HISTORY OF THE LIBRARY
The history of our small town library is long and very interesting. While doing this research I found out much information that I didn’t know and was so surprised to learn. My original thought was to take the information that I learned and to write a short account of the information, but on reading the many articles that I found the elegant way that they were written I could not bring myself to not present many of the articles in full, as they were originally printed. I hope that you will enjoy reading them as much as I have.
FROM A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, NOT DATED:
LEXINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
The project of a Public Reading Room for Lexington took tangible from in November 1895. An executive committee was elected and a canvass for funds inaugurated. These people served on this committee: A. J. Scrogin, President: Jesse L. Smith, Secretary; L. P. Scrogin, W. H. Claggett, Charles Richardson, Buell Stevens, Harmon Hefner, R. S. Grier, W. R. Mahan. The first Reading Room was upstairs in the Smith building on Main Street. Later it was moved to the building on the corner of South and Cedar Streets. The first installation of books for general circulation was an important event of 1898. Ernest Scrogin and Bert Franklin were instrumental in securing funds for the support of the Library.
FROM A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, DATED APRIL 17, 1902
PUBLIC LIBRARY BUILDING.
Shall Lexington Have One Worthy of the Town?
Its Great Advantages to Both Residents of the City and of the County.
Shall Lexington fall into line with other towns and put up a public building that will supply a long-felt need in several directions? There is no town in this part of the state that surpasses, in natural beauty, our own fair little city. Nature has done much for Lexington, surrounded as it is on all sides by the most delightful drives, over country roads that almost equal city boulevards. Of course these hard, smooth roads were not the work of nature alone, but are the result of the energy and enterprise of our people. The fine timber all along the Mackinaw adds much to the beauty of the scenery for many miles around. Altogether, the location of Lexington is ideal. A stranger coming to our city is invariably struck by the many evidences of wealth and refinement to be seen on every hand. In many towns the fine residences are all massed on one or two streets and the rest of the thoroughfares are far less beautiful. But in Lexington the finest houses are scattered all over the city, and will be found on every street, thus making all equally desirable and valuable.
Many people do not stop to think that every fine building that is put up materially increases the financial value of all adjoining property. So that if you own a cottage, and your neighbor erects a palace, the commercial value of your cottage has gone up ten per cent. So every fine business block or public building that goes up in a city not only makes for the beauty and convenience of the city, but adds many dollars to the value of all other property. A hard-headed real estate man once said: “Every dollar spent in improving a piece of property, adds two to the value of sale property.”
Lexington is very fortunate in the possession of a fine public library, with a considerable sum of money in the treasury for enlarging it, when found best. Now, shall we not make an effort to have a suitable and permanent building in which to place it? Some of our most prominent business men, headed by C. K. Ream, and other gentleman of push and enterprise, are at present agitating this problem very seriously, and it is to be hoped that they many be backed in every possible way. The proposition as it now stand is to put up a building north of Dr. Covey’s and Hanson’s offices, to cost about $10,000. The building is to be two stories. The first floor is to be divided into three rooms, the front room to be used as the library and reading room. The two rooms back are to be made into parlors, waiting or resting rooms, one for ladies, the other for men. The public hall assembly room or opera house, or that ever one chooses to call it, but it is something very much needed in our city.
The waiting-rooms would prove a great convenience and blessing to the public generally. The farmer comes to town on business and brings his wife and daughter to do a little shopping. It is a well-know fact that a woman can get through her purchases long before her liege lord has decided upon the style of his new spring suit or has picked out his garden hoe. Now, where shall she go while she waits for him? At present she has to sit or stand around in the store, in the way of other shoppers, or wander aimlessly up and down the street, when she is already tired enough.
On the other hand, where shall the dear man go should he, by chance, get through his business first? You say there are plenty of places for the men and boys. So there are, heaven knows. But what kind of places? Let us not blame the boys too much for frequenting their only places of amusement, if we make no effort to offer them a better.
