Collection number: MC 189
Size: 1 box (0.33 cu.ft.)
About Albert Demeritt, 1851-1913
Albert Demeritt, born August 26, 1851 in Durham, NH, was the youngest son of Hon. Stephen Demeritt and Nancy Perkins Chesley. At the age of sixteen his father passed away, leaving Demeritt responsible for the successful operation of the family farm. According to The History of the Town of Durham, NH, the Demeritt farm was “one of the largest and most productive in Durham.” In addition, Demeritt and James W. Burnham owned and operated Demeritt and Burnham, manufacturers and dealers of wood and lumber in Durham. The timber business required frequent travel to remote regions throughout New Hampshire and Canada’s Maritime Provinces in search of viable wood lots. Much of Demeritt’s correspondence with Elizabeth describes his activities on these various business trips.
A prominent Democrat, Demeritt served the local community as Durham town moderator, selectman, and member of the Durham school board. On the State level Demeritt was a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1889 and 1912, a member of the State House of Representatives in 1911 and 1913, a member of the State Board of Agriculture, and served on the appropriation’s committee. The Union Leader reported that Demeritt also served on the special committee of the General Court that investigated Representative Clarence Snow on bribery charges. Upon his death, several newspaper obituaries suggested that, in 1912, Demeritt had been frequently mentioned as a Democratic candidate for Governor.
Locally, Demeritt showed a strong commitment to community education. He helped organize the Durham Lyceum, drafted the free textbook bill enacted in 1887, and spearheaded a movement to secure books from the Durham Social Library and the Durham Agricultural Library in order to form the nucleus for the Durham Public Library. He was a member of the Scammell Grange and the Knights of Pythius as well as a member of the local Congregationalist Church. Demeritt served as a trustee of the New Hampshire State College from 1892 to 1898. To meet the increasing demand for student housing in 1894 Demeritt built what later became know as Ballard Hall. Furthermore, in 1904, New Hampshire College awarded Demeritt an honorary Master of Science degree in recognition of his service to the College and the Durham community. During the 1911 legislative session, Demeritt introduced and secured the passage of a resolution funding the construction of an engineering building at the College. Although, Governor Robert Bass vetoed the initial resolution, the College commended Demeritt for his determination. In the next legislative session in 1913, the bill passed and was signed by the Governor.
According to The Union Leader, on the morning of August 22, 1913, Demeritt was accidently shot in the head while hunting woodchucks on the family farm. The 1941 edition of History of the University of New Hampshire noted that "as a memorial to [Demeritt], the new [engineering] building was given his name at the dedication ceremonies which were held Dec. 16, 1914."
About Elizabeth P. (Thompson) Demeritt, 1864-1932
Born in 1864, Elizabeth Thompson was the youngest child of Deacon John E. Thompson and Mary J. Pickering. Sometime between the age of 21 or 22 (no date is given) she agreed to marry Albert Demeritt. Two of Elizabeth Thompson’s elder sisters remained single, pursuing careers. The eldest Mary was a prominent leader in the YWCA and Charlotte became the Durham College and the town librarian. A third sister, Sarah Adla, married a local resident, Forrest Smith, who later established a profitable wholesale hay and grain business in Boston. Little is known of Thompson’s early years in Durham. In 1882, Demeritt wrote to ask her to chair a committee involved with the Library Fair. Several years later Demeritt began a concerted effort to make her acquaintance while she attended the Worcester State Normal School in Massachusetts. Over the next two years Demeritt corresponded with her almost daily, describing his activities and responding to her questions. Apparently, she hoped for a career in teaching but her first job in West Berlin, Massachusetts was a disappointment. The following year Thompson taught in Concord, and sometime in 1886 she married Demeritt. They had three children.
In 1914, following Albert Demeritt’s death, Thompson became the Matron of Ballard Hall and in 1919 the University of New Hampshire appointed her Dean of Women, a position she held until her death in 1932. During her tenure Thompson revived the College’s Big Sisters group, organized the Girls’ Student Advisor Council and was appointed a New Hampshire delegate to the Dept. of Superintendents in Washington, D.C. In 1924, the University awarded Thompson an honorary Master of Arts “because of her skill at nurturing young women.” Upon her death, the home economics practice house was named the Elizabeth P. Demeritt house in honor of her work at the University.
About the Albert and Elizabeth DeMerritt Papers
The Albert and Elizabeth Demeritt collection consists of correspondence, much of which in the early years pertains to Albert Demeritt’s desire to win Elizabeth Thompson affections (1884-1885). Most of Demeritt’s later letters recount his out-of-town business travels (1888-90, 1893-96, 1906-1909). There are also a number of letters to Elizabeth Thompson from her children (summers 1897, 1898, and 1906), friends, family and the Worcester Normal School. In addition there are several essays and poems; a 1905 letter regarding the disposition of Albert Demeritt’s affairs and funeral arrangements, newspaper articles, calling cards and sympathy notes regarding Mr. Demeritt’s death in 1913, a household inventory, miscellaneous memorabilia and bills; copies of the rules and regulations of the Bradford Library Association and the Bylaws for the Durham Tuesday Afternoon club, and a 1922 record book.
This collection is open.
Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.
[Identification of item], [Folder number], [Box number], Albert and Elizabeth DeMerritt Papers, 1882-1913, MC 189, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.
Donated: Frank Palmer, Durham, New Hampshire, Oct. 20, 2004 (Accession number: 2004.11)
Series 1: Demerritt Papers, 1882-1913
|Box 1, Folder 1||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, 1882-May, 1884|
|Box 1, Folder 2||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, June-Aug., 1884|
|Box 1, Folder 3||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, Sept. 2-13, 1884|
|Box 1, Folder 4||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, Sept. 17-29, 1884|
|Box 1, Folder 5||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, Oct. 1884|
|Box 1, Folder 6||Letters, 1884-1885
|Box 1, Folder 7||Letters, Albert Demeritt to Elizabeth Thompson, Apr.-Sept., 1885|
|Box 1, Folder 8||Letters, 1888-1889
|Box 1, Folder 9||Letters, 1890-1894
|Box 1, Folder 10||Letters, 1895-1896
|Box 1, Folder 11||Letters, 1897-1899
|Box 1, Folder 12||Letters, 1906-1909
|Box 1, Folder 13||Letters, 1884-1898
|Box 1, Folder 14||Essays, undated|
|Box 1, Folder 15|| Miscellaneous letters, bills, invitations, regrets,
|Box 1, Folder 16||Albert Demeritt’s Death, 1913|
|Box 1, Folder 17||Newspaper Clippings, 1913|
|Box 1, Folder 18||Calling Cards, undated|
|Box 1, Folder 19||Letters, Vin Morgan to Frank Palmer regarding the collection, undated|
|Box 1, Folder 20||Notebooks with household inventory, undated
|Box 1, Folder 21||1922 record book, 1922|