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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


*Updated - sorry that was really hard, this should make it easier*
*Solved! - contemporary view now below*
I'm swamped with work this week so I had the inspiration for a cop-out map quiz. I'm delighted that folks are taking what they learn from the site and doing their own research and making their own maps (see Hickstown post comments). I just came across a really surprising image on the sanborn maps site and figured I'd throw it out there as a challenge. Where is this Durham
intersection today?:

1937 Sanborn map image (Copyright SBC)

Site today - soon to be site of new 9th street north development (Google maps)

The image is oriented like the original with north to the top and the street layout is exactly the same today minus the stream and wooden bridges for traffic. Many readers have probably passed through the intersection at some point but I'm sure it will get more notice now that it's been in the news and in neighborhood debates the several weeks. Good luck!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hickstown part II

Hickstown looking west from near NCRR (from DOT report)

While the picture above was most likely taken in the late 1970s or early 1980s it probably doesn't differ too much from what the area looked like in the 1950s (except for the VA hospital in the background). Most roads in the community were unpaved like the one above (Barnum?) and many of the lots from the plat on the previous post remained vacant throughout the period.

1953 Sanborn Map (click to enlarge)

This Sanborn map from 1953 only shows the section of Hickstown to the west of the tracks but the section to the east has kept its general street pattern and some original dwellings. Notice the number of streets listed as unpaved as well as the Hickstown School to the extreme left on Crest st. From what I gather there had been a school for the black children of Hickstown on that site for several decades before it was rebuilt as part of the Rosenwald school plan (note the description "heat-stoves"). It was later rebuilt after integration as Crest st. Elementary and is still there today in the form of a senior center. Just off the map to the west next to the school was the Hickstown cemetery where over 1000 mostly black members of Hickstown and Durham were buried.

Hickstown Cemetery plan (illegible in original- list of graves)

However the cemetery is now no longer there and the majority of the houses and streets in the 1953 plan have been completely destroyed. Most people are probably familar with the story of the destruction of Hayti in the 1960s and 70s but the saga of the Durham freeway didn't end once it got to Chapel Hill st. Highway plans called for a linkup between the freeway and I-85 and the chosen route went directly through Hickstown. However, those who do know the history of Hayti will be suprised by the outcome of the confrontation between Hickstown and the transportation department. The best description of how the residents of Hickstown managed to reach an accomodation with the state and federal governments and shape their own relocation is in this official summary. While it is a bit of a triumphalist account I think it gives a good sense of the enormous amounts of time and energy that went into the accomodation. It also serves as an important reminder of the power of tightly knit neighborhoods in the face of seemingly inevitable state plans. I'd also add that if you're ever in need of a good trivia question - I believe that disputes over attorney's fees in the moving of the neighborhood led to the most recent appearance of a Durham issue in the US Supreme Court.
Hickstown top and Crest St. Community Bottom (from DOT report)

As you can read in the report various government agencies paid to rebuild Hickstown as the new Crest st. neighborhood. All but two original Hickstown structures (see map) were destroyed and entirely new culs-de-sac, houses, and facilities were built to the west of Fulton st. The massive Hickstown cemetery was completely disinterred (google earth overlay of the cemetery on today's map) and some graves were moved to a cemetery further out in Durham county while the bulk were reinterred just across the highway at New Bethel memorial gardens. I've been to through Crest st. a number of times and talked to a couple of folks there including the very hospitable pastor of New Bethel church and it seems like the intense neighborhood pride and tight network of social connections remains to this day. My one complaint with the layout of the neighborhood neccesitated by the highway is how the neighborhood has been sequestered in a corner of development with pretty much only two ways in or out. All in all, Hickstown's story is definitley worth sharing and I'd like to see its narrative more part of discussions on Durham's history. I know there are hundreds of stories about Hickstown floating around and I'd love to hear what people know.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hickstown part I

