In 1844, early California pioneer Samuel Neal was awarded the Esquon Grant of 22,194 acres by then Mexican Governor Micheltoreno. He established his headquarters of the “Rancho Esquon” on the south side of the present day Durham Dayton Highway, west of Butte Creek. It is believed that the name Esquon was taken from the nearby Esken Indian village.
Neal raised beef and horses—selling the meat, replacement mounts, and drayage animals to the gold miners of the Sierra Nevada. He employed a large number of vaqueros on his ranch and had large corrals where he kept his horses. The cattle, fed on the rich grass on the vast open plain in the Sacramento Valley, provided a good income.
Upon his death in 1859, Neal willed portions of his land to Robert W. Durham and Judge Charles Lott, co-executors of Neal’s will. When Robert died in 1871, the property he owned reverted to his nephew, William W. Durham. It is for Robert Durham and later his nephew William, who was a leader in the farming area, that the community of Durham is named.
Stanford Ranch Durham, Butte County, California by Adriana Farley
Through the years many scholars have written about the history of various portions of Northern California. This work describes the use of a large tract of land situated in the central - southwestern portion of Butte County in the great Sacramento Valley. This parcel of land was known alternately as the Rancho Esquon or Neal Grant, the Gridley Ranch, the Stanford Ranch-Durham, and finally the Durham Land Colony. The period of history covered is the ownership of this tract by Leland Stanford from its purchase in 1880, to the sale by the Leland Stanford Junior University Board of Regents to the State of California, in 1918.