Then as to a public hall. Every one feels the need of one at this time. The old opera house, poor as it was, is now gone. There is no place for lectures or concerts save in the school house auditorium. While this is very good, when once you are there and are seated. But is a good way to go, and a long hard climb when you get there, and many stay from public concerts, & c., because of it.
It is proposed by the men at the back of this agitation to support the rest of the building, the waiting rooms and library, by the rental of the all. It seems that this might very easily be done, for if we had a suitable hall in a convenient location, many more plays and concerts might be brought here.
The proposed location seems to be just the place for such a building, being easy of access from the stores, convenient for waiting customers, and centrally located for a library and hall.
Let us hear from our citizens on the important subject, and by all means keep the agitation up until the building …..
Apparently the money needed for the building was never raised and when Mrs. Emily (Smith) VanDolah passed away in August 3, 1910 in Lexington, Illinois, she had made provision in her will for the building and maintenance for a new library.
Below is some information about her and her husband.
Mary Emily Smith: BORN: May 19, 1849 in Lexington, Illinois
DIED: August 3, 1910 in Lexington, Illinois
BURIED: Lexington Cemetery, McLean County, Lexington Township, Sec. 7, Lexington, Illinois
OBIT FOR MARY EMMA (SMITH) VANDOLAH
DATED AUGUST 4, 1910:
MRS. L. S. VANDOLAH DEAD
WAS A PROMINENT LEXINGTON WOMAN.
Mrs. L. S. VanDolah of Lexington died at 8 o'clock last night after a long illness. To her many friends in this city the news of her death will come as a distinct shock, despite the fact that it was known that her condition has been serious for some months. Thruout her illness she has faced conditions so cheerfully that a realization of her critical illness was difficult. She has suffered with nervous prostration and paralysis for some time and was taken to Chicago hospital, hoping for improvement. But she was gradually grown worse and all hope of her recovery was last yesterday when she sank into unconsciousness.
There were few better known or more beloved women in the county than Mrs. Emma Smith VanDolah. She was a daughter of William M. Smith of Lexington, on of the widely known and wealthy residents of McLean county. She was born in Lexington May 19, 18493 She has been a resident of that place practically all of her life. She was married to Mr. L. S. VanDolah September 6, 1890.
Mrs. VanDolah was a woman of unusual intelligence and strong character. Her generosity, her many acts of charity, and her unfailing kindliness had endeared her to people in all walks of life, and by those as well as by her personal intimates, she will be sincerely mourned.
She was a woman of high appreciation of public spirit and has been active in the church, social and educational life of her little city. In former years, before her health failed, she was actively engaged in the work of the Methodist church at Lexington. She was for years at the head of the Woman's Club of that place and prominent in the work of the Easter Star.
As a hostess and as the center of the social world in Lexington she was cordial and gracious, and the VanDolah home was the scene of many brilliant gatherings. She received early training in the important duties of a social leader for her father was at the height of his popularity as a political favorite of this county and state, his home was visited by governors, senators and other men of note, for all of whom the daughter took her share in entertaining. Mr. Smith, her father was formerly a member of the legislature, was one of the earliest state railroad and warehouse commissioners, and for years a prominent man in Republican party affairs of this county.
Mrs. VanDolah was the first woman to be elected to the school board of Lexington in 1892, which position she held for many years. She has been a member of the board of trustees of the Illinois Wesleyan University and for a number of years served on the board of the public library at Lexington. She was actively engaged in all these matters until two years ago when her health failed.
MARRIED: September 6, 1890
Louis Sheridan VanDolah: BORN: February 10, 1867 in Lexington, Illinois
DIED: April 23, 1919 in Peoria, Illinois
BURIED: Lexington Cemetery, McLean County, Lexington Township, Sec. 7, Lexington, Illinois
OBIT FOR LEWIS SHERIDAN VANDOLAH
DATED MAY 1, 1919
L. S. VAN DOLAH
FUNERAL SERVICES HELD SATURDAY.
MANY OUT OF TOWN FRIENDS AND MASONS PRESENT.
