The Land We Call Durham

By: B.Palmer

Ever wonder why Durham’s energy just seems different than the rest of the triangle? Haven’t you felt it? It’s just a bit cooler, a bit realer, a bit more tolerant than its neighboring southern cities. It’s no coincidence. In fact,  it’s only natural. It’s always been a place for people to come together and be. Well, wonder no more…for the truth behind the source of the Bull City’s cool can be found in its origin story. What better day than this, Indigenous People’s Day, to learn a bit-a-history of the land we call Durham.

What we now call Durham was home to a crossroads in The Great Trading Path, or Occaneechi Path, or if you’re into misnomers…the Great Indian Trading Path; a vibrant route where along the way Native Americans established settlements, created commercial trading paths, and birthed culture on American soil.

One such village, on The Great Path, was inhabited by a multi-tribe collective made up of Eno, Shakori, and later Occaneechi people and became known as  Adshusheer. Escorted by Natives around 1700, an unnamed English colonial, representing the Carolina Colony (SC), was privileged to experience Adshusheer and its people, whom he referred to as “the Great nation of Adshusheer”. He spoke to the vitality of the area and the hardworking nature of its inhabitants in his personal writings. With great reverence for the already robust community, the now enlightened colonist referred to it as “the flower of the Carolinas”.

Unfortunate for the natives, with a new nickname and high praise, came a vested interest in the previously uncolonized area. Fortunate for us, it’s current inhabitants, the spirit and way of our geographical ancestors lives on.

With a merchant path laid by our Native predecessors, and a quelled “rebellion” that decimated their stronghold, settlement in the area increased exponentially alongside the relative success of the slave trade, the railroad, and the tobacco industry. Subsequently, a railway depot (Durham Station) was erected in 1843 on a plot of land now known as the Little Five Points Neighborhood Community (original downtown). Durham Culture was in its infancy then but already showing promise as a hub for those seeking a fresh start. See, not only was the land we call Durham a pioneer in southern multiculturalism, it was also home to O.G. Gentrification.

The Great Native American Trading Path gave way to the great American railroad, later Highway 85. What was once referred to as Adshusheer, became known as the Community of Durham Station, later the City of Durham. The City of Medicine sure has come a long way since being labeled “the flower of the Carolinas”. Thankfully, the seeds of tolerance planted by the adjoining tribes of Adshusheer germinated in the land that we call Durham.


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