As I mentioned before I'm going to post on Hickstown over the next several days. Most people who have lived in Durham for more than a decade or two will probably know of Hickstown but being relatively new to the area I had no idea there was such a place until I saw it on this map below some months ago (now helpfully available online at UNC)

1895 George F. Cram Atlas (from UNC-CH maps)

Some of the historical basics about the begginings are in Jean Anderson's book but I'll summarize a few. According to Anderson, Hickstown was incorporated as its own town in 1887 in the wake of the city of Durham going dry. There were protests against its incorporation and while I don't know when it un-incorporated, its post office closed in October 1890 (anyone have any old Hickstown, NC postmarks floating around?). The settlement was named after Hawkins Hicks who lived near the NCRR tracks in a residence awarded her in court as the common law wife of Jefferson Browning who was one of the many Browning land owners in what is now western Durham.

Section from 1920 soil map (using 1914 data)

From looking at the 1910 census it looks like the above map underestimates the number of dwellings in Hickstown (two clusters of Hickstown houses highlighted above) but I would point out that on a clearer version of this map you can see a + in that northern cluster which I believe indicates the original New Bethel Baptist Church which is today on Crest st. It was built in 1879 and moved to Crest st. around 1930 with several local black landowners as its first members (and has been at the heart of the community ever since.

Some snippets on early Hickstown seem to suggest that people regarded it as a new pinhook filled with debauchery and drink as well as both black and white residents. While I don't have a good picture of early Hickstown based on the sources I have available, I think it may have been less integrated than suggested. Certainly by 1910, the federal census shows that people who lived on the primary streets of Hickstown were mostly enumerated by the white census taker as black or mixed race. This is not to say that many white families including that of Hawkins Hicks (living on today's Main street near the Food Lion) didn't have houses within close proximity to black families, it just seems to me that Hickstown as a separate entity grew up particularly as a settlement of post-civil war migrants, largely ex-slaves and their families, from elsewhere in North Carolina. This is confirmed both by the report on Hickstown's relocation (which I'll get to in the next post) and in an interesting (though dated) article on the geography of post civil war population movement. The author calls Hickstown "a former Negro agricultural village" and while I'm not sure where he got the "agricultural village" idea,I think he was probably on to something. There was a surge of small farm buying by newly arrived black families in the 1870s and 80s in various areas on the outskirts of what was then Durham and which is now well within the city limits.

1910 plat of the eastern part of Hickstown (click for GEarth overlay). Today largely a parking structure.

However, in a transition that I'll write something about someday many of these black farm owners sold their land around the turn of the century to white landowners and speculators. Some white landowners like W.T. Neal and J.W. Markham had evidently acquired property in the Hickstown area and in 1910 they parceled up some of this land to the west of the NCRR and to the south of the old New Bethel church. Some of the Hickstown street names you see above (and below) have always seemed a bit odd to me (e.g. Cycle, Barnum, Baily) and I can only think that the nearby circus grounds (near where the Kroger on Hillsborough is now) inspired the naming. I don't know the racial politics surrounding the above lot division but I would be more than a little surprised if the Clements land company was interested in selling lots to non-whites.

From 1937 public works map of Durham

While the parceling up of land for houses in 1910 suggests the beggining of the shift, by the time the map above was made agriculture had been replaced in Hickstown as a primary occupation (though farming undoubtedly continued part time on small plots) by industrial and service occupations in rapidly expanding Durham proper. I'm not sure what the state of land tenure was in Hickstown at this point but I imagine it to be concentrated in the hands of landlords as in 1980 only 22% of dwellings were owner occupied. I'll continue soon with some more maps and overlays bringing the story up to the present as well as some discussion of the well covered relocation and transformation of Hickstown in the early 1980s.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

University Heights

Moving eastward from Funston back towards Durham and before I launch a longer series on Hickstown I thought I'd pause briefly at University Heights with some cautionary notes about maps. I recently came across plats of the great neighborhood of "University Heights" and was quite excited because it appeared to be located in a part of western Durham that I'm quite curious about. Here are the plats of the north and south portions with Google earth overlays linked below.

