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Geography
Much of Durham’s early history was shaped by its geography. Located about twenty-four miles northwest of the village of Catskill and about thirty miles southwest of Albany, the state capitol, the Town is irregular in shape. Its 49 square miles, or 31,000 acres slope to the northeast out of the Catskill mountains to the Catskill Creek basin. There are numerous streams running down into the Catskill Creek in an area once heavily forested with hemlock trees. Hemlock bark was the basic raw material needed by the leather tanning industry which emerged in the area in the early 1800’s and in neighboring communities with names like Tannersville and Gloversville. Leather tanning required only the bark of the hemlock tree, and much surplus wood became available as a by-product. Mills for working wood, grain and iron were located along the stream banks prior to the 20th century and were responsible for much of the Town’s prosperity, especially in the hamlet of Oak Hill.