The funeral services of Lewis Sheridan Van Dolah, who died in Peoria Wednesday, April 23rd, were conducted from the residence of his mother, Mrs. Britannia Van Dolah April 26th at 3 o'clock. The spacious house and grounds were filled to overflowing with the many friends of the deceased, each one of whom was a sincere mourner for him who was gone. The services were conducted by Rev. R. T. Ballew, pastor of the M. E. church, assisted by Rev. U. Z. Gilmer of Blandinsville, an uncle of Mrs. Van Dolah. Two beautiful solos were sung by Mr. Roy Atchinson, of Bloomington. The Masonic order, of which Mr. Van Dolah was an honored member, took charge of the burial services, and escorted the body to the cemetery where the final ceremonies were held. A large number of the brother Masons from out of town were present and assisted in the services.
Lewis Sheridan Van Dolah was born February 10, 1867, the second son of Mr. and Mrs. D. H. Van Dolah, pioneer residents of this city. His father, now deceased, was one of the large land owners of this vicinity and engaged in farming and stock raising on a large scale. He was also an importer and breeder of Percheron French Draft and English Shire horses. His mother Mrs. Britannia B. VanDolah, still lives in her beautiful home at the western limits of the city.
Mr. Van Dolah received his education in the Lexington schools, afterwards attending the Evergreen Business College in Bloomington. After leaving college he made two trips to Europe in the interest of his father's business. He traveled extensively in the countries of the old world and made a thorough study of the customs and peoples found there. He has also traveled much on the American continent and has visited the United States from coast to coast and from Canada to the Gulf.
September 6, 1890, Mr. Van Dolah was married to Miss Emily Smith, the daughter of the late Hon. William M. Smith, one of Lexington's most distinguished pioneer citizens and former chairman of the Illinois House of Representatives. Mrs. Van Dolah passed away October 3, 1910.
On June 27, 1912, Mr. Van Dolah was married to Miss Blanche Stoll, of Washington. To them were born two children, Carolyn Britannia Van Dolah and Lewis Sheridan, 2nd. He leaves his wife, two children, his mother, Mrs. Britannia Van Dolah, all of Lexington, and a host of sincere friends. One little daughter was born in Peoria, Wednesday, April 30, one week after her father's death.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE DATED 1913
CORNER STONE FOR LIBRARY
SPECIAL CEREMONIES MAY 14, 1913
Elaborate preparations are under way for the laying of the cornerstone of the new library building made possible by the generosity of the late Emily Smith VanDolah. The date of the laying of the cornerstone has been fixed for Wednesday, May 14, at 2:30 o’clock, and the ceremonies will be in charge of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Illinois with Grand Master Delmar D. Darrah officiating.
When “The Smith Library” is completed and opened to the people of Lexington a long-cherished plan of Emily Smith VanDolah will be realized. Mrs. VanDolah had planned the institution before her death with occurred August 3, 1910. She was a daughter of William M. Smith, one of the prominent residents of Lexington township in the early days and who represented this district in the legislature for several terms. She was born and reared in this vicinity and always held a worm place in her heart for the town and its people.
It was Mrs. VanDolah’s wish that the library be named for her parents and it is in their honor that it is to be called “The Smith Library.”
Under the provisions of her will she left half of her large estate to philanthropic uses. Between $35,000 and $40,000 was left to the city of Lexington to build and endow the library. Thus when the present building is completed there will still remain approximately $20,000 as an endowment fund.
Under the provisions of the will the people of Lexington formed a Library Association about a year ago. The officers of this association include Dr. L. J. Hammers, president, C. S. Arnold, L. B. Strayer, William Stickler and A. L. Ambrose. The new library building is located on the southwest quarter of the premises of Lexington occupied by Mrs. VanDolah as a homestead in her life time.
George H. Miller, of Bloomington is the architect and T. T. Hunter of Normal, the contractor for the new library building.
The foundations of the new building and in the structure will be pushed to completion as rapidly as possible. Under the contract the library must be completed by September 1. The cost of the building will be around $15,000.
