Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

July 15, 1993, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days  


By Dee Zimmerman


Neillsville Public Library celebrates its 100th year in serving the city and community with its various resources



Neillsville Public Library, only years younger than the chartered city where it is located celebrates, its’ centennial this year.


Originally, it was founded as a privately owned institution in 1893.  That year, thirteen area men gathered to farm (form) and incorporate the Neillsville Library.”  They organized with life membership which they sold to themselves for $10.00 each.  They also sold 78 annual memberships at $1.00 each per year, and school memberships at 25¢ each per year.


Incorporators were: C. F. Grow, L. M. Sturdevant, S. M. Marsh, L. B. Ring, H. M. Root, James G. Taylor, R. W. Balch, Judge-to-be James O’Neill, Dennis Tourigny, W. F. Woodward, C. Krismery and C. S. Stockwell.


In its first year of operation, the Neillsville Library’s business was conducted out of the courthouse office of C. S. Stockwell.  All of the library’s books were kept in a single bookcase owned by the group.  So, it was that Stockwell became the city’s first librarian.


About three years later, the city council voted to establish and maintain a library as a municipal enterprise.  The Incorporators of the Neillsville Library had encouraged the idea, and when it was accomplished they turned everything over to the new Neillsville Free Library, including books, bookcase and minutes book, which was in use until the 1940’s


The city-sponsored library then was in its new home on the second floor of the city hall.  At the time the building was a frame structure which stood on the same site of the present city hall on (West) Fifth Street.


Sometime between 1910 and 1918, the library was moved from the city hall to the high school.  Mrs. (Woodward) Hoey was librarian during the time of three library locations.


The first librarian hired by the city was Laura Glass, who later became Mrs. Robert E. Thompson.  Her weekly salary was $1.00 for her service.  Mrs. Thompson remained in that employ until 1900, succeeded by Elizabeth Kennedy, who received $3.00 per week.  In 1901, Mrs. E. Woodward) Hoey became the librarian, but the city council required that she first attend a summer course in Madison in preparation for the position.


With her “advanced” librarian education, Mrs. Hoey’s salary was raised to $5.00 per week and on July 1, 1912 her salary was raised to $30.00 per month.  She served that post until 1918, the year that the library was moved into the new brick structure, on the corner of 4th and Hewett, which still houses the institution of the city.


Often, the building is referred to as a “Carnegie Library,” one of many through out the United States.  Andrew Carnegie, an enterprising Scot, made a lot of money in the steel industry and spent a lot for libraries in this country, as well as his native land.  Neillsville had an advantage when it came to Carnegie Foundation money.  That advantage was linked to Mrs. J. W. Hommel, who came to live here, with her second husband.  Her first husband was George C. Carnegie, whose father was a nephew of Andrew Carnegie.


Mrs. Hommel offered and applied for Carnegie funds, in pursuit of a new facility.  The Carnegie Foundation allotted $10,000 to the construction of a Free Carnegie Library building in Neillsville.  The allotted monies were sufficient for the structures cost.  However, there were two stipulations: first, the city had to provide the location, and it should be central; and second, the council would have to pledge to maintain and support the building after construction.


As soon as the agreement was finalized, the city launched a drive for subscriptions with which to purchase a new library site on the Northeast corner of Hewett and Fourth Streets.


An architect, Awsumb, of Chicago was hired to design the building.  (He also did the architectural work for the stone and brick residence on the southeast corner of that intersection.  The building on that lot was built by C. C. Sniteman and became his residence.)


A lady from the state library association at Madison attended the planning session for designing the new library and made her thoughts be known when she insisted that the windows should be floor level.  The library board, of that time, had its’ own ideas and voted the design as planned.


Carnegie Library was to be built on an elevated level, not street level lots, a rule the Neillsville Library committee allowed.


Through the past 100 years, the library has had 17 librarians (excluding C. S. Stockwell):


1893-1900 Laura (Glass) Thompson; 1900-1918 Mrs. E. (Woodward) Hoey; 1918-1919 Miss K. Kounta; 1919-1921 Mary E. Carson; 19211-1923 Mrs. Frank (Button) Brown; 1923-1926 Mrs. Harry (Sadie Cole) Hauge; 1926 Aline Tompkins; 1926-1931 Mrs. John (Lorena) Kuehl) Rude; 1931-1932 Marjorie MacIntyre; 1932-1936 Irene Varney; 1936-1938 Elizabeth Bovee; 1938-1941 Jean Spray; 1941-1959 Mrs. Frank E. Brown; 1959-1975 Mrs. Ruth Ebert; 1975-present Mrs. Nancy Hubing.


Present directors of the library are: Ellis (Todd) Wall, Della Thompson, Charles Wegner, Clara Karl, Doris Bakker, Merna Koula and Walter Wetzel.