North section (GEarth overlay)

South section (GEarth overlay)

Like most people in Durham I know this area as home to two contrasting but neighboring large apartment complexes: the Belmont, and Duke Manor. I was immediately curious about this large (hundreds of lots) subdvision created in 1925 with a whole network of streets I was unfamiliar with. Maps are dangerous in that they create geographies of their own whether or not they exist on the ground. The maps above not only map out planned space but also dictate how spaces are referred to in the future. Vizt. several deeds to property in the area today including a couple of Duke deeds have references to particular lots and streets in University Heights. I looked next to my trusty 1946 Durham street map made by the city of Durham for municipal and planning purposes.

1946 road map of Durham (from the NCSA)

Look the roads are there in a kind of funny and unnatural waffle pattern disappating into nothing but there nonetheless. Excited about this lost neighborhood and wondering about its connections with Hickstown I checked the USGS topographic map from 5 years later.

1951 USGS map of the Hickstown area

MMM...well you can clearly see what became Lasalle st. including the straight section as it crosses south of the tracks labeled as Sprunt st. in the University Heights map. The rest of the neighborhood is gone though, no streets, and just three scattered buildings in the far northwest part of the planning maps. Did the neighborhood go under in just a few years - what happened? I'm fairly confident there never was a University Heights on the ground beyond the surveyors marks. The plats above were made in June 1925 at a fortuitous point in the history of that part of Durham. In Spring 1925 newly named Duke University had just finished most of the purchasing of land for what would become west campus. With the cat out of the bag for the new university location it looks like land speculators jumped on this tract just to the north of the (yet unbuilt) university and attempted to turn it into the next Hester Heights or Club acres. They failed. The land remained largely overgrown though there are clearly buildings and houses in the SE segment of the plats but those are probably part of greater Hickstown.

1955 USDA aerial photo (from Duke University libraries)

I believe those white lines running vertically down the center of the photograph to Erwin road are Third (today's Douglas st/Research dr.) and Fourth streets from the plats. I will use this picture when I talk about Hickstown but for now I've highlighted the two large cemeteries in the area (there's a 3rd smaller one I haven't highlighted) which are noted on the plats above. Being somewhat of a Durham cemetery buff I'll post more on the New Bethel Cemetery (Hickstown cemetery- towards the middle) and let John Schelp's OWDNA website tell the story of the West Durham cemetery (top).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I thought I'd continue for one more week on the railroad theme. First, in response to the question of how the segment of the NCRR through Durham was actually built, I don't have that much information and it all comes from Allen Trelease's book. Once the survey of the whole line was done in May 1851, small sections of the future line from .5 miles to 2-3 miles in length were awarded to contractors for the hard manual work of grading and preparing a bed on which the track would be built. I would love to know more about this process in what's now Durham County but all I have is that Paul Cameron of plantation (and Stagville) fame and several other local elites were awarded contracts for Orange county (unclear who got what section). They then in turn had enslaved laborers (their own or those rented from others) do the work of building the trackbed (free laborers were also occasionally employed on parts of the RR but it's not clear if there were any in this area) . Much to the chagrin of UNC and Chapel Hill boosters the NCRR survey precluded going through Chapel Hill and instead the University had to settle for a station about 10 miles or so north of the town on the main line when it was finished in 1855.

1865 Army map (From UNC-CH Maps Site)

The 1865 US Army map above shows the course of the RR as well as important local roads. Note university station at Strayhorn's store above - since the NCRR bypassed Chapel Hill a depot was set up about 10 miles or so north of campus to serve the university. This commute wasn't much better than the one from Durham where there was an arguably better road. According to Trelease, when president Buchanan came to UNC's graduation in 1859 he got out of the train in Durham and took a coach the rest of the way. If you can find a copy you can read Tony Reevy's article about the eventual Iron mining/university branch line (to the left below) that was built in the early 1880s between University station and western Chapel Hill (today's Carrboro) and its fate today.