It will be a three-story building. The exterior from the grade line to the water table is of Carthage stone and above the water table the building will be faced with hydraulic gray pressed brick laid with black mortar joints. Al exterior opening will have stone sills and caps. The pilasters will be trimmed with stone caps and bases. Under the central entrance will be a large stone panel name plate with the following inscription – “The Smith Library.” The building will have a green glazed tile roof. The window and door openings will be glazed with plate glass.
The interior will contain three floors, a basement and first and second stories. The basement will embrace two large corner rooms, a spacious hallway, toilet rooms for ladies and gentlemen, boiler and fuel rooms. The basement will be furnished in hard pine.
On the first floor will be the library proper. There will be an entrance vestibule with tile floor and marble base. The steps leading from the grade entry to the first floor and basement will be of marble. The fist floor will include two large reading rooms, a large stack room with skylight. There will also be office rooms on this floor which will be finished in oak.
The second floor will embrace a large lecture hall with stage and dressing rooms, a large parlor, cloak room and kitchen. It will be finished in oak.
Mrs. VanDolah often expressed the wish that the Woman’s Club, of which she was the first honored president for many years, should hold their meetings in the library building and it is quite probable that they will do so.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE DATED MAY 15, 1913
CORNER-STONE OF LIBRARY IS LAID
Large Crowd Witnesses Impressive Ceremony Wednesday Afternoon.
Lexington turned out en masse Wednesday afternoon to witness the laying of the corner-stone of the new Smith library and to pay loving and reverent tribute to the memory of the noble woman, whose sincere affection for this city and its citizens, led her to bestow so liberally of her wealth in erecting the handsome library as her last gift to the city of her birth.
The weather was perfect Wednesday and the streets surrounding the new library were massed with people. The business houses were all closed and the public school was dismissed, the pupils and teachers marching to the scene of the ceremonies.
The school was followed by the Eastern Star chapter and Masonic lodge and these were joined at the library by the Woman’s Club. Many out of town people were present, among them prominent Eastern Stars and Masons from Bloomington, Chenoa and Towanda.
The ceremony of laying the corner stone was in charge of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Illinois and the work was done in a beautiful and impressive manner. Delmar D. Darrah of Bloomington, Grand Master, conducted the ceremony. Two other Grand officers were present. They were Chester Gurney of Chicago, Grand Tyler, and A. H. Scrogin of Lexington, Junior Grand Warden. All other grand officers were appointed by the Grand Master. They were as follows: Harry M. Palmer of McLean, Deputy Grand Master, Mr. Kinney of Pontiac, Senior Grand Warden, Andrew McNally of Chicago, Grand Marshal, Wm. Ewing of McLean, Grand Chaplain, Wm. Lawrence, Grand Secretary, Park Gillespie of Chenoa, Grand Treasurer, W. F. Withers, I. E. Cook, Charlie Stewards and A. P. Schantz, Grand Stewards, C. H. Brown, Senior Grand Deacon and John Scrogin, Junior Grand Deacon.
The Consistory quartet of Bloomington had a large part in the ceremonies and rendered some beautiful and impressive music.
While the handsome corner-stone which bore the inscription:
“Laid by the Masonic Fraternity May, 14 A. D. 1913 – A. L. 5913. Emily Smith VanDolah. Trustees, Lewis J. Hammers, Chas. Arnold, Wm. Stickler, Albert L. Ambrose, Lewis B. Strayer, Geo. H. Miller, Architect, T. T. Hunter Contractor.” hung suspended about its place, a copper box containing many souvenirs of Lexington was placed securely inside the stone.
The contents of the box are as follows:
Certified copy of the will of Emily Smith VanDolah, describing the bequest for the library and a brief biography.
A brief account of the selection and organization of Library Board including list of Trustees, Architect and Contractor.
A brief biography of Mrs. VanDolah, in her church work.
A brief history of organization of Eastern Star, with a list of members.
A list of the Grand Officers officiating at ceremonies of laying corner stone of Library.
