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Durham Ranch Records Edit


MSS 114
Finding Aid Author
Pamela Nett Kruger, Encoded by Leilani Silver
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


  • 1848-1916 (Creation)


  • 0.5 Linear Feet (Whole)
    2 Boxes

Agent Links



  • Abstract

    Robert Durham inherited a part of Samuel Neal's Rancho Esquon in 1859. William W. Durham, a nephew, inherited it from Robert and built up the ranch, adding a mill and almond orchards.

  • Access Restrictions

    Collection is open for research without restriction.

  • Usage Restrictions

    No restrictions.

  • Acquisition Information


  • Biographical / Historical

    The story of the Durham Ranch begins with Samuel Neal and David Dutton who first owned the Rancho Esquon. Robert W. Durham came to California in 1852 and became associated with Sam Neal, helping him with his accounts and managing his huge grant. When Sam Neal died, he left his 240 acre farm to Durham plus “all the land I own on the north side of Butte Creek…”

    The land really became a ranch when Robert W. Durham’s nephew, William Wellington Durham, inherited his uncle’s land and purchased even more land on which to raise horses and cattle. In 1874, William married Minnie Van Ness and in 1878, a son Robert, was born to them. William represented Butte County in the legislature in 1879-80.

    The Durham Milling Company was organized in 1895, with W. W. Durham as president. The first mill was a one-stone bur steam mill which was later destroyed by fire. A new mill was built in 1900 with a steam roller process.

    Around this same time, O. C. Pratt was planting the first almond trees in Durham, Butte County became one of the leading almond-producing counties in the state. E. A. Epperson and Durham were responsible for the full-scale commercial growing of almonds in 1895.

    When Minnie died, William married a school teacher Caroline Roesch. In 1906, William’s son, Robert married Edna Reynolds and had three children—William W., Robert W. Jr., and Elizabeth Ruth. The marriage was an unhappy one due to Roberts’s unpredictable fits of temper and irresponsibility toward his family and home. Robert finally left the ranch, his wife, and children and went to live alone in a solitary cabin. Because he had neglected his bills, the Durham home was forfeited and the land sold by the bank. In 1941, Robert died of cerebral hemorrhage.

  • Scope and Contents

    Documents in the collection include land transfers, Samuel Neal's will, Caroline Roesch 1873 teaching certificate and an account book for the ranch.

  • Arrangement

    Box 1: Wills, financials, lease agrements1848-1916

    Box 2: Robert W. Durham Probate Records

  • Preferred Citation

    Durham Ranch Records, MSS 114, Special Collections, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.

  • Material Cataloged Separately

    Photos from this collection cataloged separately in Historic Photographs: sc3409, sc17563, sc17564, sc17565, sc17566, sc17567, sc17568, sc17569, sc17570, sc17571, sc17572

    Map to be scanned

  • Related Collections

    MSS 230 Sierra Lumber Company

  • Publication Rights

    The library can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary property.