1900-06 Scarborough Atlas (from UNC-CH maps site)

The map above shows the railroad and a few other roads around 1900. This is the first map I know of which shows the mysterious "Funston" on the RR on the very western edge of Durham county. Though I originally hoped for some long lost town, it seems after further investigation that Funston is merely the more recent name of an older rail siding. Jean Anderson points to there being a "woolen siding" at this location after the short lived textile factory which used to be located nearby. Apparently NC-DOT doesn't know the origin of the name but my guess (with no evidence) is that the siding was renamed in 1900 after Frederick Funston a Spanish-American war hero.

The Funston siding still exists and was just widened by NC-DOT a few years ago. There is also a nice sign saying "Funston" along the railway which can be viewed from 751. Above is a photo of its current extent which is much longer than it was 100 years ago. If you live in the western part of American Village or in the new development near the tracks there you might want to try and introduce the name into common usage. As far as I know this was never a stop proper on the NCRR but I would love to be proved wrong on that point.

Monday, September 8, 2008

NC RR Survey Maps 1850

It's hard to live in Durham and not notice the train tracks and the trains, at-grade crossings, and occasional deafening horn blasts that come with them. Most people probably also know the basic facts about Durham being founded as a depot on the new North Carolina Railroad in the early 1850s - the railroad needing a water and fuel depot somewhere between Raleigh and Hillsborough and Dr. B.L. Durham willing to give up some land to the company. The story has been told a number of times but it's worth reading Jean Anderson's account or Gary's at Endangered Durham. What seems to circulate less widely are the railroad survey maps made when the course of the track from Goldsboro to Charlotte was being planned. By far the definitive account of all things NC RR related is Allen Trelease's The North Carolina Railroad, 1849-1871, and the Modernization of North Carolina which has good chapters on both its founding and the process of surveying and building it's length. Engineer John McRae was in charge of the part of the survey that went through today's Durham and his surveyor's and draftsmen as well as those of the other sections of the RR produced a set or really extraordinary small scale maps of every foot of planned track with local watercourses, buildings, and property lines. The original maps are held at the state archives in Raleigh and are fairly easy to request if you take a trip down there. The best high resolution image of any part of the Durham segment that I know of is in Jean Anderson's book and shows the planned Durham's station depot as well as a few scattered buildings in the immediate area.

I was in the Raleigh archives a few months ago and figured I should take some photos of all the maps which cover today's Durham. I was lazy however and after I stopped after a lot of odd looks from other archivists and other researchers for standing on a chair trying to get all of each map in one photo (the maps are really quite large). As a result the maps aren't as high resolution as they might be (though every word should be readable) and more importantly some of the edges are cut off - I haven't cropped them or prettied them up so you can see the full layout and where the edges should be. Nonetheless I've put together a tentative google earth overlay of the survey maps from downtown Durham to the west past Pinhook. I've done my best but since I missed small bits of the maps in photographing and because I took the pictures from an odd chair-standing sideways angle they aren't quite at perfect scale. Mostly I'm just making excuses for why I just couldn't get them to fit on today's map as seamlessly as I wanted. I've posted the three maps below with the four overlays linked underneath and you probably get the best effect if you have them all open at the same time (the Durham's station bit gets chopped in two for the overlay - don't ask).

Planned Durham's Station depot (overlay1, overlay2)

Pinhook area west of the station (overlay)

Hickstown - West Durham (overlay)

Besides establishing me as one of the worst archival photographers in the state, these maps help to show how much Durham grew within just a few decades (compare 1881 map here). Families like the Turners and the Hicks remained in Durham for the duration but property lines shifted with the growth of the town (Pratt's illegitmate children also remained important in Durham politics into the 20th century - more on that in future postings). J.R. Green, one of the creators and first marketers of Bull Durham tobacco bought (at least part of) Andrew Turner's farm before the civil war and William Pratt's land was split up after his death in 1867 (see post below). Pinhook ceased being the raucous site of naked whiskey racing by the late 19th century(I hear there is a new bar called Pinhook in the works for Durham that seems like it may live up to that legacy), more and more people and businesses business built on this ribbon of land around the NCRR, and by the creation of Durham county in 1881 the surveys above would have been unfamiliar to most newcomers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Durham Map

