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Descendant of Hamilton Smith Visits Building Namesakes

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
November 18, 2009

The Rev. Congreve Hamilton Quinby reads a plaque beneath a portrait of his great grandfather, Hamilton Smith, which hangs inside Hamilton Smith Hall.

The Rev. Congreve Hamilton Quinby isn’t sure which story about his great grandfather’s demise is true—the one that has him drowning in Little Bay while trying to save his dog or the one where he ran his sailboat aground after having ‘one too many.’ Either story seems to suit him fine; throughout the years, family lore has presented Hamilton Smith as a colorful character who was very generous to UNH.

“There have been many, many benefactors over the years on both sides of the family,” Quinby says. “It’s a good history to have.”

Quinby was on campus yesterday to see that history up close. He and his wife, Connie, toured the buildings named for his great grandfather and his great grandmother, Alice Congreve Hamilton Smith. They had last been at UNH in the 1980s, when Quinby came to bury his mother’s ashes. But they hadn’t visited any of the buildings then.

The plaque honoring Hamilton Smith in Ham-Smith Hall.

The first stop was Hamilton Smith Hall, funded in part by its namesake who left the university $10,000 to help build a library. Quinby pause to read the bronze plaque below Smith’s portrait. It reads: “Hamilton Smith Hall, named in memory of Hamilton B. Smith, 1840 – 1900, a generous benefactor of his adopted alma mater who achieved international distinction as a mining engineer and business executive.” And at the bottom, of the hall itself, “used as the university library from 1907 to 1933.” 

Hamilton Smith graduated from the Durham Academy in 1854 and went to Cannelton, Indiana to work in his father’s company, the Cannelton Coal Mines, where his expertise in the field began. He married the widow Alice Congreve in 1886 and the couple moved back to Durham in 1889 after Smith retired. When he died, Alice gave the university $16,000 in his memory which helped fund Smith Hall, the university’s first dormitory.

Alice had a daughter, Edith Angela Congreve, who was also generous to UNH.  

Doug Bencks, UNH architect and director of Campus Planning, talks with Congreve Quinby on the steps of Hamilton Smith Hall before giving Quinby a tour of the building yesterday.

Before going to visit Congreve Hall and Smith Hall yesterday, Quinby stood across the street surveying the two buildings.

“That’s a good looking old fashion dorm building,” Quinby said of Smith Hall.  
Of his visit to UNH, Quinby said, “The older I get, the more interested I get in my genealogy.”

When the Hamilton Smiths retired in Durham, they bought the house on Main Street known as the Red Tower. The building later became student housing.

“My parents were married in Durham and had their reception in the Red Tower,” Quinby said. “There are pictures of them at the reception, with their dog in the front window.”


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