A list of officers and members of Lodge No. 482, A. F. & A. M.
List of City Officers
List of School Board, including teachers and pupils.
List of Ministerial Union.
History of City Library.
List of officers of State Bank and stockholders.
List of officers of Peoples Bank and stockholders.
Current copies of Lexington Unit-Journal, Bloomington Pantagraph and Bloomington Bulletin.
Souvenir copies of Lexington Unit Journal.
Souvenir pictures booklet of Lexington views.
After the stone had been lowered to its place and tested by the instruments of the Masonic order, the elements of consecration were applied, corn as the emblem of plenty, wine as the emblem of joy and gladness and oil denoting peace. Then the stone was covered with flowers as a silent tribute to the memory of Emily Smith VanDolah.
The ceremonies were closed with an able and inspiring address by Hon. Charles L. Capen of Bloomington in which he paid a glowing tribute to the memory of William M. Smith and spoke in the highest terms of Mrs. Emily Smith VanDolah, the woman whose generosity made possible the memorable ceremonies of the day. Mrs. VanDolah will continue to live in the good that she has done and the handsome new library will speak eloquently for her in the years that are to come.
To Dr. L. J. Hammers, the president of the new library board is due much of the success of the ceremonies of Wednesday. It was largely through his efforts that the important event was carried through. He was ably assisted by the other members of the new board who are as follows: Wm. Stickler, L. B. Strayer, A. L. Ambrose and Charles Arnold.
The official library board of the city council is composed of Messrs. VanDyke Pierson, president; De. L. M. Magill, secretary; W. H. Claggett, treasurer; Mrs. Dr. Hammers, Mrs. Alta Williams; Dr. W. H. Welch and H. S. Shade. One this board Mr. W. H. Claggett has served for sixteen consecutive years.
Newspaper article dated March 1914
LEXINGTON’S PUBLIC LIBRARY
Its History Covers A Period of More than 18 Years.
ERECTED AT COST OF $20,000
Emily Smith VanDolah One of Its Organizers and Promoters – It Had a Modest Beginning.
The opening of the beautiful new Smith Public Library on December 22, 1913, marked an epoch in the history of this literature-loving community and brought to full fruition the hopes and dreams of our intellectual people, which was made possible by the generosity of the late Emily Smith VanDolah, who made provision in her will for the building and maintenance of this much-needed public institution.
The first movement to establish a reading room or public library in Lexington was in 1895. In November of that year a meeting was held in the M. E. to see what could be done towards raising funds for the establishment and maintenance of a library in Lexington. It is just to say that to Mrs. L. S. VanDolah more than any other person belongs the credit of creating an interest in the library and successfully carrying it out.
At this meeting a generous sum of money was pledged and an executive committee of ten appointed with A. J. Scrogin, president: Mrs. L. S. VanDolah, vice-president, and Prof. Jesse L. Smith, secretary. At the first regular meeting of this committee, December 15, 1895, the reported pledges of the amount of about $300. This committee of ten conducted the affairs of the reading room until it came under the control of the city in May, 1897. January 20, 1896, the reading room was opened to the public. E. B. Hileman & Company donated the electric lighting for the first six months and the work of putting in the light fixtures was done free of charge. A stove, tables and chairs and other furniture was donated by other public spirited citizens.
THE LIBRARY TAX.
At this time the cash subscriptions and donations amounted to about $400. In August, 1896, the city council included in its annual tax levy a 1-mill tax on the dollar for the support of the library. Early in the year of 1897 the mayor nominated nine persons to constitute a library board to take charge and conduct the affairs of the library. Prof. Jesse L. Smith was elected president of the board, which office he held until his removal from Lexington in 1899. The reading room developed into a full-fledged library in 1898, when it received the first installment of books for general circulation. These were generously donated by friends of the library.
Since then for a number of years, in various ways, chiefly by entertainments gotten up by the library board, money has been raised for the purchase of books and periodicals. The library has quite frequently been the recipient of gifts from its friends. The Woman’s club gave an entertainment from which they raised more than $100, which was donated to the library, all of which was invested in books and book cases.
