Friday, July 13, 2007

20070711 The Davis Library part 2

20070711 The Davis Library part 2

“The continuing odyssey of the Library”

The Davis Library part 2 (See also: 20070627 Davis Library part 1)

Westminster Eagle

July 11, 2007 © by Kevin Dayhoff (669 words – as filed)

Throughout the history of Carroll County there has always been an emphasis on education, church, civic and fraternal organizations, theatrical and singing clubs, community bands, and seasonal celebrations.

Historically, folks in Carroll County are known for coming together to overcome adversity and make things happen for the greater public benefit. We are traditionally strong-willed self-reliant individuals who cherish private-public partnerships, with little emphasis on having the government do anything that the community could not do for ourselves.

Much of the public infrastructure that we have come to take for granted as a function of government has its roots in private individual endeavor or is the direct result of philanthropy.

So, it should come as no surprise that (to the best of our knowledge) the first library in Carroll County was a private initiative born at the height of the Civil War – in September 1863. Nancy Warner states in her book, “Carroll County Maryland – A History 1837-1976,” the “Westminster Library” was incorporated under the direction of seven uncompensated managers.

In the beginning “it was open to the public on Friday afternoons at the Odd Fellow’s Hall” – now known as Opera House Printing Company, at 140 East Main Street.

Ms. Warner cites a September 1863 article in the “American Sentinel:” “The first fifty books were presented by a lady of this place… Presently, (there are) nearly 300 volumes…”

The article goes on to say something which identifies the spirit of our county: the “Motto of the Board is ‘nil desperantum’ – they will continue their exertions until the institution is a success.”

A brief word about the Odd Fellow’s Hall. According to Chris Weeks’ book, “The Building of Westminster,” the hall is located on what “was the site of Jacob Mathias’ tanyard, shop, and residence” before he sold it for $375.00 in 1854.

According to Ms. Warner, the building was dedicated in 1858. At the time, it was “the largest building in town except the court house…”

The Odd Fellow’s Hall is a storied place that is involved with much of Carroll County’s history and tradition of moving the ball forward. Ms. Warner notes that over the years, it has “provided rooms for a printing press, schools, libraries, an oyster saloon, plays, club meetings, concerts, and lectures in the nineteenth century, plus movies and a (sewing) factory in the early twentieth century.”

It is also little known that the famed national leader and orator, Frederick Douglass once spoke at the Odd Fellow’s Hall. Ms. Warner notes an October 13, 1870 “American Sentinel” account of his address in which it would appear that he was well received.

It is only appropriate that the hall was a part of yet another civic improvement in our community – a library.

It is believed that the “Westminster Library” remained at the Odd Fellow’s Hall from its beginning during the Civil War until 1911. According to the minutes of the “Davis Library” organizational meeting on January 7, 1949, provided by my Babe Ruth league baseball coach, Neal Hoffman; the library “first occupied part of the Times building (61-65 East Main Street) in 1911, later moving to the Wantz Building, then back to its present location in the Times building in 1936.”

The minutes also reflect, the “existing library cannot be called a ‘free’ library in the true sense, since the books when new are put on a rental shelf for a limited time before they are made available on a free basis.”

The minutes begin by stating that the purpose of the January 1949 meeting was “in the interest of providing more adequate library services in Westminster, at the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Davis…”

“… (N)ine residents of the city met at the (Davis) home at , 112 East Main St… Those present were Walter H. Davis, John A. Bankert, Norman B. Boyle, Carroll L. Crawford, Ralph G. Hoffman, K. Ray Hollinger, Samuel M. Jenness, George K. Mather, and Gerald E. Richter.”

And here is where we will bookmark this story until the next chapter.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.


20070627 Davis Library part 1
20070711 The Davis Library part 2

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