First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter 

First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter established his family, and a hotel, in what would become the centre of the town of Durham.

Early in May 1842, only a few years after Charles Rankin had surveyed the Garafraxa Road, a newcomer arrived in the forests of what would become Grey County. He immediately set about to clear the trees from his plot of land. Little did he know that his axe blows to the trees he was felling were signaling the beginning of a new community! 

This first pioneer settler was Archibald Hunter and the land that he was clearing on the east side of the Garafraxa Road immediately north of the Durham Road would one day be right in the heart of the town of Durham. 

As more prospective settlers travelled the Garafraxa, Hunter opened the doors of his log cabin to provide a night's shelter to weary travellers. Soon others took up land around Hunter's clearing in the bush. Among them was John Davidson who married Elizabeth Hunter and their son, Archibald, born on June 6, 1845, was the first non-native child born in Durham. 

In 1847 the Durham Post Office was established. However, it was known as the Bentinck Post Office. It is supposed that the first post office was located in a small cabin on the east side of the Garafraxa at the south end of the town. 

The credit for naming the new community is given to George Jackson who arrived from the Meaford area. Jackson named Durham after the place of his birth in England. Jackson would go on to a distinguished career as the first reeve of Bentinck and later as a Member of Parliament. 

The new settlement of Durham was not long in establishing a reputation as a mill town. In the late 1840s the Patterson saw mill began operations and the company later added a flour and oatmeal mill. Still later the town boasted a woollen mill for custom carding and fulling. 

In 1854 the Inkerman Foundry was established by Adam and Alexander Cochrane. This was a full-service operation including the manufacture of threshing machines, sawing machines and other agricultural implements. As well, the Inkerman Foundry built sleighs, wagons and carriages. There was also a tinsmith shop. 

One of the signs that a pioneering community was prospering was the establishment of a local newspaper. In 1857, S.L.M. Luke established the Durham Standard which became the Durham Chronicle in 1866. Fortunately, several editions of the Durham Standard have survived and are held in the Grey County Archives and more than a century of editions of the Durham Chronicle are held in the archives as well. 

All of these factors led to rapid growth in the community and the community was rewarded in 1872 with incorporation as a town. Only thirty years after Archibald Hunter arrived in the area the population had grown from a handful of individuals to a thriving population in excess of 2,000 citizens. 

The information used in this article came from files held in the Grey County Archives.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on April 6, 2001.

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