The Scammell Grange

History on Main Street

The Scammell Grange on Main Street has gone through some extra big changes this spring, which prompts us to reflect on its history.

Compiled by Carrie Sherman, UNH Editorial and Creative Services.

Slideshow: Bridget Finnegan, UNH New and Emerging Media.

Photos: Grange c. 2012 by Bridget Finnegan; Grange c. 1918 courtesy of the UNH Archives; reaper from Images of America: Durham, A Century in Photographs; Murkland, Thompson Hall and Pettee images all courtesy of UNH Photographic Services; Ballet image courtesy of Shawn Finnegan '71; Main Street, Durham image by Lisa Nugent, UNH Photographic Services; Growing Places photo courtesy of Cellissa Hoyt.

Special thanks to Richard Lord from the Durham Historical Association and Mylinda Woodward from the University of New Hampshire Archives.

Selected Bibliography

Grange 2012

The Scammell Grange, spring 2012

This spring the Scammell Grange Hall, now privately owned, shifted off its old foundations and took a step forward to meet Main Street. It will now house commercial establishments and apartments, all while meeting the town's building covenants for the historic district.

This is not the first time, this building has reinvented itself. Built in 1860, it originally served as a one-story schoolhouse. In 1893, it was purchased by the Scammell Grange #122 for a meeting place.

Exterior view of the Scammell Grange

The Scammell Grange, c. 1918

In its early years, if a census of the Scammell Grange membership had been taken, it would have included almost the whole town of Durham. Anyone engaged in agricultural pursuits could join the Grange and application for both men and women could be made at the age of fourteen.

The Grange, established in 1867, was one of the first organizations in the country to give men and women an equal vote. Even today, anyone who has strolled through a Grange exhibition hall at an agricultural fair and admired the canned goods and quilts understands why. New Hampshire's first Grange was organized in 1873.  


Working this land was hard. Stonewalls are still mute testimony to that. Many farmers went west.

Around the turn of the century, the development of steam and later gasoline-powered farming equipment promised to change the face of farming. Members of the Scammell Grange were determined to improve agricultural practices.

Still change was difficult. One Grange discussion here in Durham, led by Lucien Thompson in 1899, posed the question: "Is it likely that the horse will be replaced by steam, electricity, or other motive power?"

1895 Thompson Hall.

Thompson Hall c. 1895

The New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, a land-grant institution, moved to Durham from Hanover in 1893 thanks to a bequest from Benjamin Thompson, a Durham farmer. But the class of 1892 couldn't wait. They petitioned to have their Commencement in Durham and their ceremonies were held in a partially completed barn.


President Charles S. Murkland

The N.H. Grange endorsed a candidate for the presidency of the college in Durham, Nahum Bachelder, a master of the N.H. Grange and chair of the state board of agriculture. However, the College's board of trustees appointed Charles S. Murkland to be president. Murkland was a minister, not a farmer, and he was just 37 years old. In his 1893 inaugural address, Murkland stated that the College should begin to offer a liberal arts curriculum in addition to its "technical" courses. And he added, "If the occasion should arise we are not debarred from introducing ancient languages."

Pettee and Main Street

Reconstruction of Main Street, c. 1895, Dean Charles H. Pettee in foreground

This address set off a furor that finally landed in the legislature. After much negotiation a compromise was reached, and Murkland had set a new direction for the College while still honoring the land-grant mission.

It's nice to note that the Scammell Grange delegates led the defense of the College to the N.H. Grange.

Resolution of this conflict was also the work of Dean Charles Holmes Pettee. A consummate diplomat, Pettee was known throughout the state since he travelled everywhere by horse and buggy to recruit students. He literally helped pave the way for the College in Durham.

Ballet Class

Ballet classes held in Scammell Grange hall, 1950s

The Scammell Grange hall was always available for community activities. In 1982, the Scammell Grange was disbanded, and the building was bought by the Town of Durham and renamed the Henry A. Davis Memorial Building.

However, the Grange is still an active organization nationally and in the state. The nearest active Grange in relation to Durham is in Dover.

Growing Places early 2000s

Growing Places, a day care center

Through the 1980s and 1990s, the building housed a daycare center and the Durham Art Association.

Organic Garden

Durham's Main Street c. 2012

Learning the stories embedded along this Main Street can be deeply rewarding. There are many books available and the Durham Historic Association's museum is a great place to visit (see Selected Resources).

And, as always, downtown Durham is a fun place to meet friends and neighbors.