Washington Duke

Founder of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Tobacco Company, Washington Duke (1820-1905) was among 10 children born to Taylor and Dicey Jones Duke who farmed near the Little River.

Washington Duke went to live with and learn farming from his older brother, William James "Uncle Billie" Duke, a Methodist evangelist, and from him absorbed a strong religious faith and devotion to the church. He was one of the early trustees of Orange Grove Methodist Church, which became the present-day Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Durham.

Duke married Carolina Clinton, and his first father-in-law, Jesse Clinton, gave him land as a wedding present. Carolina had two sons, Sidney and Brodie, before she died in 1847. In 1852, Duke married Artelia Roney of Alamance County and built the present Duke Homestead farmhouse for her and their family. Artelia bore three children, Mary, Benjamin and James Buchanan, before dying from scarlet fever along with Sidney.

After service in the Confederate Navy and time in a prisoner-of-war camp, Duke returned home and peddled a stock of un-stolen tobacco for enough money to plant the next year's crop. Realizing that manufacturing smoking tobacco was more profitable than growing it, he formed a family enterprise on the farm and moved it into the village of Durham, with its railroad, in 1874. W. Duke, Sons & Co., guided by James Buchanan Duke, grew into the American Tobacco Co. and controlled 90 percent of the U.S. cigarette market by 1900.

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