Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Story of Old Durham


On the newly macadamized road which runs from Durham westward past the Erwin Cotton Mill, at a spot two hundred yards or more below the point at which the county road passes under the railroad, is a place which has a certain weird interest for those people who like to know the legends of the past. It is known as the Redmond Place, and because of a fine spring of clear water it is frequently visited by some Durham people who have never heard of the dark traditions concerning it which have come down in the minds of old people in the community.

Seventy years and more ago [c1830] this place belonged to a family by the name of Peeler. They were people of poor social standing, and many dark stories were told to the discredit of its members, both male and female. They pretended to keep an inn and sold spirituous liquor, as was the custom in most inns of the day, and uproarious times were often witnessed in the small house which has long since fallen into decay. At that time the road ran close to the house, and traces of the old roadway are still to be seen.

Mr. H. A. Neal, who lives less than a half mile from the place, has collected the facts about the Peelers. He says: "When my grandmother moved into the neighborhood about fifty or more years ago, there were some old Rhodes women near the place who had known the Peelers. They told her that Ben. Peeler took in travelers and very often killed them. They said that more than one had been known to go there and had never been seen afterwards. Tradition asserts that he disposed of the bodies of his victims in an old well which people now living have pointed out. He had a pasture on a creek southwest of his house in which he always kept several horses. He often carried horses to Raleigh for sale, and the supposition was that he killed his guests in order to get their mounts.

There were two girls and the family was very wild. "The grandson of one of the old ladies (Mrs. Rhodes) says that she has heard his grandmother speak of the Peelers, but only remembers that there were two boys, and one of them was called 'Pet-Tich-Eye,' the other 'Red-Wine.'

"An old gentleman, Alvis Neal, says that Ben. Peeler had a wife, and the family left the Redmond Place when he was small. He had never heard of their killing people, but they had the reputation of being a very bad family.

"Another old gentleman, Turner Browning, says there were two families of Peelers. Ben. Peeler lived at the Redmond Place, and took in travelers, the other family lived about half a mile further down the road near a cross-roads. This place is now sometimes called Peeler's Cross-roads."

History is not concerned with proving whether or not Ben. Peeler really did kill travelers for their horses, or whether or not he or his family were really bad people; but it does like to know what fancies of the horrible or the fearful hung around the beautiful Redmond Spring of the present day in the minds of the people of this neighborhood seventy-five years ago. Perhaps some poet of the future, or some writer of romance, may be able to give us in a form true to the spirit of the day the story of the adventures of "Pet-Tich-Eye" and his uproarious brother who boasted the name of "Red-Wine."

Source: OLD DURHAM TRADITIONS. EDITED BY JOHN SPENCER BASSETT. Printed in An Annual publication of historical papers By Trinity College (Randolph County, N.C.). Dept. of History, Trinity College Historical Society, 1900. Digitized by Google Books.

An advertisement from Documenting the American South at UNC.  c 1881

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