Josiah H. (Josiah Henry) Benton.

Address of J.H. Benton, Jr., at the dedication of the Bradford Public Library building, Bradford, Vermont, July 4, 1895 online

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Online LibraryJosiah H. (Josiah Henry) BentonAddress of J.H. Benton, Jr., at the dedication of the Bradford Public Library building, Bradford, Vermont, July 4, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 5)
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J. H. BENTON, Jr.,






No. 185 Franklin Street.


J. H. BENTON, Jr.,




From J. H. BENTON, Jr..

Ames Building. Boston.





No. 185 Franklin Street.


'The true university of these days is a collection of Books."


"A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed

and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."



Two sentiments dominate the day, loyalty to the na-
tion and love of learning. The one is typified by the flag
with its resplendent folds and glittering stars, the other by
the beautiful building which we have met to dedicate to
sound learning and popular education.

Our first duty is to acknowledge our obligation to the
man to whose generous gift Bradford owes its first perma-
nent library building.

John Lunn Woods was born at Corinth, Orange county,
Vermont, February n, 182 1. He was the third of the
five children of Oliver Woods and his wife, whose maiden
name was Lucinda Lamb. Oliver Woods was a farmer
owning a farm of considerable size, and he died when John
was about thirteen years old. Mrs. Woods then took
charge of and managed the farm. John was named for
his uncle, John Lunn Woods, who kept a country store at
Woodsville, New Hampshire, and when the boy was fif-
teen years of age he went to live with his uncle.

His education in books was received in the district
schools of Corinth and Woodsville, and his education in
practical life in those excellent schools, the country farm
and the country store. He learned industry and economy,
and at the age of twenty he went to Port Huron, Michi-
gan, where he began work as a laborer at very low wages.
He stated in after life that during the first year his entire
expenses for he was boarded by his employer were
less than five dollars. He soon became proficient in the
lumber business, was placed in charge of his employer's


mills, and in 185 1 succeeded to his entire business, which
he continued until 1874, wnen he removed to Cleveland,
Ohio, where he lived until his death on March 29, 1893.

In 1849 ne married Emily A. Moore of Richmond, Ver-
mont, who died December 20, 1892.

Early in his life he began to accumulate money, and by
fortunate investments in pine lands he had b\' middle life
become a very rich man. He was public-spirited and
benevolent, and gave largely, but in a careful and judi-
cious way. It is of interest to know that at an early day
he founded and suitably endowed a public library and read-
ing room at Oscoda, Michigan. His largest single con-
tribution was to the Western Reserve Medical College, and
amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. He also
gave $50,000 to the Lakeside hospital in Cleveland, and
an equal amount to the Cleveland University, for the bene-
fit of its women's college, each as permanent endowment
funds in memory of his wife.

He seems to have retained a deep interest in his native
state, and his bequest to the Bradford public library was
prompted by the fact that many of his relatives now live

It was said by one who knew him well that he had no
sentimentality in his giving, but was plain, practical, and
sensible. I think the conditions of the bequest to this
library are of that character. The first is that the trustees
shall procure a suitable lot of land, centrally located to
accommodate the whole village, in fee simple and free
from debt.

The bequest then provides that the library shall have
a suitable reading room to be supplied with the best papers
and periodicals, and that the library and reading room
shall be open every afternoon and evening, including Sun-

day, and that a capable man shall be employed to take
charge of the building and contents. Not more than
$10,000 of the bequest was to be applied to the cost of the
building, and the remainder was, upon the completion of the
building, to be invested as a permanent endowment fund
under his name, the income to be applied to the purchase of
books, papers, and expenses of the library and reading


He contemplated a practical working library for the
information and education of the people, and not a mere
retreat for scholars. If the library is thus maintained its
influence will strengthen and widen as the years go by
and it will be his most appropriate and enduring monu-

We should not forget, however, that this gift was sug-
gested, and its usefulness made possible, by the library
work which was begun and carried on for a score of years
by the unselfish and unaided efforts of the women of Brad-

It is appropriate, and will, I believe, be of permanent
value, to preserve the history of their work, and, so far as
we can, trace its progress from the first small beginning to
the time when it had become of such importance as to at-
tract the interest and be the object of the wise beneficence
of Mr. Woods.

In 1874, Mrs. Albert Bailey and Mrs. Charles Jones went
about from house to house and procured subscriptions of one
dollar each from sixty-three women, to a fund for the pur-
chase of books for a library, f

* A copy of that portion of Mr. Woods' will, and of the subsequent modi-
fication thereof by him by letter, is Appendix 1.

t A list of the subscribers is Appendix 2.


