|1730 Oroville Chico Hwy|
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
(c) 1994, by Adriana Farley and Marilyn Corley
The Durham Cemetery, located six miles southeast of Chico, Butte County, California, has had a long history of both tranquility and turmoil.
It was in 1844 that early pioneer Samuel Neal was awarded the Esquon Grant of 22,000 acres by then Mexican Governor, Micheltorena. Upon his death in 1859, Neal willed a large portion of his land to his friend, Robert Waddell Durham. The Durham Cemetery, currently encompassing 2.5 acres, rests within this original Mexican Land Grant.
Durham, an early farming community, was settled by Robert Waddell Durham in 1852. He came from Missouri on a freighter owned by himself as a partner in the Waddell branch of the Pony Express. Durham became a close friend of Samuel Neal and worked as Neal's business manager at the ranch. Having no children of his own, Durham sent for his nephews, George W. and William W. from Missouri, to assist him in farming the willed portion of Neal's estate.
Robert Waddell Durham died in 1871 and a portion of the ranch was set aside as a cemetery. The cemetery remained part of the Durham family ranch until the mid 1930s when it was sold to the Parrott Investment Company. Parrott Investment, in turn, deeded the cemetery portion of the ranch to the Chico Burial Society, later known as the Christian Service Society. The Society interred many of its members in the cemetery during the late 1940s and into the 1970s prior to the dissolution of this group. By 1978, the defunct Christian Service Society deeded the cemetery to a private family. Over the years, weeds, brush and huge bushes of poison oak were rampant throughout the gravesites, and it became impossible for families to place flowers or visit the final resting place of their loved ones. When building materials appeared on top of the gravesites, the community of Durham became outraged. Residents banded together in a joint effort to protect and defend this sacred and historic site. In 1994, after many years of conflict and legal proceedings, the Butte County Board of Supervisors initiated eminent domain proceedings and subsequently approved an agreement designating the newly formed "Durham Cemetery Preservation Association, Inc." as caretakers. The non-profit Association was given the responsibility for restoration, repair and maintenance of the cemetery.