The town of Durham was established as a station along the St. Paul Branch railroad. But the post office was established in 1873 before the railroad and closed in 1967. No question the town prospered with the railroad but the community existed before and after the railroad.
According to Ms. Bull, the earliest recorded settlers in the area were Richard and John Robbins. They purchased U.S. land grants in the 1830s and were recorded in the 1830 Census. Other members of the Robbins family bought land in and around what is now the town of Durham. Many of the Robbins’ family moved to Texas around 1849. By the 1880s most of the property in Durham was owned by John S. White with a portion owned by W.A. McKenzie. Mrs. Brotherton also lists a Clark family as one of the early settlers, and a Mary Clark married William McKenzie.
In the Polk directory for 1892-93 the population was shown as 60. Businesses included a steam grist and saw mill owned by J.S. Moore, two general stores owned by J.J. Vanhoose, and Williams and Bassett, a blacksmith shop, a drug store owned by Dr. G.W. Carter (of the Carter family at Carter’s Store community just over 3 miles to the southwest of Durham), J.S. Thompson physician and a railroad station. The 1900 Business Directory shows the population at Durham remaining at 60. Dr.G.W. Carter still had a drug store, but no mill was listed. VanHoose and Son had a general store as did W.S. Bassett, M.A. White had a hotel and T. Goble was blacksmith.
The railroad was operated between Fayetteville and St. Paul from 1887 and, in 1897, was extended to Pettigrew in Madison County. The primary purpose for the railroad was to haul out crossties cut from the white oak forests of the area. One of the places where these crossties were cut and stored for shipment was at Durham. Cattle were shipped and passenger service was also provided by the train. The last train ran on this line in 1937.
Washington County Postoffices and Postmasters 1829-1976, by Deane Carter, published 1976 by Washington County Historical Society.
“R.L. Polk’s Arkansas Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1892-1893: Washington County Towns,” Flashback, Fall 2007.
“A Business Directory of 1900,” Flashback, February 1952.
The History of Durham, Arkansas (Southeast Washington County), by Jane Harris Bull, 2004.
Railroads of Northwest Arkansas, by Robert G. Winn.
The Boston Mountains Lost in the Ozarks, by Velda Brotherton.