Thomas Durham, a Quaker, was born on October 1, 1784, in Brunswick, Virginia, to "a large and influential family" of English origin. They
had settled in Virginia in the later part of the 17th or early part of the 18th century.
Durham and his family
arrived on this site May
11, 1835. Durham had
purchased 160 acres (one
quarter section) from
Gurdon S. Hubbard in what
was then called Bourbonnais Grove. Hubbard, previously an employee of the American Fur Company, had become a Chicago merchant and part time real estate agent dealing with eastern land speculators.
Durham's 160 acres were part of a section of land ceded to a métis named Jacques Vieau (known as Jonveau) by an 1832 treaty between the Potawatomi of the Prairie
and the Kankakee, and the United States Government.
The Danville to Chicago Road cut across the northeast corner of Durham's land. The 160 acres was divided by a north-south trail called the Bourbonnais Trace. At the spot
Durham chose to build his home stood "twin" oak trees. To the east of Durham's house lay open prairie; to the west was a scattering of hardwood timber.
Local tradition says the
resident Potawatomi helped
Durham build his first shelter,
a wigwam made of boughs. A
sturdy log cabin came next,
and by the late 1830s, a two
timber frame house.
A large barn stood nearby.
During the 1840s a horse
barn was built.
An 1850 agricultural census
reported Durham owned
320 acres (half of it being
improved land) nine horses,
four milk cows, two working oxen and 100 cattle. Wheat, Indian corn, oats and Irish potatoes were crops harvested that year. Durham also produced 200 pounds of maple sugar and 1000 pounds of bees wax and honey.
The Durham house served as a stop on the Danville to Chicago stagecoach route. From October 2, 1849, to February 11, 1853, the Bourbonnais Grove Post Office was located in Durham's home. Thomas held the title of postmaster.
Thomas Durham died March 13, 1854. He was buried in the corner of his orchard. Durham left his estate to his sons.
In 1866, the original Durham house was owned and renovated by one of Durham's sons-in-law, David Perry. Over the years several rooms were added. In the 1870s, David's son Alvah made part of the house into living quarters for a tenant farmer.