Robert Durham inherited a part of Samuel Neal's Rancho Esquon in 1859. William W. Durham, a nephew, inherited it from Robert
and built up the ranch, adding a mill and almond orchards.
The story of the Durham Ranch begins with Samuel Neal and David Dutton who first owned the Rancho Esquon. Robert W. Durham
came to California in 1852 and became associated with Sam Neal, helping him with his accounts and managing his huge grant.
When Sam Neal died, he left his 240 acre farm to Durham plus “all the land I own on the north side of Butte Creek…”
The land really became a ranch when Robert W. Durham’s nephew, William Wellington Durham, inherited his uncle’s land and purchased
even more land on which to raise horses and cattle. In 1874, William married Minnie Van Ness and in 1878, a son Robert, was
born to them. William represented Butte County in the legislature in 1879-80.
The Durham Milling Company was organized in 1895, with W. W. Durham as president. The first mill was a one-stone bur steam
mill which was later destroyed by fire. A new mill was built in 1900 with a steam roller process.
Around this same time, O. C. Pratt was planting the first almond trees in Durham, Butte County became one of the leading almond-producing
counties in the state. E. A. Epperson and Durham were responsible for the full-scale commercial growing of almonds in 1895.
When Minnie died, William married a school teacher Caroline Roesch. In 1906, William’s son, Robert married Edna Reynolds
and had three children—William W., Robert W. Jr., and Elizabeth Ruth. The marriage was an unhappy one due to Roberts’s unpredictable
fits of temper and irresponsibility toward his family and home. Robert finally left the ranch, his wife, and children and
went to live alone in a solitary cabin. Because he had neglected his bills, the Durham home was forfeited and the land sold
by the bank. In 1941, Robert died of cerebral hemorrhage.