Before I can come up with another longish post I thought I'd go back to putting a few more general maps up. I've displayed two maps below. One of these two maps was the first general state map to include Durham. The North Carolina Railroad put Durham's station on the map remarkably soon after the first train service in the early summer of 1855:

From the NC Maps Collection at UNC (see links to the right)

This map (above) was published as part of an atlas between 1855 and 1860. It's fairly simple and doesn't depict many of the smaller towns and crossroads in the area - perhaps unfairly catapulting Durham into the minds of readers as it still had only a couple hundred people living in is vicinity. Also it seems that the Eno got lost in the shuffle of this map though it does include New Hope creek flowing south from the Durham area.

The map above has the potential to be the earliest of the two and was published in either 1858 or 1859 also as part of an atlas. I especially appreciate the added detail though I have to say that the measuring is a bit off as Durham has been shunted almost all the way to the Orange county line and quite far south of the Eno. I'd love to know if anyone else can find an earlier atlas or large scale map that depicts Durham

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trinity Park/ Markham property

I'm still recovering from doing that Nancy Warren post so this one will be pretty brief. I wanted first to say thanks to everyone who emailed and commented about the Watts st. cemetery. I've heard from a few family historians who really have a vast knowledge of the Warren and Shambley families which is exciting to see. They've pretty much convinced me that there were two cousins both with the middle name of Kinchen and last name Shambley and both born within a year of each other and that Jesse was the other Kinchen from the one most proximate to Nancy on that 1860 census. I also wanted to mention one other detail that I've heard from a few sources over the last week - according to a cemetery survey done in the early 1980's and the original archaeological survey done last year there used to be a pair of very large trees straddling the entrance to the cemetery. One reason Nancy's body was missed is that it was partially buried under a part of one of the trees. Obviously those trees were torn down in the building over the past year and with them the last markers of its original use.

I promised to post the 1911 property map of the Markham estate which became much of the northern half of today's Trinity Park. I have it as a google earth overlay so you can see it fit pretty nicely on the grid of today's streets as well as below.

Notice the earlier proposed street name for Gregson - "Hated" st. The story goes that this naming choice came about because of the mutual dislike evident between Watts and Brodie Duke. Hence reading the street names Watts hated Duke and vice versa. Though in this map today's Watts st. is rendered as Hospital st. after the original Watts hospital due south near Main st. This planned subdivision map is also a reminder of how misleading property maps can be. If you look at the Sanborn fire insurance maps from the post below you can see that many of these lots were not built on or even subdivided for decades thus rendering this map totally unfamiliar to anyone standing on the corner of Urban and Watts in 1915.

(From Digital Durham- 2008 street name additions my own)

It is interesting to note the area right near the cemetery and the boundary between Durham and the former city of West Durham. You can plainly see on the 1911 property map where the property line veers east away from Guess rd./First st./Buchanan on a diagonal which was the city boundary as it was the former property line dividing Markham's land from the Durham land trust and improvement company. Over at Digital Durham there is an 1890 map of the area just to the west of the Markham land (mapped above) where you can see the planned course of two separate streets running north away from Trinity College's campus - First st. to the west and Guess to the east along the property line. That diagonal split never happened in practice and we are left with a only slightly crooked Buchanan today.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RIP Nancy Warren (Oct. 1842-Jan. 1900)

I'm going to interrupt my series on West Durham neighborhoods for a closer look at one historical story behind a recent hot topic in Durham history. The discovery and subsequent exhumation last winter of two bodies from an old family cemetery on Watts st. in Trinity Park resulted in a newspaper article and a slew of emails and blog posts as well as a lot of neighborhood discussion about the importance of history and historical preservation. While many thought the issue was over done with once the exhumations took place it appears that continued building activity on the site threatens the remaining graves there. While I know neighbors and community members are getting involved in a discussion about contemporary homebuilding policy and cemetery law centered around this case, I thought it would be useful to provide some historical background on the women disinterred and the cemetery itself. I'll proceed in chronological order from the 19th century after a brief recap of what happened over the winter.

