Sergeant Perley I. Fitts was born in 1898 and grew up on a New Hampshire farm. He traveled to Lebanon daily through his high school years by horse and graduated from Lebanon High School in 1916. He entered New Hampshire College (which later became UNH). A member of Theta Chi Fraternity and the Alpha Zeta Honor Society, he was also the Assistant Business Manager for the Granite Yearbook. He was active in the US Army Training Detachment at New Hampshire College.
Perley Fitts enlisted in the United States Army and served in World War I. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant during his service, and ended his active duty tour at the Officers’ Training School at Camp Lee, Virginia. Although his military career was brief, the lessons learned in military service remained with him throughout his lifetime.
After WWI ended, Sergeant Fitts returned to college and graduated in 1920 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. He taught as an Instructor in Poultry Husbandry at the University of New Hampshire from 1920-1923. During that period, he bought a 40-acre field in Durham, NH, and built a specially designed poultry plant, which housed a breeding flock between 3000-4000 birds. Perley Fitts was a “Poultry Pioneer” active in pullorum testing programs for accrediting disease-free flocks and also breeding the “New Hampshire Red” hen. He was present at the Durham RR station when the first rail shipment was made to the “Del/Mar” peninsula and the hatching and broiler industry began in New Hampshire. Mass production and care methods meant shipments over the years of thousands of hatching eggs and baby chicks to broiler growers on the Del/Mar peninsula and in Eastern PA. Perley Fitts was a real part of that pioneering change with his excellent small flock of disease-free hens, hatching and market eggs, baby chicks, and dressed poultry.
Perley Fitts ran the Fitts Poultry Farm from 1923 until 1949. During that period, he was also active in the community. He served as a member and Chairman of the Durham School Board (1930-1935) and in the same capacities later on the Durham Board of Selectmen (1935-1947). He continued to support the military as a civilian serving on the Strafford County War Board during WWII. In November of 1947, he was appointed by Governor Charles Dale to be the New Hampshire State Commissioner of Agriculture. He served in that position for 15 years under several governors until November 1962. In addition, he also served as the President of the National Association of Commissioners, Secretaries and Directors of Agriculture. He hosted their National Convention in New Castle at the Wentworth by the Sea in 1957. He was also a member of the American Legion.
Supporting the University of New Hampshire, Perley Fitts served as a Trustee from 1947-1962 and received an Honorary LLD from UNH in June 1963. Perley Fitts received the UNH Alumni Meritorious Service Award in 1954 for his many contributions to the University.
From 1962-1972, Perley Fitts was the founder, director, and president of the Durham Trust Company, Durham, NH. He died in March 1990 and is buried in Town Cemetery in Durham.
For meritorious service to the United States Army, the State of New Hampshire, and UNH; Sergeant Perley I. Fitts is inducted into the ROTC Hall of Fame.