THE tract of land comprising Durham was formerly supposed to be included in the limits
of the neighboring towns, until they were surveyed, when a tract was found to be left. This was considered small
for a distinct plantation or town, and does not appear to have been contemplated with that view for a long period.
The Legislature however granted many lots or farms in it to persons who had performed important services to the
colony. In this way more than 5,000 acres became the property of individuals widely dispersed in the state, before
any settlement was made.
"In 1698, however, David Seward, from Guilford, moved into the town, and some of his neighbors contemplated
following him. The next spring, therefore, a petition was presented to the Legislature, signed by thirty one inhabitants
of that town, that there might be a plantation at Coginchaug, the Indian name of Durham. This was urged on the
ground that Coginchaug was so far from other settlements that the people could not go to them for public worship.
The petition was granted, and -soon after a site was selected for a meeting house, on a hill in the southern part
of the town, which from that circumstance is called Meeting-house hill to this day. But very few of the petitioners
left Guilford, and no plantation was immediately formed."
In May, 1704, the proprietors of farms at Coginchaug petitioned the Assembly for some act, which would encourage
a settlement at that place. The Assembly proposed that the proprietors should give up one fourth part of their
farms, and that the part thus given up, with the common lands, should be laid out into lots, for such persons as
should offer themselves as inhabitants. Their proposal was accepted, and settlers came in from various places,
who, in May, 1708, were invested with town privileges. The number of adult male inhabitants, at that time, was
thiry four, most of whom were heads of families. As early as 1723, John and Nathaniel Sutliff, and probably some
others from Durham, settled on Haddam quarter. These had the consent of the people of Haddam, that they niight
attend public worship in Durham, and in 1773 the quarter was annexed to Durham.
"There is no evidence that the Indians ever dwelt in Durham in any considerable numbers, or for long periods;
but they resorted to it occasionally for the purposes of hunting. They were, however, regarded as the rightful
owners of the soil, and their title was purchased by Samuel Wyllys and others, on the 24th of January, 1672, at
the same time that a purchase was made of the lands in Middletown."
Durham is bounded N. by Middletown, w. by Wallingford, E. by Haddam, and s. by Guilford, Madison and Killingworth.
It is about six miles in length from east to west, and nearly four in width. The central part of the town is 20
miles south from Hartford, and 18 northeast from New Haven. The prevailing surface of the town is a diversity-
of moderate hills and gentle declivities and dales. The eastern and western parts are somewhat broken and mountainous.
The soil is generally fertile and productive, and the inhabitants are mostly employed in the cultivation of the
The above is a view in the central part of Durham. The church seen on the left is the new Congregational church,
erected in 1835. The
church seen standing in the street is the old Congregational church. The above drawing was taken September, 1835,
a few days before the old church was taken down. These churches are a fair specimen of the ancient and modern method
of building houses of worship. A new Methodist church is now erecting (1836) on the east side of the street, about
opposite the old church seen in the engraving.
The principal settlement is on the road running north and south, on ground moderately elevated, bounded on the
east by a considerable range of hills, on the west with a large tract of low land, and then a tract of higher land,
extending to the Wallingford mountains. The tract of low land lying westward of the village was called Coginchaug,
or the long swamp, and from this the name was applied to the township. This is generally cleared, and yields a
large quantity of coarse grass. "This town has been distinguished many years for a very line breed of cattle.
Two oxen, presented by some of the inhabitants to General Washington, furnished a dinner for all the officers of
the American army at Valley Forge, and all their servants. These oxen were driven almost five hundred miles, through
a country nearly exhausted of its forage, yet one of them, a steer five years old, weighed two thousand two hundred
and seventy pounds."
The following inscriptions are from monuments in the yard north of the Congregational church.
In memory of Capt. Israel Camp, a man of unaffected piety; benevolent in his temper, and kind and just in his behavior;
in private and public offices, useful through life; a great lover and promoter of Divine Psalmody. The praises
of God and the Lamb sweetly employed his breath, nil, through painful sickness, his voice expired in death, the
6th day of May, 1778, in the 55th year of his age.
Sacred to the niemory of Mr. Elias Camp, who died March 26th, 1796, in the 78th year ofhisage. He was a tender
husband, and obliging neighbor, and a good citizen; and tho' denied the enjoyment of parental felicity, was blessed
with so much of this world, not only to perloim many deeds of charity, but to make a present of an excellent bell
to the town of Durham, which has greatly promoted its convenience and regularity, and ought to be recognized with
gratitude on every sound thereof.