Odds & Ends

Harvesting Potatoes
Harvesting potatoes, September, 1917

Ye of Little Faith

Each year in April, the University celebrates the birthday of Benjamin Thompson, the Durham farmer who left his entire estate to New Hampshire for the founding of an agricultural college. All but forgotten are some of the editorial reactions to announcement of his will.

The Dover Democrat insisted the will was the "last epistle of St. Benjamin" and claimed it was "Thompson's intent to establish a turnip yard over in Durham, if the state will agree to fence it and keep it fenced." The Mirror and American of Manchester voiced a strong side of the question when it referred to the need for such a school as that of a "million dollar pesthouse."

A Barn is a Barn

The first college barn built in Durham was a magnificent structure, the largest and best of its kind in New Hampshire. Today it would be called state-of-the-art, but back in 1892 not everyone was impressed.

The local newspaper reported some of the criticisms offered by the local farmers.

What are they going to do with a barn fixed up as nice, outside and in, as our houses are? What is the use of painting and varnishing a cow tie-up? How are they going to keep such a big thing clean? What are they going to do with it anyway, there ain't grass enough grows around here to half fill it with hay?

The barn burned down in 1894, and a slightly less extravagant one was built to replace it.

Now That You Mention It

The question of advanced degrees at the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts first surfaced in 1895, when Charles A. Hubbard requested that he be granted the degree of Mechanical Engineer upon presentation of a suitable thesis. Judge Isaac W. Smith investigated the matter for the trustees.

The judge reported: "You probably have the same power to confer the degree of M.E. as of B.S. and that may be none at all. If you have the right to confer B.S., why not M.E., and other kindred degrees?" He suggested that, to settle the matter, the trustees should seek legislation giving them degree-granting authority.

Train Wreck

The only serious train accident in Durham occurred early on the morning of January 22, 1905. The St. John's Express, running more than an hour late and rushing south at about 50 miles per hour, struck a defective rail just about where Kingsbury Hall stands today. The last four cars—sleeper, smoker, and two coaches—were badly damaged, tearing up 300 feet of track in the process. Within a few minutes, students and faculty members arrived and began assisting the 85 passengers out of the cars.

There were no fatalities, but 11 seriously injured passengers were taken to nearby campus buildings. Doctors and nurses were rushed from Dover on a special train. A few days after the accident, the president of the railroad gave the student body $1,000 in appreciation of their help. The students voted to put the money into a fund to help purchase equipment for the new gymnasium (now New Hampshire Hall), which was under construction at the time.


In the early 1900s, the Durham-New Hampshire College fire department's response to fires was haphazard, to say the least. When the fire alarm sounded, anyone who was so inclined could run to the shed on campus behind Thompson Hall, where the hose was housed on a reel, and haul it by hand to the fire. At times, help from the college men was requested by neighboring towns, as was the case in the following story, reported in the 1905 New Hampshire College Monthly.

On the morning of Fast Day, a call for help came from Newmarket: a large forest fire was in progress in the Packer's Falls neighborhood near the Durham line and several farmhouses were in danger of being burned. About 25 students, together with professors Pettee, Rane, Elson, and Sanderson started at once for the scene of the fire. Directed by Pettee, the fellows fought the blaze for several back-breaking hours, digging furrows and building back-fires. By noon, the flames had died down and the farmhouses were saved. So was a nearby cider mill-which had apparently received a great deal of the students' efforts. When it was all over, the owner of the mill "set 'em up" at his place--ample reward for their good deeds.

The History of a Park, in a Nutshell

In 1911, the college received a gift of an eight-acre plot of land in Lee, NH, known as Davis Park, from Thomas J. Davis in memory of his parents. The gift had two purposes. The first was to provide the college with a forestry laboratory. In addition to the chestnut, pine, catalpa, and basswood already planted on the parcel, the forestry department undertook to plant conifers in a clear area.

The second purpose of the gift was for an annual nutting party, to be known as Davis Park Day, which would be held each October during the lifetime of the trees that Davis had planted. Since such trees usually live for one or two centuries, the memorial park was one of a lasting endurance, but not so the nutting party. Unfortunately, nutting parties had quite gone out of fashion by the time the bequest was accepted, so the college lost, before it ever gained, this pleasant custom.

The Way Home

The Durham Historic Association recently interviewed Thomas Moriarty, the "second oldest man in Durham." Moriarty's father died when he was a baby. To support the family, his mother got a job in the kitchen of The Commons (now Huddleston Hall), where she worked for 20 years.

He tells the story of making the two-mile trip into campus at age 4 to pick up his mother:

They hitched up the horse and put a lantern on the floor of the sleigh—this was in the winter—and put a blanket over me and then I drove into UNH to pick up my mother...

It was dark, and I remember going up there and going to The Commons and I went in and I saw her and I said I'm waiting for you outside... She got dressed and she came out, took the horse by the bridle and turned him around heading towards home, and got in the sleigh with me—it just had open sides—and she sat by me. I can remember just like it was yesterday, and she said 'Gitch gitch,' just like that and the horse started up and she put the blanket over our heads. Of course, this was a long time ago, over 85 years ago. We rode down over the Newmarket Road, the horse knew just where to go, up Bennett Road and when he stopped just in front of the barn, we knew we were home. Boy, I tell ya, a lot of cars might try that, but it don't work!

