election map or two.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ground Zero at Five Points

1950 Durham A-Bomb blast map (Duke University Libraries)

This is one of my favorite Durham maps and I'm quite upset that I couldn't get my hands on a large format scanner to display it online in all its glory.[2011 note: a high-res scan of this map is now available at Digital Durham]. My bad photography does not do it justice. The map was created in 1950 by the Durham public works department only a year after the first Soviet nuclear test. I've transcribed the on-map text describing damage in each of the concentric rings as the images are less than clear:

1950 Durham A-Bomb blast map detail - not as blurry as above

" This map is marked in zones of 3000, 6000, and 12000 feet from Ground Zero at Five Points. Sources, William L. Laurence's digest of "The Effects of Atomic Weaponds" published this month by the AEC (The New York Times, August 17 and 18, 1950)
3000 feet - edge of the East Campus to the bus station. Virtual complete destruction of all buildings. Initial nuclear radiation fatal to those not protected by 12 inches of concrete. Blast and heat are so serious that "radiological injury does not need consideration." In other words, almost everyone will be a casualty.
Fire stations, marked in red, are all in, or very close to this area."

" 6000 feet - rest of the East Campus to Lincoln Hospital. Most buildings damaged beyond repair. Serious flame and flash burns, especially from the fire storm resulting from the high winds which will blow into this area. Most fire equipment will already be destroyed. There will be no water pressure. In most American cities there will be 80,000 surviving injured, half of them stretcher cases.
A third of these stretcher cases (12,000) will die within twelve hours from shock unless treated treated immediately with blood plasma or substitutes. "They are the largest group of preventable fatalities." The next most urgent problem is getting all the stretcher cases into hospitals within 72 hours. Those who will get radiation sickness are likely to remain well from seven to ten days. Then those exposed can be treated "in orderly fashion."
Total hospital beds in North and South Carolina (1948- The World Almanac, 1950) are 38,924. Total in this county at that time were 1142. Duke Hospital then had 558 beds."

" 12000 feet - Blast damage to most homes. Very severe fire, window and plaster damage. None of these homes will be fit for occupation. In a typical British city, there will be 100,000 refugees to be provided for. Thermal radiation burns for all those who were outside in this area; most people also subject to radiation, though not in lethal quantities. All overhead power and telephone wires will be down in this area. Hospitals marked in purple."

" Limit of light damage - windows and plaster damage and some fires - will be eight miles or more, depending on the
This eight mile radius includes a little more than half of the county. It would take in Hope Valley, Lowes Grove, Braggtown, Gorman... It would extend to the flat land right below Chapel Hill and about two miles...road to Raleigh."

I would love a clear scan of the map and am curious if anyone out there has one.