In 1838, a group of Methodists and Quakers founded Brown's Schoolhouse in present day Trinity. It was a private subscription school. In 1841, North Carolina issued a charter and the school was renamed the Union Institute Academy. In 1851, it became Normal College and in 1859, Trinity College.
In 1892, tobacco and electrical industrialists Julian S. Carr and Washington Duke were wealthy and respected men. Mr. Carr donated land and Mr. Duke donated financial backing for moving the school to Durham. The private research school was renamed one more time in 1924 to Duke University.