Growing Problem

In 1924 the eight inch pipe that lead from the college to the reservoir began to slowly clog up. By the time the college decided to flush the pipe to remove the obstruction, there was not enough head pressure at the reservoir to do the job, so one of the Dover fire engines was obtained to clear the clog by back pressure.

The plan was successful, and the obstruction was removed—in the form of about three bushels of lamprey eels that had apparently entered the pipe through the quarter inch mesh screen covering when very young and then grown up there.


Those alums who were on campus when the library was located in Hamilton Smith Hall may recall walls covered with huge murals depicting life, from farming to publishing, in New Hampshire. The murals were part of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program in 1935 and designed to provide relief for the nation's unemployed, through public work programs.

Three New Hampshire artists, Gladys Brannigan, Arthur Esner, and George Lloyd, were hired to paint a series of murals for the University Library under the direction of Omer T. Lassonde, State Supervisor of the New Hampshire WPA Art Project. When the library moved out of Hamilton Smith Hall and the building was converted to classroom and office space, most of the murals were removed or covered. Fortunately, one mural remains, and can be still be seen in Room 141.

Adding Insult to Injury

On the night of July 12, 1937, the Agricultural Engineering Building was destroyed by fire. While digging through the ruins to see what could be salvaged, George M. Foulkrod, assistant agricultural engineer, examined a group of 20 film canisters he had stored on his desk. One by one the brittle films fell apart. The final can was filled with water and although wet, the film was in good condition. Held up to the light, he could read the title: Farm Fire Loss.

After the same fire, Prof. Walter Ackerman, head of the Agricultural Engineering Department, needed to move a tractor that had been partially burned. He managed to do so despite the burned tires, but when he tried to get down, he found himself stuck tight.

Finally, with great effort, he managed to pull himself free; however, the seat of his pants remained glued to the tractor seat. Apparently, the heat from the fire had burned through the leather seat cover in places and the sponge rubber padding had melted to a sticky consistency resulting in a very effective adhesive.

Summer Abroad, of Sorts

This advertisement for summer work appeared in the April 1946 issue of The New Hampshire:

Men who are interested in working as cattle attendants in ships taking heifers over to EUROPEAN COUNTRIES. Men are needed desperately and the work is not hard. Seventy-five dollars a month, time in port, and knowledge of doing an important job should prove a very valuable summer job. Experience not necessary although preferred.

And Action!

For a few days in April, 1949, the campus resembled a Hollywood movie set when Louis deRochemont '44H chose to shoot his production of Lost Boundaries in Durham. The documentary movie was based on the story of Albert C. Johnston Jr., a UNH music major from Keene, NH, whose Black family had "passed" as white for many years. Local scenes and buildings (Murkland auditorium, New Hampshire Hall and Thompson Hall among others) were used to keep costs down. Only a few professional actors and technical personnel were used as another method to cut costs. In the scenes shot in Durham, practically everyone in the act was either a student, a member of the faculty, or a town resident.

Summer Football

During the summer months at UNH, the lack of residential students is compensated for with a wide variety of conferences, camps, reunions, music schools, and numerous other special programs. In 1962, the "Summer Journal" announced the return of pro football to Durham:

For the first time since the New York Titans trained here in 1960, there will be an intra-squad game by a professional football team in Cowell Stadium. This time the team is the Boston Patriots, who are pointing for the eastern division title in the American Football League this year. The Pats finished second in 1961. Those attending the two o'clock game Saturday will not only witness a rugged contest as the veterans and rookies battle each other to survive being cut by Coach Mike Holovak but will also help a worthy cause. Proceeds from the game go to the Portsmouth Rehabilitation Center.


In the fall of 1975, the Circulation Librarian received a package in the mail containing the UNH library's copy of "American Practical Navigator" by Nathaniel Bowditch. With it was a note from the borrower apologizing because it was overdue. He explained that he had tried to purchase a copy of the book before embarking on a trip from Halifax to the Azores in his sailboat. Unfortunately, the book was out-of-print, so he "took the liberty of retaining the library's copy."

The letter continued:

Bowditch may have saved our lives. On Tuesday, September 2 at 41° 48' N, 45° 20' W while beating south against rising winds and seas we were informed by a ship that Hurricane Doris was 200-300 miles south of us and coming right at us. We consulted Bowditch and followed his advice. We managed to avoid the hurricane, hardly getting wet, but not without some anxious moments and some hard sailing. We recommend Bowditch highly. Thank you for the loan.


In 1975, the University's cows, sheep, and pigs were removed to the college farm in Lee, in preparation for the demolition of their former home, a 57-year-old livestock barn near the Field House. The UNH Bicentennial Committee (appointed by President Eugene Mills to coordinate the campus efforts to celebrate the United States' Bicentennial) proposed that the barn be restored as a symbol of the University's agricultural heritage. Students organized their own Save Our Barn Committee in support of the cause.

