Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 30, 1995, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Good Old Days


History of the Neillsville Free Library


By Dee Zimmerman


Residents of the Neillsville community, past and present, have known the importance of maintaining a public library in its midst.


Originally founded as a privately owned institution, thirteen prominent men gathered to form and incorporate the “Neillsville Library.”  They organized with life memberships sold to them for $10 each.  Also, annual memberships were sold at $1 each per year, and eleven school memberships at 25 cents per year.


The 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. Krumrey and C. S. Stockwell.


The November 28, 1879 Neillsville printed the following editorial by L. B. Ring, entitled “The Library.”  “The one hundred life members to a circulating library for this village with the proceeds of which the library association propose to procure the first installment of books, have nearly all been taken, and we may soon expect to see it in operation.  Had the life memberships been held at a greater price and conferred fewer privileges upon their holders, they would have met with a more ready sale, in as much as they would have given greater promise of success to the enterprise.  As it is, the amount raised will not be sufficient to procure books enough of any work to go half way round with the life members alone, should they all feel the need of “mental stimulus” at the same time, and aside from this difficulty thus presented, and which might never occur, there certainly appears to be but little chance to add to the first purchase, as no revenue is to be derived from the use of books by life members by whom it is fair to presume the grater portion of them would be kept in use… (As the above article states, the privately owned library institution members weren’t without differences of opinion upon the library’s operation.)


During its existence, the Neillsville Library conducted its business out of the courthouse office of C. S. Stockwell.  The library books were kept in a single bookcase owned by the group with Stockwell serving as the librarian.


A few years later, the city council voted to establish and maintain a library as a municipal enterprise, the Neillsville Library incorporators who had encouraged and accomplished the library idea, willingly turned over the books, bookcase and minute book, everything they owned, to the Neillsville Free Library.


The city library was moved to the second floor room in the city hall, a frame structure that stood on the same site as the present city hall.


As time went on library contents expanded, thus starting discussions the library needed a building of its own.


The Republican & Press, of January 6, 1914, had the flowing article – “At the last Council Meeting action was taken authorizing the library committee to get options on sites and it is understood that the options on several will be secured.  A fund of $417.00 with some interest there-in in the hands of W. C. T. U. will be available to pay on the lot as soon as one is bought.  This was voted several months ago for a library site and is in the form of a certificate of deposit at the Commercial State Bank ready to be paid on lot.” (The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was an active group of women who contributed time and money toward community projects.  The last club member living is Mrs. Art Carl, who served a term as treasurer.  Mayme Imig, who passed away recently, was a secretary, serving on the club board with Mrs. Carl.)


January 13, 1914 – Library site committee made an additional report, bringing the following lots and prices to the attention of the council: J. E. Ketel, 66 x 132 ft. on 4th St, $750.00; H. J. Brooks, 75 ft frontage on Hewett St. $1,800.00; M. C. Ring property 132 x 198 ft., $3,000; D. O’Grady property on 5th St. 90 ft. $2,000.


Mrs. Fred Sears addressed the council, reading resolution which arranged for the placing of a tag day fund - $417.13 – in the hands of H. M. Root with the instructions to turn it over to the city upon the completion of a purchase site for a Carnegie Library.  The Council was also addressed by other citizens upon the subject of a Carnegie Library site.


Upon motion of Ald. Kurth, seconded by Ald. Warlum, was adopted.  Whereas, the city of Neillsville has been offered a $10,000 Carnegie Corporation providing that the city furnish a suitable site; be it resolved that the City Council formally accept the gift and take definite action toward the purchase of a suitable site for the same; and be it further resolved that the City Council notify the Carnegie Corporation of such action, and also that a resolution has been passed making an annual tax levy equal to not less than $1,000 for the support and maintenance of the same.


Motion made, seconded and carried to adjourn.


January 23, 1914 – Motion made by Ald. Bartell, seconded by Ald. Warlum, that if a site for the Carnegie Library is given to the city by the citizens without calling upon the City Council for assistance, the City Council would pledge itself to pass an ordinance providing fort he support of the library and the raising annually an amount sufficient for such purpose, and also pledge itself to accept the gift of the Carnegie Library.  Resolution adopted.


