A Trip Through Historic Trustee Minutes
I have always been drawn to the past. I remember searching the school library in the third grade to find the books with the oldest publication dates to read. I came across the series Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (the first one was published in 1964).) Even though at the time that was only fourteen years earlier (you can do the math on my age) the books seemed ancient. I didn’t even know who Alfred Hitchcock was. My mother launched into a story about him that involved her having to shower with the curtain open for months. I read the books with fervor, but found no such scenes in them.
I had a question from a former library employee asking what years she had worked here long ago. There were no employment records for her, so I pulled out the historic trustee minutes. I have to admit, I love perusing them. As I searched for her name, I read about past problems the trustees were facing, and what I’ve learned from looking at over 130 years of records is that most issues seem to repeat themselves. But, some are unique to their times, so I am compelled to share:
December 9, 1899.
The Trustees met with Mrs. Wadleigh to discuss the offer made by Mr. Benjamin Smith of Beverly, Mass. Mr. Smith proposes to give a ten thousand dollar library building, provided the town buy lot of land indicated by him and grade the same. Note: Since 1882, the library had moved from place to place until it landed at its current home thanks to this offer.
June 21, 1902
Maj. Bedee has offered to give the town a Soldier’s Monument to cost about $ 2,000 and it is proposed to place it on the library lawn. Note: That monument is still there.
September 28, 1910
The old question of ‘what to do with the doves’ was discussed at length. After a year of experiments the nuisance remains as great or worse than ever. The front of the building is defaced by the birds and often the clock is stopped. Note: An earlier “dove solution” is by far my favorite entry.
December 27, 1909
Also, moved and carried that Mr. Clough see Mr. Cowing in regard to driving doves away from the building and tell him not to shoot them. Note: This is the only mention in the minutes of the janitor being pushed to his limit with the doves, standing on the
library lawn, and blasting away at them. I wonder if the building bears any scars from “The Great Dove Incident of 1909?” Whatever they came up with, it must have worked because I’ve been here since 2008 and I’ve never seen a dove in the clock tower. Bats, well that’s another story...
January 20, 1913
During the past year several books have been in families where there was scarlet
fever and the question was discussed of whether or not they should be received in library again. The secretary was instructed to write to State Board of Health and to some libraries for information. Note: I was curious how the library handled items during outbreaks and pandemics in the past and here is a follow-up to that sixteen years later.
December 31, 1929
Voted to burn books which had been exposed to scarlet fever germs. Note: We quarantine our items instead though my Mom told me she once had Scarlet Fever and her father burned everything she had touched: clothes, books and toys.
November 20, 1918.
The trustees met in the library on the evening of above date to discuss the placing of a soldiers memorial on the library lawn. Note: There once existed a WWI Memorial similar to the WWII one that now sits on the lawn. It has not been seen in many decades and if anyone remembers it, please let me know. I have a photo of it and a list of all the names on it.
When I first started working at the Meredith Public Library I asked two dedicated library volunteers, Anne Whiting and June Noreen to transcribe the historic trustee minutes which were hand-written in notebooks of often illegible script. They worked at typing them into Microsoft Word for what I think was years. I refer to these minutes frequently, especially during the renovation process to find out when certain things were done to the building.
June Noreen recently passed away, but every time I do a keyword search in the minutes I think of her asking me if all the work they were doing would be useful. It has been, June. Thank you for your many years of service. You will be missed.
~Erin M. Apostolos, Library Director