Part I: 1009 Watts st.

In April 2007 a small parcel of land on Watts st., known locally as the site of an old family cemetery, was sold by the last in a long string of Markhams to own the land. In the year since, this seemingly vacant lot to the left of 1013 Watts has become part of a bustling building site as well as the center of a growing controversy about land use and history. Over December-January 2007-08 the owners and a local archeology firm disinterred two bodies from the construction area and relocated them to a Durham cemetery (my understanding is that this archaeology firm no longer works with the owner). For an account of these events from several sides (including those of the archaeologist and the owner) see the comments on the relevant Endangered Durham post . What struck me from that initial discussion were the photos posted of several grave stones and footers which were unearthed in the process. From my understanding of the situation the only legible of these stones originally stood over the grave of one of the women disinterred:

Courtesy Endagered Durham - click image for more detail

As you can see the name on the grave is damaged and missing its first few letters but the stone does give a husband's name and a birth and death date. Pursuant to NC law the archeology firm published a public notice in the Herald Sun once a week for four week informing any relatives "known and unknown" of the discovery and pending re-internment. The notice included the quite reasonable speculation that the woman's name was "Lucy E. Chamblee." After receiving no responses to the notice "Lucy" and the even more unknown woman were reburied at Markham Memorial Gardens. But who was Lucy and how did she come to be buried in Trinity park?

Part II: Nancy Warren

In 1842 what is now Durham was part of Orange county and a quite disreputable part of it to boot. The railroad had yet to come through and bring with it Dr. Durham's name. Farms, small holdings, brothels, and taverns dotted the area between Hillsborough and Raleigh. Somewhere in this region lived Thomas Warren a cooper with his wife Betsie, new-born daughter Nancy, and several other children. It seems likely that Thomas died sometime between 1842 and Nancy's 18th birthday in 1860 and he does not appear in the 1860 census. Though it's unclear where the Warrens lived in 1842, by 1860 Nancy, her mother, and her younger brother James were living in what is now the greater city of Durham. Their neighbors in the census include such long-time Durham families as the Dukes, the Pools, the Coles, and the Brownings. Oh and one other North Carolina family of long standing living practically right next door - the Shambleys.

1860 Federal Census - Orange County (click image to enlarge)

But wait - what's this - those with sharp eyes or who click on the image will surely notice the new trade that Betsie and Nancy have taken up. Most likely due to the economic hardship of the loss of Thomas' tradecraft, Nancy and Betsie have the honor of being among the very few women enumerated in the federal census as prostitutes. Victoria Bynum, a historian who has written on "unruly women" in this period (including a footnote on Betsie and Nancy) speculates that white women who engaged in prostitution only with white men were rarely brought into court (prostitution of course being a crime), prosecution being reserved for those women who crossed race boundaries. Durham was a bit of a seedy place at the time (David Southern tells a story about 19th century UNC students making the trek to Durham for a good time and never making it back) and prostitution was surely not uncommon. Though I'm sure good archival work would turn up more on Nancy in this period I'm afraid this is the extent of what I can easily get at for the 1860s.