February 12, 1914 – J. F. Schuster present and addressed the Council on behalf of the Neillsville Library Board, which was also represented by, W. L. Smith and L. Williamson, reporting that the board has taken an option on the Dr. Monk lot at $2,100 for the Carnegie Library and that after various deductions had been made, such as the tag day money, subscriptions, etc., a deficit might remain and asked that the City Council appropriate this amount, if necessary, for the purpose of making the purchase, and also to pass a resolution accepting the Carnegie Library and passing an ordinance providing for the maintenance of such library.


Motion made by Ald. Kurth, seconded by Ald. Goeden, that resolution accepting the Carnegie Library is adopted, carried.


Motion made by Ald. Kurth, seconded by Ald. Bartell that Ord. No. 354 accepting a gift offered by Andrew Carnegie to the city of Neillsville for a free public library.


Ordinance accepted by unanimous vote by the council, all members being present.


February 19, 1914 – By action of the City Council at the regular meeting last Friday night; the Carnegie Library question is probably settled.  The Dr. Monk lot on the corner of Hewett and Fourth Street will be purchased, but in such a way that no tax will be levied to secure it   The W. C. T. U. contributed the tag day money amounting to $417.00 and some accumulated interest; the house on the lot can be sold for $300; a strip of 12 ft. on the north side of the lot can be sold for $300 and the rest of the $2,100 required to buy the lot has been subscribed by private citizens.  It is generally conceded that the lot selected is the best available.  This was so apparent that a number of citizens contributed to make up the purchase price so that no expense whatever will be put upon the city by the purchase.


The Carnegie Corporation will thereon erect and donate free to the city, a $10,000 library building.


August 7, 1914 – Saturday the Library Board of Neillsville met with architect, Geo. Awsumb of Chicago and considered the bids of erecting the Carnegie Library in this city.  The contract for the building was awarded to the Withee Construction Co. at $8,400.  The heating and plumbing contract goes to W. E. Poate of this city, he being the lowest bidder.  As some minor changes in details may be yet be made the figures for heating and plumbing are not fully settled.  The Library Board and the architect have done some very careful figuring to bring the specifications down to a point where they will not exceed the limits of their funds, and yet secure all essentials in beauty and efficiency in the building. 


Work will begin as soon as the grounds are cleared from the old buildings and will be pushed rapidly.  The contract provides for completion of the building by Jan. 1.


December 1914 Editorial – The Carnegie Library now nearing completion in Neillsville is a good illustration of a fine thing that could not have come to this community without some joint action.  While the building itself came as a free gift of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, yet in order to secure it, cooperation was necessary.  The city voted to raise the maintenance tax, the W.C. T.U. contributed the tag-day fund of over $400 and a large number of individuals contributed various sums all of which secured the site and lately t he W.R.C. has voted to contribute a snug sum which these worthy women have earned and saved to install lights.


See how nicely all have worked together and accomplished that which no one alone could have done.


April 22, 1915 – Neillsville new Carnegie Library will be opened Monday night, April 26, for inspection of the public, and everyone in the city and country around is invited to come in and look through the building.


Eighty years ago on April 15, 1915 the new Neillsville Free Library opened its doors to serve the public with the availability of knowledge resources.  Our community realizes the importance of the library here in our area.


Through the recent years, many new services have been added making the confines very crowded.


Once again, the residents, as years ago, are responding to the need of a larger library facility to provide the updated services.


Our of respect to the Carnegie Library foundation’s generous $10,000 gift that built the 1914 structure in our city, the original building will be kept, as is, with plans for the new addition to be added on the east side. The Hewett Street view as you drive by will remain the same.  The new addition will carry the same structural style.


The new facility will also remain entitled “The Neillsville Free Library,” here to serve its community in the future as it has in the past.


A mid 1940’s postcard, kept by its recipient, displayed the Neillsville Free Library when portions of the building were hidden by an abundant growth of vines.  (Photo courtesy of Joan Buddinger)


A view of the Neillsville Free Library at it appears today


This Library plan drawing depicts the north side view with a ground level main entrance.  The existing building on the right will remain with the new addition being erected and attached on the east side.  The structural design will comply with the 1914 building in respect and gratitude of the Carnegie Library gift.



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