Despite the lack of funds and other discouragements, the library has steadily grown and some years ago was compelled to abandon its old quarters from lack of room. It was them moved into two rooms in the Smith building, one of which was used for adults and one for juveniles.
Miss May V. Gay was the first librarian. She was succeeded by Miss Lela Goddard, who served for about five years, resigning in 1901. She was succeeded by Mrs. Ella Doonan, who served three years, and at her resignation, Miss Angie Mahan was elected librarian, but only served for three months, resigning July 1, 1904. She was succeeded by Miss Nellie Brown, who served three years and resigned July 1, 1907, because of ill health. She was succeeded by Miss Beulah Haushalter, who served until her removal to Chicago, November 1, 1910, and she was succeeded by Miss Frances Hanson, who served until she moved to Bloomington, September 1, 1911. The present librarian is Miss Anna M. Pierson. The Library is a credit to Lexington and is well patronized, there being more than 14,000 visitors during the past year. This number is about equally divided between adults and children.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
Soon after the will of the late Emily Smith VanDolah was probated a mass meeting of prominent citizens was held at the Methodist church to select a board of trustees to hold in trust the funds provided for the endowment and maintenance of the Smith Library, and the following gentlemen were nominated, elected and later confirmed by the court: Dr. J. L. Hammers, president; C. S. Arnold, vice-president; William Stickler, secretary; L. B. Strayer, treasurer; A. L. Ambrose, auditor. These gentlemen have had in charge the erection of the magnificent building recently opened to the public and have carried out the wishes of the donor in a businesslike and capable manner.
THE CITY BOARD OF MANAGERS.
The board of managers who had in charge all the affairs of the Lexington Public library before it was merged with the Smith library, will still continue to represent the city’s interests and act jointly with the trustees of the endowment fund in maters pertaining to the public service. This board is appointed by the mayor for three-year terms, two members being selected annually. The board as at present constituted is as follows: A. V. Pierson, president; Mrs. E. A. Kennedy, vice-present; Dr. L. M. Magill, secretary; W. H. Claggett, treasurer; H. S. Shade, Mrs. Nettie B. Dement, Mrs. L. J. Hammers, Miss Alta Williams, Dr. W. H. Welsh.
THE NEW BUILDING.
The picture of the Smith library which appears in this issue will give the reader only a faint idea of the magnificence of the structure. The build being but recently finished and the grounds yet rough, the exterior picture can not possibly do it justice. The structure is 36 x 48 feet, two stories and basement. It faces to the west. Concrete walks have been laid leading to the entrance and full length of the frontage of the lot. On either side of the entrance are two ornamental pedestals supporting large white porcelain electric light globes which illuminates the front of the building and surroundings with artistic effect. The building is faced with “Hy-tex” hydraulic press brick, which has been used in the finest buildings in the United States of brick construction. It is trimmed with white Carthage stone, of which the entrance archway, name panel and ornamental front steps are constructed. The roofing is of ornamental green glazed tile, adding a pleasing effect. On entering the building the visitor ascends a short flight of marble steps leading to the main floor, on either side of which are stairways leading to the second story. The floors are of the vestibules of the upper and lower landing of the marble stairway, in the main entrance, are laid with mosaic tilling in artistic patterns. The main floor is devoted to the library proper and its various departments. On the north side is a reading room for adults, to the rear of which is a reference room; the south side is devoted to the juvenile department reading room, to the rear of which is the private office of the librarian and officers. The east side of the main floor is devoted to the book shelves. These are of the latest design, constructed of japanned steel with metal supports and are sectional and dustless. A long quarter-sawed polished oak counter encloses this department, over which Miss Anna Pierson, our accomplished and efficient librarian, officiates with becoming dignity and grace. Miss Pierson’s pleasant smile makes everyone feel welcome and at ease, and even the timid small boy is unafraid and feels that he has a proprietorship in the Smith library.