January I, 1875, these subscribers adopted regulations for
the government of their library, which were as follows:

"Regulations of the Ladies' Library Associa-
tion, Adopted January i, 1875.

" 1. Any lady may become a member of this Asso-
ciation by paying the sum of one dollar annually,
from January 1.

"2. Members meet to exchange books on alternate
Saturdays at 3 o'clock p.m.

" 3. For any book kept out of the library over four
weeks, a fine of five cents per week will be exacted, to
be collected by the librarian.

"4. No books to be loaned to any person not a
member of this society.

"5. It shall be the duty of every member of this
society to take proper care of all the books in their
possession, and any book being unnecessarily injured
while in the possession of any member, said member
shall be charged with the price of the book.

"6. If at any time it shall be deemed best to disor-
ganize this society, such disposition shall be made of
the books as shall receive a two-thirds vote of the
members, pro rata.''''

In addition to the annual subscriptions, money was ob-
tained by entertainments and lectures conducted by the

The books were kept at the house of Mrs. Jones, who
acted as librarian for three years.

The amount of money was not sufficient to purchase as
many books as there were members, and therefore those
most interested in the work gave books to make up enough

to go around. The books were evidently well circulated,
for from records which still exist it appears that the num-
ber of books drawn by members in 1875 was 836 ' * n I 876,
1056; in 1877, 980; in 1878, 1095; in 1879, I2I 6.

The records of the years 1880, 1881, and 1882, and the
secretary's and treasurer's books for the first five years of
association, were destroyed by fire in February, 1883. .

In 1879, through the efforts of Mrs. Roswell Farnham,
who was for some years the efficient president of the asso-
ciation, it received a gift of $1000 from D. K. Pearsons
of Chicago, a native of Bradford, to be invested, and the
income spent in the purchase of books. This appears to
have increased their importance to such an extent that on
January 3, 1880, they boldly adopted a constitution and
by-laws. This constitution provided for an executive com-
mittee, and for holding lectures and other entertainments
for the purpose of raising funds.

It also provided for records of the proceedings of the
association to be kept by a secretary, and contained full
and specific provisions as to the duties of the treasurer,
requiring that she should keep " in a book for that purpose a
full and accurate account of all her doings, and make full
report thereof at the annual meeting, or oftener, as called
upon by the society."

The selection of books was, by the constitution, confided
to the executive committee.

The by-laws then adopted provided that the library
should be open every Saturday afternoon for the drawing
of books, and should be open to all residents of Bradford
not members of the association, at the rate of three cents
per week, and that persons not residents of Bradford could


draw books upon paying ten cents and depositing with the
librarian the sum of one dollar.*

This constitution and by-laws, with certain amendments
adopted from time to time, are now the constitution and
by-laws of the association.

In 1880 the receipts of the association, outside of income
from the Pearsons fund, were $72.32.

In 1881, $525.34 was expended for books, and the
library had increased to 857 volumes.

In 1882, $220.93 was expended for books, and the man-
agement was so far progressive that it opened the library
on Saturday evenings as well as in the afternoon.

The librarian reported at the end of the year that 175
books had been drawn on Saturday evenings.

In 1883, 1320 books were drawn by members, 1023 by
persons not members, on what was known as the three-cent
list (that is, upon the payment of three cents a week in-
stead of $1 a year subscription), making a total of 2343.

February 19 in this year, the building in which the
library was kept was destroyed by fire, and, of the 1146
volumes, only 536 were saved. Fortunately the insurance
was ample, and the insurance money was immediately
expended in books, the total number of volumes at the end
of the year being 1058.

In 1884 the executive committee reported that the lib-
rary was in better condition than ever before. The num-
ber of books drawn by members during that year was
1386, and on the three-cent list 1086, or a total of 2472.

In 18S5, 1375 books were drawn out by members, and
1 160 on the three-cent list, or a total of 2535. The re-

* A copy of the constitution and by-laws, and list of its officers from
1880 to 1895, will be found as Appendix 3.


ceipts this year aside from the income of the Pearsons fund
were $99.19.

In 1886 the circulation to members was 1650, and on the
three-cent list 1175, or a total of 2825. The whole num-
ber of volumes in the library was 1427, and the receipts
from fees of members and three-cent fees was $91.80.

In 1887 the society had 65 members, who drew out 1676
volumes, and there were drawn on the three-cent list 1608
books. The receipts during the year were $120.44, anc ^
97 volumes were added to the library.