In response, Mills formed the Barn Feasibility Study Committee, charging them with finding both a viable use for the barn and the funding needed for its restoration. Despite their best efforts, however, the committee was unable to come up with a satisfactory proposal in the amount of time they were given and the barn was torn down to make room for more parking spaces.

Fall Day

A keen observer on campus may notice when more students than usual take the paths between James and Morrill Halls. The purpose of their walk is to see the Ginkgo tree. One of the oldest tree species, the Ginkgo has existed for 150 million years and at one time was native to North America.

A distinguishing feature of this species is that all of its leaves fall within 24 hours. The Natural Resources honor society, Xi Sigma Pi, holds an annual raffle predicting when the leaves will fall.

The Office of Sustainability selected this Ginkgo (one of 12 on campus) for preservation given concern for its declining health. Stress factors include soil compaction, recent construction, salt application, and competition from turf grass.


Wild fires were a serious problem in southern New England following an extremely dry summer and fall in 1947. Fire watches were organized, and a large portion of the volunteer firefighters came from the university. Student volunteers rushed from Durham at all hours of the day and night to help combat fires in New Hampshire and Maine.

Since it was impossible to stop the main fire, emphasis was placed on smaller fires throughout the area. The prime objective of the firefighters was to protect the small farm buildings and save whatever livestock they could. Saving the woods was of secondary importance. Because all the streams were dry, water had to be brought into the area in tank trucks. On campus, crews of students were organized to rake leaves, cut dry grass, and haul away the debris, which was then dumped in the water underneath the Durham Bridge.

Signature Analysis

In the spring of 1955, Hurricane Carol ripped the weathervane from the Thompson Hall tower. While replacing it, workmen uncovered a small tin box containing yellowed slips of paper bearing the signatures of the men who built the building in 1892. The box was found at the very top of the tower and was apparently placed there as a ceremonial gesture when the tower was finished.

One of the slips bore the politically minded slogan, "Our president and vice-president: Cleveland and Stevenson," referring presumably to Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson, who took office in 1893. Another worker, taking a dig at the new college, signed his slip, "Professor of Pipes." The box and its contents were replaced in the tower with one addition -- the story that the University News Bureau published when the box was discovered.

100 and Counting

The University has been able to celebrate its Centennial year twice. The first time was in 1966 when it celebrated 100 years since its founding as the state land grant college. The second time was in 1993 when it celebrated the centennial of the relocation of the college from Hanover to Durham in 1893.

Our next opportunity for a centennial celebration will be in 2023, when we will reach the 100th year of our charter as the University of New Hampshire.

No Snowball

In December 1985, the University announced that it would open the doors to its new observatory on three consecutive Friday nights, to give the public an opportunity for a close-up view of Halley's Comet. The 20-foot-high, steel observatory (then located on the western edge of the campus in Boulder Field) was built for the physics department with a grant from the Elliott Fund and was intended primarily for education rather than research purposes. It houses a 14-inch Celestron telescope mounted on a concrete pillar at the center of the 16-foot diameter building. When not in use by UNH students, the observatory is available to local astronomy clubs and other groups of people.

At the time, the observatory program was run by grad student Kent Reinhard '89G, who now teaches physics, astronomy, and engineering at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE. He warned visitors to bundle up, since the building is unheated to keep telescope's mirrors and lenses from fogging. He also cautioned that visitors expecting a bright picture-perfect image might be disappointed by the dim "fuzzy snowball" they would see in the telescope's eyepiece. But, he said, the excitement of seeing the actual comet should outweigh any disappointment.

Unfortunately, as predictable as Halley's may be, New England weather is equally unpredictable, and weather made the comet invisible each of the three nights. Better luck next time? The next predicted perihelion of Halley's Comet is July 28, 2061, when it will appear on the same side of the sun as Earth and is expected to be more visible than in 1985-1986.

Parking Pleas

Don't Even Think of Parking There
For as long as the University has been issuing parking tickets, offenders have been trying to talk their way out of paying them. The parking enforcement office has established an appeals process for presenting evidence of enforcement errors or extreme extenuating circumstances. Appeals range from the perfectly sincere to the completely wacky. The best of these end up in the parking Appeals Hall of Fame.

Marc Laliberte '89, transportation operations manager, shares some of his favorites:

One young man noted that he was working at his part-time job in the art department posing as a nude model, and he couldn't very well run naked into the streets to pay the meter. (And, I suppose, had no pockets for change anyway.)

Then there's the guy who tells a vivid account of how he accidentally severed his toe and got a ticket while waiting for the "toe truck."

Another disputed the time of his ticket by submitting his wristwatch's certification with the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres and requested an independent objective timing test of the parking meter in question.

Another invoked the great American founding fathers and the unalienable right they proclaimed so long ago to park your horse at any hitching post you felt like.

One young lady, apparently assuming that any kind of information or detail might prevent her appeal from being granted, simply said, "I would like to appeal this ticket."

Finally, one mom who seemed unusually involved in her son's campus life, submitted an appeal on behalf of an honest-to-goodness French maid she had hired to keep his dorm room clean -- good old Mom.

All of these appeals were denied, but are kept on file in the prestigious Appeals Hall of Fame.