The Old Indian Trading Path is at the heart of Durham’s heritage. Dating as far back as the 1600s, it was a network of trails connecting Native American villages between Fort Henry in southeastern Virginia (now Petersburg) to what is now Augusta, Georgia on the Savannah River. The Trading Path never went through where the city of Durham lies today. Instead, it passed just to the north and headed west towards Hillsbourgh, following what are now St. Mary’s, Mason, and Snow Hill Roads. Not much of the trail remains, and the ruins that have managed to last through the years are, for the most part, not publicly documented.
Today’s local landmarks include St. Mary’s Chapel, The Arrowhead Inn, and Stagville Plantation, all of which were built along the Trading Path. The Trading Path is important to the area’s history because it established the Piedmont Urban Crest, a region in the heart of North Carolina where early European settlers started colonization due to the ease of transportation that the trail provided.
St. Mary’s Chapel was initially built as a log structure in 1759. The original foundation can still be seen in the northeast corner of the cemetery. The oldest grave marker dates back to 1780. After the Revolutionary War, the chapel was unused for many years. In 1819, St. Mary’s Chapel was again recognized as a congregation by the Protestant Episcopal Church. On November 25th, 1859, about 100 years after the original church was built, a new brick chapel 75 yards to the northeast was consecrated and this new chapel was used until the 1930s with a brief break during the Civil War. Now the church and its property are maintained by the local community.