The second floor is devoted to an auditorium and club rooms for women’s organizations and are so arranged with sliding doors that they may be thrown together increase the seating capacity of the auditorium, when occasion requires. The auditorium is equipped with a stage and adequate dressing rooms for theatrical performances, etc. It will be rented for lectures and other entertainments. The club rooms are elegantly furnished and a nominal rental is charged for their use. The Lexington Woman’s Club was the first to engage these rooms for their weekly meetings and other organizations will take advantage of the excellent accommodations provided.
The interior wood work of the building is of the finest quarter-sawed oak, polished natural finish, the chairs, tables and furnishings being in harmony with this scheme. The floors are of quarter-sawed white oak, polished, and the walls beautifully frescoed.
In the adult reading room hangs the portraits of Mrs. Emily Smith VanDolah, the donor of the building, and Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Smith, her father and mother, which were loaned by L. S. VanDolah. The portrait of Mrs. VanDolah was painted by Clarence Best, a Lexington boy who achieved fame in Chicago as a portrait artist.
The basement rooms are sufficiently above ground to make them light and airy. The floors are of concrete and here are located the steam-heating plant, coal room, storage rooms, toilet rooms and lavatories, which are equipped with all modern accessories and conveniences.
The indirect lighting system is used throughout the building and diffuses a flood of rich, mellow electric light, which is restful to the eyes and imparts a tone of elegance to the rooms.
There is nothing cheap or gaudy about the Smith library. It is a gem of the purest ray and its-enlightening influence will scintillate adown the years, to benefit the generations of the coming century.
EMILY SMITH VAN DOLAH.
DIED AUGUST 3, 1910.
The people of Lexington will always hold in grateful remembrance the name of Emily Smith VanDolah, the founder of the Smith Public library. Who departed this life August 3, 1910.
The elegant new building which has just been opened to the public, she endowed as a memorial to her father and mother. The late Hon. William H. Smith was for many years an honored citizen of Lexington and an influential factor in Illinois public life. He served several terms in the state legislature and during this service was chairman of important committees. He was recognized by his colleagues as a man of great ability and forceful character and during his last term was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, in which capacity he served with distinction.
Emily was born on a farm near Lexington. Her father was one of the pioneer settlers of this vicinity, coming from the state of Kentucky. He acquired a large amount of farm land and eventually entered the merchandise business in Lexington. Here he built a substantial home, which in later years was the scene of many brilliant social functions, at which were entertained many notable people. Thus, Emily, the only child, was early trained in social duties and gracious hospitality, which was one of her chief characteristics throughout life.
Emily Smith was married to Louis Sheridan VanDolah of Lexington, September 6, 1890, and this marriage proved a happy one. Mr. VanDolah being one of the most exemplary young men of this community and the scion of one of our first families.
Emily Smith VanDolah was a woman of strong personality, culture and refinement. Her ideals were lofty and she strove earnestly for the uplift of society and the improvement of public morals. For ten years she was the presiding officer of the Lexington Woman’s Club, and her loss was a personal bereavement to every member. During all her adult life she was a devoted member and active worker in the interests of the Methodist Episcopal church. The beautiful and costly pipe organ of the church was one of her many gifts, and its pure and beautiful tones as they arise in praise of the Most High, is a constant reminder of the pure and beautiful life of the donor. Being possessed of an ample fortune she contributed liberally to religious educational and charitable work and all movements for the public welfare.
She was the only woman ever elected as a member of the Lexington Board of Education and in this office she served with distinction for several years. As president of the public library board she devoted many years to its building and donated many valuable books.
Besides her many interests in her home city she was a member of the board of trustees of Illinois Wesleyan University, at Bloomington, and did much to extend its work and influence. By her will she provided and endowment fund amounting to about $40,000 for the benefit of this institution.
Her will also provide an endowment fund of $40,000 for the building and maintenance of the Smith Public Library of Lexington.
Emily Smith VanDolah, by her many great and good deeds in the interest of human welfare, has left the indelible impress of her noble character upon the hearts of our people and future generations will pay homage and tribute to her memory.
