Durham, CT was one of the earliest towns incorporated in the state (1708). Its location is on land that originally belonged to the indigenous people known as the Wangunks, the “people at the bend in the river.” They mainly lived in what is now Middlesex County west of the Connecticut River. In 1698, Caleb Seward and his family became the first settlers in this area the Wangunks called “Coginchaug” which means “long swamp” or “great swamp.” Other English settlers soon arrived and by 1704 the farming village of “Coginchaug,” changed its name to “Durham” after its namesake in England.
The Durham area topography is quite interesting. It is a mixture of rivers, marshes, swamps, forests, mountains, and meadows. In fact, less than a third of the area was suitable for farming and development due to this geography. The Coginchaug River, a tributary to the Connecticut River, runs through the town. Flanking the west side is the rugged and panoramic Metacomet Ridge where one can the hike the 50 mile long Mattabesett Trail. This trap rock ridge stretches from the Long Island Sound to nearby Vermont. Trap rock is a dark, fine grained rock. When broken open the fine grained rock is a dark grey but when exposed to air, the iron ore in it oxidizes, changing it to a reddish color. Metacomet Ridge’s Trimountain, Fowler Mountain and Pistapaug (Paug) Mountain are within Durham’s borders. Paug Mountain offers hikers interesting views of unique ecosystems and rare plants. At times, one can also spot bald eagles, the national symbol of the United States, flying overhead. Durham’s high mountain peaks and bluffs are offset by areas like the Durham Meadows Wildlife Management Area which is a favorite for hunters and bird watchers alike. The swamp, with its wet meadows and marshes, provides great viewing for nature lovers; while pheasant, small game, waterfowl, deer and turkey can be permit hunted seasonally. The 200 acre Millers Pond State Park, located in both Durham and Haddam, also provides many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to fish, mountain bike, hike and hunt.
What sets the town of Durham apart from many other New England towns is its town center on Main Street. The Main Street Historic District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) offers visitors the unique opportunity to see over 200 years of Colonial, Federal, Victorian, Greek, and Colonial Revival architecture in its many variations from residences to commercial and government buildings. In fact 28 houses out of the 135 historic buildings pre-date 1775. The oldest one is a Wadsworth family home – the James Wadsworth House built in 1708. This early Durham founder carried considerable political power and influence throughout Connecticut. The Center Schoolhouse, now used by the Durham Historical Society, is another unique attraction. While the majority of New England school houses were built on one floor, this one has two. The lower floor was for students in lower grades; while the second floor was used for upper grade pupils. Besides the many interesting architectural offerings around Main Street, there are interesting historical notes too.
Historically, one of the first public libraries in the country was established here in 1733 – only one year after Benjamin Franklin founded the first one in Philadelphia, PA. It began as the Durham Book Company. Members would pay a yearly subscription to borrow books on travel, theology and agriculture. The original building no longer exists, although there is a newer library, built in 1902.
Durham was considered an important New England town. It stood at two cross roads – one going to New Haven and Hartford, CT; and the other to Middletown CT – a major shipping port on the Connecticut River. George Washington made two stops here during his New England travels. The first was with his troops in 1775 to gather provisions and visit with General James Wadsworth. Wadsworth was the second highest ranking militia officer in Connecticut and delegate to the Continental Congress in 1784. The second was in 1789 as President of the United States. His journey is now called The George Washington Trail and today cement markers highlight it.
When it comes to interesting historical personages, the town can lay claim to one of great importance – Moses Austin. Moses Austin was born in Durham. He went on to become known as the “Lead King” in the development of the US lead industry. However, his ambitions went beyond just his business dealings. He dreamed of establishing an Anglo-American settlement in Spanish Texas. Moses Austin died before he could fulfill his vision; but, his son, Stephen, made his dream a reality. Stephen Austin founded the Republic of Texas. There exists a Texas mythos that compares Moses Austin to his namesake, the Biblical Moses. “He led his chosen people (the Texians instead of the Israelites) across a red body of water (the Red River instead of the Red Sea) only to die before seeing the settlement of the Promised Land (Texas instead of Israel).”
Over its many years, the town of Durham has had many types of businesses and industries from shoe and witch hazel manufacturing to quarries. All of them have contributed to its growth and prosperity. However, Durham still remains very proud its agricultural roots. Every year during the fall, thousands of residents and visitors flock to the famous Durham Fair for fun, food, rides and games. Hosted by the Durham Fair Agricultural Association since 1916, this is the largest volunteer managed fair in the US.
Durham, CT, Heating and AC
Including: Oil & propane delivery. HVAC system sales, installations & service
Like the residents of Durham, the family and employees of the Daniels Energy are proud of our heritage too. Over 90 years ago, our family started a company delivering coal for heating homes and businesses with a belief in treating the customer like a family member, neighbor or friend. Since then, Daniels Energy Company has continued to build on this legacy and philosophy, while staying abreast of newer developments in energy efficiency in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) needs. Whether you require heating services like a new furnace or an oil to gas conversion system; or you’re in the market for cooling and ventilating systems for your home comfort or business -“Let Daniels do it.” And we do it all – from dependable oil delivery and propane delivery to sales, installation, service, and maintenance – our fully trained and certified staff stand ready to serve you. It all began in 1926 with satisfying our customers and now, as one of Connecticut’s oldest energy companies, it still continues.
Daniels Energy Serves Durham & the Shoreline
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Portland: 860-342-3778 • Essex: 860-767-1920
Daniels Energy: CT License S1-385517 HOD#19 / Daniels Propane. LLC: CT License S1-302857 HOD #846