The first year of college is always a little scary as well as exciting for students. C. A. Wilcomb, Class of 1871, described what it was like to be one of the first students during the first year of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts (now UNH) when it opened its doors in Hanover, NH, in 1868.
Like all pioneers, for that is what we were, we had a variety of experiences not found in the 'curriculum.' Putting ten country boys in more or less proximity to 300 regular college boys was not calculated to promote much enthusiasm among the 'bucolic' as we were called. Oh yes, we had another rather pungent appellation, 'dungists.' Now with these names there was absolutely no possibility of our being mistaken for any of the high-brow students, although we may have been equal in horse-sense.
In 1871, three students from the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts became its first alumni. By 1880, there were forty-nine alumni. A growing interest in starting an alumni association resulted in about thirty-five alumni meeting at the City Hotel in Keene, NH on March 23, 1880. At their first meeting, the alumni elected officers and appointed an executive committee. At the banquet that followed, thirteen toasts were offered, including toasts to former Dartmouth President Asa Smith and President of the Board George Nesmith, the buildings of the college, the "belles" of Hanover, the boarding houses of Hanover, and the alumni and their new association.
Edward M. Stone, Class of 1892, remembered the first graduation in Durham:
In May, 1892, Professor Pettee approached the members of the '92 class and informed them that the cornerstone of Thompson Hall was to be laid soon at Durham with appropriate ceremonies, and he would like to have our graduating exercises as part of the program.
We left Hanover in the morning of the selected date, arriving at Durham a little before noon, and went directly to the barn. There we were served our alumni dinner on the second floor. At 1 o'clock, we gathered at the site of the cornerstone at the front left-hand corner of Thompson Hall.
Soon after we gathered, a sudden heavy shower was pelting us, so we made a hasty retreat back to the barn, it being the nearest and only building on the campus. After taking a good look at the class and the layout of the lower floor, Prof. Pettee decided to back us into the corner of the calf pen and present us with our diplomas as part of the exercises.
When the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts moved from Hanover to Durham in 1893, the students were eager to explore the advantages of the Seacoast, one of which was boating. In the first issue of the student magazine, they wrote, "While we were in Hanover it is safe to say not one in a dozen fellows enjoyed a boat ride, but as we near the salt water, we shall have much better opportunities, and we must take hold and make a success of this branch of athletics; at least we will have boating that will be boating."
By the last issue of the school year, they had discovered that boating on the bay wasn't always smooth sailing.
The chief difficulty in taking a sail down the bay is the lack of decent boats. Another difficulty is the scarcity of water at low tide... We have abundant example of sails that were not ideal, and one has recently been well illustrated by the experience of three of our best sailors, an experience which combined sailing, rowing, and swimming, and we may also say, diving. If we remember that 'variety is the spice of life,' we shall see that the ordinary trip 'down the bay' is a well-seasoned experience.
In the late 1800s, students at the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, by then relocated to Durham, were thrilled with the "exhilarating" sport of cycling. "Those who have ever tried the sport and have been able to keep it up for a short time, can't help catching the fever and will not be contented until they own a machine of their own," wrote one student. "But to own a good wheel is only one part of the sport; the great pleasure is in living in a part of the country where the roads are kept in such a condition that the cyclist can ride miles and miles without having to get off and trudge through sand, mud or walk up and down steep hills.
We are all proud of our Granite hills, but there is no reason why we should not have good roads, not without hills for that would be more than anyone could expect, but for roads that will be so much better than we now have that it will be a pleasure to ride over them. Durham is situated in a part of the state where the roads have received more attention than in most of the other sections. The country is somewhat uneven but there are few grades that deserve the name of hills, so that many miles can be made without getting down and walking.
Guilty as Charged
On April 19, 1895, the student organization known as the Culver Literary Society held a mock trial. The accused was charged with tampering with the ballot box at the election of the club's officers. The proceedings were conducted as gravely as circumstances would permit. The defendant was eventually found guilty and was sentenced to sing in the College Choir for one week.