FROM AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY MRS. MYRTLE WEIDNER-APRIL 1977
Miss Anna M. Pierson was the librarian at the time the new building was constructed Miss Lois McFarland served as librarian for several years, and was followed by Mrs. Daisy Bishop, who served during the depression years and was very skilled in book re-binding. Following Mrs. Bishop's retirement, Mrs. Hazel Claggett became the librarian. In 1947 Miss Bessie Smith took the position, and it was in 1951 that it became a district library and was able to serve a much larger area. Several improvements to the building were made at this time and many "memorial books" were added. Miss Smith retired in 1962 after fifteen years of service.
The years 1962 through 1974, when Mrs. Myrtle Weidner was librarian, saw numerous changes at the library. It became a member of the Corn Belt Library System on March 1, 1966, making it possible to offer broader services to its patrons. This included the borrowing of sixteen millimeter sound films. New carpeting, additional shelving and desks were added in 1966. A copy machine was presented to the library by the Peoples Bank of Lexington in 1969.
From a bequest in the will of Josephine Smith Miracle, funds became available in 1970 for a new heating and air-conditioning system and redecorating of the entire building. During this period the library was also remembered in the will of Miss Elsie McHugh, and through this yearly, continuing financial support it has been able to acquire a large collection of framed art prints for circulation to their patrons and also many more adult non-fiction books for their readers. The children's book collection has been greatly enlarged as a result of the McHugh bequest.
When Mrs. Weidner retired in 1974" Mrs. Phyllis Tracy became the librarian, having been the assistant since 1966. During recent years the library has purchased a movie projector, and a basement room has been renovated for the periodicals, more shelving has been added and the art print collection has grown. Special services have been given to the Senior Citizens of the Lexington Community and a good collection of "Large Type" books is carried. Mrs. Tracy and her staff, Mrs. Blanche Plue, Mrs. Mary Friedli and Mrs. Evelyn Homan, make the Lexington Public Library a bright, cheerful place to visit, to browse and to borrow. One of the brightest spots in the library at the present time is the wall on which hangs the quilt made in 1976 by the Lexington Home Extension Unit. It was made in celebration of our country’s bicentennial year. Depicted are places and events in the life of Lexington since its beginnings. One block in the quilt is the Lexington Public Library that has served its people so well for many years.
Over the years, many community minded citizens have donated their time and effort as trustees of the library and have found this a very rewarding experience. Libraries could not function without trustees and we have been privileged through the past years and in the present to have very faithful, interested people to serve. At the present time we have as trustees, Mrs. Edith Franklin, Mrs. Sue Vincent, Mrs. Patricia Morrison, Mrs. Rozanne Kemp, Mrs. Franklin Freed, Rev. Glenn Harms and Mr. James Redic.
One last piece of information which I found quite interesting and written in such an enjoyable manner that I wish to include was written by Don Cavallini no date given: (This is only portions of the article)
In the musical “Music Man," made famous by the creative talent of Meredith Willson, there is a unique library in the small town of River City, Iowa. What makes this library so unusual is the fact that the town's benefactor left the library building to the town but left all of the books to Miriam, the librarian.
For a town of only 2,000 residents, the small library is controlled by two independent boards. One board controls the building (often referred to as the Smith board) while the other (referred to as the public board) controls the books. Sometimes it can get a little confusing for librarians and board members alike. Nevertheless, over the years the library’s resources have grown and the building is nicely cared for and maintained with more than adequate equipment. The system, unique as it is, certainly is working well.
The Smith board is composed of five members: Miles Ward, Emora Hefner, Carlton Jenkins, Elwood Stewart, and James Lindsay. President Miles Ward explained that according to the terms of the Smith will, board members were selected from representative Lexington churches. The public does not elect these members; they are appointed by the churches. There is no set length of time to serve on the board. As Ward said, "once appointed, you have to die to get off it."
It is my understanding that the public board is an elected board and at the time of Mr. Cavallini’s article Dallas Myers, vice president of the seven member public board.