Durham County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



Dr. Bartlett Snipes Durham


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1740s / Germans

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started


Battles & Skirmishes

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Airports in Durham County

Maps of Durham County

Books About Durham County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Durham County

Research Triangle Park

Durham County was formed in 1881 from Orange and Wake counties. It was named for the city of Durham which was named in honor of Dr. Bartlett Snipes Durham who donated the land on which the railroad station was located. The building of the railroad station was the beginning of the town of Durham. It is in the central section of the state and bounded by Wake, Chatham, Orange, Person, and Granville counties. The present land area is 290.32 square miles and the population in 2010 was 267,587. Durham, incorporated in 1866 as the town of Durham in Orange County, has been the county seat ever since inception.
In 1881, Durham officials sought to become an autonomous political subdivision and decided to separate from Orange County. Durham County was formed on April 17, 1881 from portions of land transferred into the county from Wake and Orange counties. In 1911, an additional portion of land was transferred into the county from Wake County.

The first Board of Commissioners convened its initial meeting May 2, 1881. Durham County operated under the Commission form of government, with the chairman serving as chief administrator until 1930. The Manager form of government was then adopted and D. W. Newsome became the first manager of Durham County serving until his death in 1949. E. S. Swindell, Jr. succeeded him on April 11, 1949 and served until his retirement in December, 1984.

As early as colonial days, the area known as Durham County was important to North Carolina history. English, Scots, and Irish settled along the waterways of the present northeast corner of the county on land ceded to the Earl of Granville by the British Crown. As a result of the hard work of those early settlers, the area soon became a progressive and prosperous section of the state.

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