The executive committee, in their report for this year,
note the increasing number of boys and girls who availed
themselves of the library, where their reading was directed
as much as possible by those in charge.

In 1888 the receipts were $99.13, and for the first time
the books drawn by persons not members of the associa-
tion exceeded those drawn by the members, 1484 being
drawn on the three-cent list, and only 1320 by the mem-
bers, making a total of 2804.

During the year, 105 books were purchased and 72 were
received by gift, and the library numbered 1802 volumes.

In 1889 tne receipts were $95.21, 53 volumes were
added to the library, 1024 books were drawn by the mem-
bers, and 1354 on tne three-cent list, or a total of 2378.

In 1890 the receipts were $89.71, members drew 993
books, and 1285 were drawn on the three-cent list, making
a total of 2278 books drawn. The library numbered i960

In 1891 the receipts were $79.09, but the amount ex-
pended was only $70.10. Forty-eight volumes were added
to the library. Members drew 1074 books, and 1179 were
drawn on the three-cent list, or a total circulation of 2263.

In 1892 the receipts were $100.04. Ninety-two books


were bought at a cost of $85. Members drew 1136 vol-
umes, and 1323 were drawn by others, making a total cir-
culation of 2459.

In 1893 the receipts were $108.96, and 101 books were
purchased. One thousand two hundred eighty three books
were drawn by members, and 1284 by others, making a
total circulation of 2567.

In 1894 the receipts were only $67.63; 893 volumes
were drawn by members and 961 by others, making a total
of 1854.

So far during 1895 the receipts, and the circulation
among the members, seem to have decreased, for the re-
ceipts to June 22 were only $27.75, tne books drawn by
members 252, and on the three-cent list 518, or a total cir-
culation of 770.

The total number of volumes at the present time is 2188,
and the association has given them to the corporation
which owns the Woods library building.*

Mrs. Albert Bailey was president in 1875 an ^ 1876 ; Mrs.
A. A. Doty in 1877 and 1878 ; Mrs. K. K. Wilson in 1879.

Mrs. Charles Jones was librarian in 1875, ^76, and
1877 ; Miss Lucy Nelson in 1879.

In 1880, when the constitution and by-laws were adopted,
a larger number of officers were provided for, a list of
whom each year to the present time will be found as
Appendix 3.

* The vote of gift was as follows :

" At a special meeting of Bradford Public Library Association
held in the library room June 29, 1895, the following motion was
made and carried unanimously :

" Moved, that we give the books and property to the corporation
called the Bradford Public Library.

"Attest: Orissa J. Prichard,



The first catalogue of the Ladies' Library was not an
ambitious document. It was a simple list, kept upon
sheets of legal foolscap, with the number of the volume
in the right-hand margin, the name of the volume in the
centre of the page, and the name of the author in the left-
hand column. The catalogue in use in 1880 is in exist-
ence, and shows a list of 344 volumes.

In 1880 the list was copied into a book in the same
form, each new volume being added to the list and given
a new number. This book has been preserved. It shows
a list of 1 149 volumes on February 19, 1883. At that
time a committee was appointed to prepare a catalogue to
be printed, and the committee reported, April 2, 1884, that
the library contained 1237 volumes. In this catalogue, for
the first time, the books were arranged alphabetically and
not numerically, and, by subsequent appendices issued
from time to time, the catalogue has been kept up down to
the present time.

Who can measure the good which has resulted to this
community from this patient, persistent, unselfish work of
these wise and public-spirited women? They deserve our
praise equally with him whose name this building bears.
He gave of his abundance and by a single act. They
gave from limited means and by the constant devotion of a
score of years.

While his name is carved upon the portal of your library,
theirs should be borne upon tablets on its walls, that in
the years and generations to come those who enjoy its
benefits may not forget how much they owe to those who
made its existence possible.

But the library of the Ladies' Library Association of
1875 was not tne fi rst m Bradford. It was preceded by
the library of the Bradford Scientific Association, which


was incorporated in i860 by the General Assembly for the
purpose of scientific and literary research and improve-

This association accumulated three or four hundred vol-
umes, to which were added at a later date about one hun-
dred and fifty volumes given by the Agricultural Library,
an association formed in the days of the "Grangers."

These libraries were accessible only to the members, and
were both destroyed in the fire of February, 1883.

The Bradford Academy, which was incorporated in
1820, f soon after it opened accumulated a small library,
known as "The Oliverian Libraiy," belonging really to a
society of students under that name.

