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Monday, November 19, 2007

Speaking of history

This weekend's premiere of Durham: A Self-Portrait has gotten a lot of people talking about the history of this town. I learned a few things hadn't known before, about the "Secret Game," about Evans' department store, and even some stuff about former mayor Wib Gulley.

Gary's got some practically ancient Durham history (well, 1830s anyway) up on his blog today.
When Dilliard died in 1824, William Pratt bought his land and established a store on the Hillborough Road.

This store was accompanied by a "grog shop" and a "tavern." (I don't know the difference.) It also had a cotton gin and press, as well as a blacksmith's shop. The post office was soon transferred to Pratt's store.

The settlement quickly gained a reputation for intemperate activity. Jean Anderson details a court case brought against Pratt in 1833 for:

"keeping a disorderly house for his own lucre and gain at unlawful times as well on Sundays as on other days [for] evil disposed persons of evil name and fame and conversation to come together [to] upset the peace and dignity of the state [by] drinking, tipling, playing at cards and other unlawful games, cursing, screaming, quarreling, and otherwise misbehaving themselves."

It's worth noting that one of the Durham area's other dens-of-iniquity, Pinhook (in the area of the Erwin Mil/9th St. in West Durham) was originally owned by Pratt as well. While debauchery along a major transportation route neither began nor ended with Pratt, he, as any good businessman, knew his customers' taste. Barter was often the transaction method of choice - exchanging bushels of corn for liquor was not uncommon.

No wonder i felt so at home here from the first time i turned off the freeway at the Duke St. exit.



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