Exploring Durham

Preserving history at Patterson’s Mill
Apr. 05, 2014 @ 09:52 AM

It is easy to be transported to the past while visiting Patterson’s Mill Country Store in Durham. Memorable experiences await visitors who explore the store’s collection of artifacts, as well as the pastoral setting upon which it stands.

More than a retail establishment, the store’s layout of rambling rooms invites visitors to meander through an extensive collection of artifacts of the ways a country store used to serve its community.  This includes pharmaceutical and apothecary items, as well as signs, medical equipment and other memorabilia, displayed at no charge for all to see.  

The existing structure was built in 1972 by John and Elsie Booker out of lumber reclaimed from structures in and around Durham.  Celebrating 41 years in business this year, the store opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1973. Opened originally as Patterson & Company Store in the 1870s by R.S. Leigh, the original store building near New Hope Creek was destroyed by a flood near the turn of the last century.

While the adjacent fields once abundant with crops are now home sites, imagining the place as it used to be when it was the 1,000-acre Leigh Plantation is easy while standing on the porch and looking out on the rolling front lawn.

Now bisected by I-40, the Leigh Plantation is significant because it was the site of the last fighting of the Civil War in North Carolina. In fact, troops were still fighting there while just eight miles away at Bennett Place, generals Joseph E. Johnston William T. Sherman negotiated the largest troop surrender, and therefore the effective end, of the war in April 1865.

The plantation was also the site of the last use of artillery during the war.  According to the logs of the generals, a silence fell over the fields as riders for both Johnson and Sherman arrived to tell of the surrender. Just a moment of reflection while looking over the landscape can bring this scene to life.

Today the store is open Tuesday through Saturday, and in addition to candies, regionally produced foods, some local produce and plants, the store sells antiques, crafts and collectibles.  The permanent collection is not for sale. The store also occasionally hosts live music and festivals which are announced on their Facebook page and in local news media.

Did You Know? Patterson’s Mill Country Store is in Durham County, but it has a Chapel Hill address.

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) is Durham’s official marketing agency. For more information about things to see and do in Durham, visit www.Durham-NC.com and www.DurhamEventCalendar.com, or stop by the Visitors Information Center at 101. E. Morgan St. in Downtown Durham and pick up the Official Durham Visitor & Relocation Guide.