Part III: Nancy Chambley

If you look up at the 1860 census above at the James W. Shambley family you'll notice an 11 year old boy named (apparently) Kinchen. Fortunes appear to have taken a bit of a turn for Nancy by 1880 as we see her in that year married to her former neighbor seven years her junior and now named Nancy Chambley. On the 1880 census she and Kinchen don't appear to have any children of their own but there's no escaping mom - 68 year old Betsie Warren is listed as living in the house as well as Nancy and Kinchen's nephew Charles Warren. The family still live in Durham by now only a year away from becoming its own county. Also in the Durham area are fistfuls of Chambleys and Warrens and one can only speculate that most people in the community knew Nancy's story and had decided opinions one way or the other about her and Kinchen. Though people may have had strong opinions about Nancy she doesn't appear to have left a large impression on the written historical record after 1880, the last year I can say anything for certain about her life. That she lived another 20 years seems clear from her tombstone but it seems unfair to leave such a blank space in her story especially when the spectre of her past looms so large. These were probably good years for her though as Kinchen's fortunes seem to have improved dramatically, by 1900 he owned and farmed many acres on what is now Guess road at the intersection with Fish Dam road (today's Carver st.). His neighbors included several Warrens such as James Warren (jr.?) probably Nancy's nephew and a few other Chambley's and there was even "Chambley School" nearby.

1910 Durham property owners map (Duke University Libraries)

In all this I am making the critical and I think reasonable conjecture that Kinchen's full name was Jesse Kinchen [Chambley/Shambley/Chamblee]. I've come to this conclusion mostly because of the lack of evidence for any other Chambleys born around 1850 or any male Chambleys that remotely fit for Durham in this time period. The name Jesse Chambley doesn't appear in any census records until 1900 by which point he was a respectable farmer and perhaps had the wherewithal to make the census taker write down his full name. And not to get ahead of myself here is the kicker:

This is Jesse Kinch[en] Chambley's tombstone at Mapplewood cemetery in Durham, a much classier resting place than the much perturbed Watts st. lot. In what is surely an age-old story Kinchen, now the reputable Jesse K. Chambley, married neighbor Malissa Proctor(or possibly Riley) in 1900, the year of Nancy's death. As you can see on the tombstone Malissa went on to outlive Kinchen by many years and it wasn't until 1939 that their farm and homestead on Guess were sold off (click for homestead plat). As to why Nancy was buried on today's Watts st. it's still a mystery to me but I imagine her Warren kin or other family may have had some connections with the cemetery there. Her years as a prostitute might lend some credence to local lorethat the families of those buried in the Watts st. cemetery moved all of their relatives except one unloved aunt though I've yet to see any evidence that bodies were removed from the cemetery till now.

Part IV: Markham-Christian Cemetery

If you read the Endangered Durham post on the cemetery controversy then you know that the cemetery on Watts where Nancy was buried was mentioned on the tax record and on Allen Dew's excellent cemetery census site. After searching for a bit I still can't find much information on the cemetery itself and am hoping readers can help fill in some details about its age and original burials. I do know that neither the archeology firm or I have been able to find any plat or map showing the exact bounds of the cemetery. There is some anecdotal evidence that there used to be a fence around the graveyard though any trace of this was gone by at least the mid-1970s. The land on which the cemetery stands was owned by the Markham and Christian families going back into the 19th century (hence the cemetery name - it's unclear to me how many or if any Markhams and Christians were buried there) and the wider tract it is part of has a rather convoluted history. The simple story is that when John W. Markham died around the turn of the century some of his land was parceled off and planned as a northern extension of Brodie Duke's Trinity Park subdivision (I'll post the maps of this larger development some other time as this post is already image heavy and overly long). Building in this development moved slowly and some of the Markham heirs retained some of the land - as was the case with our cemetery tract.

1913 Sanborn fire insurance map - X marks my reckoning of the cemetery location

Even after the land north of Urban st. was subdivided in 1911 the large rectangular tract that had been part of the Markham farm now sandwiched between Guess (Buchanan) and Watts st. (note that Markham doesn't go through for several decades). It's also worth noting that the cemetery is almost directly on the border between the city of Durham and the city of West Durham though I'm not sure what this means practically.

1933 plat of building lots (first st. is now Buchanan)

1950 Sanborn fire insurance map showing a more familiar street plan

By the 1930s some of the land in this rectangle was lotted off for the building of houses (above) but not the tract with the cemetery. It remained in the Markham and then Neal/Beavers/Markham/Thompson families until April 2007 (my impression despite sales amongst each other in the 1950s,60s, and 80s is that all of these families are related). When the 'of grave concerns' archeology firm was hired to survey the cemetery they found it in the test trenches they dug to the far northwest of the site. In this portion of the site they found at least two burials mapped them and let them be. Below is a map of the site from the required disinterment filing - I've put together a google earth overlay of this map but I caution that it is no way usefully precise.