Others who have served on the Board of Directors are Kathy Mathis, Dale Armitage, Lowell Gesche, Mrs. Jake (Harriette) Hoesly, Mrs. Marge Kearns, Gerald Makie, Esther Perkins, and Richard H. Van Gorden.  Also, J. F. Schuster, C. S. Stockwell, Homer C. Clark, Levy Williamson, Mrs. Mary Hemphill, Francis J. Ring, W. L. Smith, F. Hemp, Mrs. Bert Huckstead, Beatrice C. MacMillan, D. E. Peters, A. L. Devos, Mrs. Frank E. Brown, George Zimmerman, Rev. George Washington Longnecker, Jas. A. Musil, Mrs. Otto Zaeske, Robert Reimer, Ivan W. Lauscher, and E. A. Georgas.


It is entirely possible that some names have been unintentionally overlooked. 


When the city-owned library was launched it had a book circulation of 13,193.  In 1935, while the Depression was still in full swing, the circulation numbered 42,332 with continued growth through the following years.


The first thought that comes to mind when we hear the word “Library” would probably be “books.”  However, the Neillsville Public Library of 1993 is much more than a warehouse of various books, which makes it a greater diversified source of information than contemplated by the founders.


The local library is a member of the Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS), a partnership of libraries in 10 counties.  It is connected to nearly 290 area libraries, as well as libraries throughout the state and nation.


If someone is unable to locate materials needed at the local library, the librarian refers it to WVLS.  Books, videos, magazines, journal articles, audiocassettes and more are all available through the interlibrary loan system.  Once located, the material is sent to the local library for the requester to use.  Last year, the WVLS staff, responded to more than 41,900 interlibrary loan requests.


Not only can our local library borrow materials from other libraries, but in turn in can loan and send materials to other libraries.  A computer in the library aids the librarians search for items.


Other new services are:


Large print books and “talking books” or books and cassettes


More than 20 magazine titles and 5 different newspapers are available.  The local newspaper is on microfilm dating back to the 1870 edition.


Pictures, paintings are on loan.


Copy machine that enlarges and reduces


A variety of tax forms.


Videocassettes can be loaned out.


For the convenience of the patrons, a “book drop” has been mounted outside of the front door so that borrowed materials (other than pictures) can be returned before or after library hours.


In November 1983, the ramp built to the back of the building was dedicated by the local Jaycettes.  The addition of the ramp makes the library accessible for the handicapped.


Upon request, books are delivered to the shut-ins.


Bulk loans of books are chosen for the Memorial Home Residents.


The children’s librarian has Story Hours for pre-school children and Story Hours for school-age children.


As of 1990, a “circulation plus program” was installed on the computer, bar-coding the books and patrons, which enables the librarians to check out items via computer.  The system simplifies reserving materials for patrons.


The Catalog Plus Program was added to the computer within the past year.  Eventually, patrons will be able to use the system instead of a card catalog to locate resources in the library.


Quotes from Nancy Regner the librarian:


“The change of technology has been tremendous and we have had to learn much to keep up with the times.  It is fun, fascinating and challenging.


We are very busy.  Since I have been librarian, our circulation has grown from 24,000 items a year to 76,000 items per year.  The interlibrary loan program is time consuming along with the other new services.  The circulation growth is followed by more reference questions, more phone calls, etc.” 


The librarians are dedicated to the growing service of the local library.  They encourage you, the public, to use your library.  It holds a wealth of information that can enrich your life.


A “Friends of the Library” organization has been established in 1993.  It could be called a support group that promotes the library services and facilities for the Neillsville area.  They provide volunteer support in the library’s program.


Concern about having ample space for the many added services and materials in the present library building, has been a recent issue.  As new services and materials are added, space is needed to accommodate the service.


So, from a humble beginning, the library has grown to a large resource of learning tools available to the community.



Compiled by Lori Liddell


100 years ago


A blue jay, called a jay-bird in the south, where this particular bird may have fallen into the habit of taking snuff – has of late been stealing and eating partly smoked cigars from the trees near T. G. Owen’s croquet ground, where Mr. Owen put them when playing.  The mystery of the disappearance of the stubs was unexplained until the other day when the jay was detected in the act.


100 years ago


C. Durham, one of the first settlers in Greenwood, who years ago owned what is now the Greenwood House, is in the city enjoying himself in renewing old friendships and talking over old times on the river.  Mr. Durham has resided for some time past in Dakota.


100 years ago


End of Black River logging.


It is stated upon expert authority that all large log driving operations on the Black River and tributaries will be closed up within five years, the pine and hemlock being nearly…..(sentence unfinished).


75 years ago


Asking for beefless days:


The state food administrator is asking that beefless days be generally and strictly observed and the following is a copy of a bulletin addressed to hotels, restaurants and all eating houses.


“The demands for our army and the allied army and their civilian populations for this summer are beyond our present surplus.  An urgent telegram from Hoover on meat regulations, make effective the following plan:


Monday noon – Roast beef, served hot or cold.


Wednesday noon – Stewed, boiled, or beef hash.


Thursday noon – Steaks any form, including hamburger.


Saturday noon – Stewed, boiled, or beef hash.


Anytime – By-products of beef including ox tails, livers, tongues, sweetbreads, hearts, kidneys, brains, or tripe.



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