Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
As I mentioned last week, I’ve been trying to piece together the story of the Eckhart Public Library’s predecessor, the Auburn Public Library. Some things are still uncertain, but I will share what I do know.
The necessary $307 for establishing a public library had been raised, but much more still needed to be done to make it a reality.
A Library Committee was organized for that purpose. In July of 1906, they met for the first time. Charles Eckhart was elected President; Dr. Lida Leasure, Vice President; and Grace Smith, Secretary. C. M. Brown, H. E. Coe, and Dr. Lida Leasure were appointed to be on the Committee on Bylaws. The committee was to decide a location for the library and acquire the needed equipment for the library.
From the many letters and lists of materials among our earliest library papers, it’s clear that books, paper materials, furniture, and other items were taken care of by the committee. Additionally, Mrs. J. A. Barnes was employed as head librarian.
The location chosen for the library, however, is still a bit fuzzy. As I said last week, we know from the 1908-09 Auburn City Directory that the library was located on E. 9th Street, on the block between Main and Cedar. We know from the 1914 DeKalb County History that it was in an upstairs room. And from the many, many handwritten rental bills which were saved from 1907-1909, that the building housing the library belonged to Mrs. Louisa Davis.
To figure out exactly which building it was will likely take an examination of the records at the DeKalb County Courthouse.
Aside from materials purchased, many books and other reading materials were donated by local groups—including several hundred volumes from the women’s Culture Club—so that there were about 700 books on the shelves at the library’s formal opening on March 7, 1907.
The opening was a crowded event—according to the March 12, 1907, issue of the Auburn Courier, “Standing room was at a premium and the entrance was crowded with those unable to gain admission.” Remarks were given by Dr. Lida Leasure, Superintendent H. S. Hippensteel, and assistant state librarian Lillian B. Arnold, among others.
According to the article, “It is the hope that the young people and reading public will take advantage of this reading room.”
UPDATE (12/9/2016): According to the December 13, 1906 issue of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, the Auburn Public Library was to be located over Sharp & Rector’s Drug Store. The Sharp & Rector “firm” was purchased shortly afterward by Harry C. McClung, who operated his shoe store at that location in 1907. Hopefully, we will be able to confirm these claims with additional sources in the future.