Nancy was buried just to the east of the test trench (disregard the names "Joyce" or "Lucy" and the death date of Dec. 1900) along with an unknown female who John of the archeology firm tells me was in at least her 50s with incredibly bad arthritis. When Nancy was reburied her tombstone went with her and is now buried under a brass plaque noting her re-internment (Markham memorial gardens forbids above ground markers - lawn mowing and all). Though I won't be in town for a bit I encourage you to visit her in Lot 292 Section D #3.

Discussions are surely pending on the fate of the graves still un-moved given events of the past few days and hopefully knowing a bit of Nancy's story will help bring to the issue something more than land rights, law, and neighborhood politics.

I would love to hear people's stories about the cemetery or any other information people have. Thanks for your patience in reading this and I anticipate updating it as I get more details.Thanks to Gary, John of 'of grave concerns,' D. Stoddard, and J. Borbely-Brown for their willingness to share what they knew.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I just want to say thanks to all those who've sent me email and made comments, I really appreciate the encouragement and it's great to see how many people have a real interest in Durham history. Unfortunately I don't have Gary's super-human blogging ability over at Endangered Durham so I'm aiming at putting up just one new post or related group of posts every week. I figured I'd continue by putting up the other survey maps for the subdivisions of Hester's property to the north and east of Hester Heights. I should say that both the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association website (link to the right) and the Watts-Hillandale historic inventory have great background on this area and do a much better job at conveying a feel for the neighborhoods involved than I can do here.

To the immediate east of Hester heights off Alabama/Clarkson/Adams ave. is the Englewood subdivision also laid out in 1912. Unlike Hester Heights, this tract of land was owned by J.S. Hill and his Durham Land and Trust Company which developed much of the Club area. This area seems to have developed much faster than Hester Heights and had a number of houses already built by the early 1920s (See historic inventory p. 8 for details).

1937 Sanborn Fire insurance map (click image for full size)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hester Heights Part III

[Continuation of posts below] While houses closer to Club on Englewood sprung up quite fast building continued to be slow in some areas of Hester Heights towards Hillandale. The Sanborn Fire Insurance map below shows the neighborhood in 1937 with a number of empty lots remaining.

1937 Sanborn Map (apologies for the distortion from manual stitching of 3 different maps)

Today's Hester Heights likewise lacks this westward section which has been whittled away by the growth of the Hillandale/Hillsborough interchange in the wake of various projects including NC-147. Perhaps like always the neighborhood still has a kind of a division between the northeastern section bordering Watts-Hillandale/the rest of Old West Durham and the section closer to Hillsborough Rd. in terms of owner-occupancy and the residential/commercial split. The modified cadastral map below includes my own clumsy color-coding of properties into red for commercial, black for non-owner occupied probably rental, and blank for owner occupied. One property on Hillsborough is owned by the Historic Preservation Society and for the heck of it I've colored that blue. The neighborhood as a whole is pretty evenly split with just over half of the non-commercial properties being owner-occupied (the Bob Schmitz management company owns a bit over 5% of Hester Heights properties).

In the future I'll post more about the surrounding neighborhoods of Englewood and Club Acres but I think Hester Heights is one of the most interesting parts of west Durham because of its historical border position between the posher parts of Watts-Hillandale to the North and East and the mill village portions of West Durham and Hickstown to the South and East. I don't think Hester Heights has any cohesive neighborhood identity today (that is if anyone knew that there was such a name for it) and I'd be curious to hear if there is a difference in the way people refer to their neighborhood identity from one part of the neighborhood to another. More than anything though I think this just might show that grouping properties by larger purchase tract often doesn't lead to any sort of neighborhood formation.