In 1838 this society was merged with another society
of the students known as the " Philomathesian," and the
library passed to the control of that society. Subsequently
that library became a part of the "Merrill Library," which
was founded by a bequest of $2090.33 from Mrs. Eliza C.
Merrill in 1859, and is now an important part of the edu-
cational equipment of the graded high school. J

Bradford, however, enjoys the peculiar honor of being
the first town in which an incorporated library society was

* Session Laws, i860, c. 100.
t Session Laws, 1S20, c. 153.

X Mrs. Merrill died January 25, 1859. The provision in her will was
as follows :

"Eighth. To the Trustees of the Bradford Academy in Brad-
ford, Vermont, I give and bequeath all the remainder of my prop-
erty of whatsoever name or nature, in trust, however, for the fol-
lowing purposes, to wit : The principal to be invested in a safe and
productive Mortgage on Real Estate and the income only from said
investment to be expended in Books or Philosophical apparatus for
the free use and benefit of the scholars in said Academy."

The trustees received the $2090.33 September 13, 1859.


established in Vermont, and this was at so earl)' a day in
the history of the town as to mark unmistakably the intelli-
gence and the love of learning of its first settlers.

September 10, 1796, which was only twenty-six years
after King George III., of his "special grace, certain
knowledge, and mere motion," did "create, erect, and con-
stitute" a tract of land "on the west side of Connecticut
River in the County of Gloucester, within our Province of
New York a Township by the name of Moore Town," the
name of which was changed to Bradford by the general
assembly of Vermont in November, 1788, thirty-two citi-
zens of Bradford signed a petition asking the legislature to
establish a library corporation in this town.

This petition indicates that the subscribers were already
a library society, and they doubtless had then a collection
of books, but desired to be able to act in a corporate form,
and make regulations for the government of the society.
The original petition is still in existence, and, by the kind-
ness of the state officer in whose custody it is, I have been
allowed to bring it with me, that I may show it to you. I
think you will agree with me that it is a remarkable docu-
ment both in matter and in style. It is as follows :

" To the Honorable, The Legislature of the Stale of

"We the subscribers your petitioners, reflecting on
the importance of education and of every mean which
tends to the encouragement thereof, but especially on
the high veneration your Honors feel for Literature,
and the many advantages flowing therefrom both to
societies and individuals ; encouraged by these and
many other motives of the like importance ; consider-
ing also, that well regulated Library Societies are pil-


lars which support in no small degree the honor and
dignity of States, Towns &c. in which they are estab-
lished, Pray your Honors, at your next session to be
holden at Rutland on the second Thursday of October
next ensuing, to incorporate us and others, a body
politic and corporate styled, The Bradford Social
Library Society, and grant us a charter, that we may
have power of choosing officers in, and of making our
own laws and regulations necessary for the govern-
ment of said Society ; which we wish may not thwart,
but be protected by the laws of this State and your
petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray
Bradford (Vermont) September ioth, 1796.

Micah Barron
John Banfill
Benjamin Little
Eben 11 Metcalf
Caleb Putnam
Hiram Pearson
Joseph Clark
Patrick Kanedy
John Peckett
Ebenr. Hidden
Herbert Ormsbee
Thomas Pilsbury
Jno. Underwood
Timothy Ayer
Jeptha Sharp
Ephrim Martin
Lemwell Orsborn
Benj^ Baldwin
David Bliss
Moses Chamberlin

Thomas May
John Barron
Ezekiel Little
Arad Stebbins
Gardiner Kellogg
And w B. Peters
Robert Hunkins
Levi S. Andros
Joseph Johnson
Benj a P. Baldwin
Benjamin Whitcomb
William Peckett
William Case
John Bliss."


Such information as I have been able to obtain concern-
ing the signers of this petition is Appendix 4.

The following filing on back of the petition shows the

action which was taken upon the petition by the general

assembly :

" Petition of

Micah Barron, John


Ezekiel Little and


Filed Oct. 15, 1796.

Ros. Hopkins, Secy.

In General Assembly,

17th. Octr. 1796.

Read and referred to

Messrs. Lyon, Farrand

and Cutler

Att. R. Whitney, Ok.

In Genl. Assembly

25th Octr. 1796.

The Com*: reports in favour

of the petition and also

reported a bill which was


Att. R. Whitney, Clerk? *

And now, after nearly a hundred years, this faded
manuscript comes back to the spot where it was written,
to inspire us with the same love of learning and education,
and the same devotion to good order and good govern-
ment, which the fathers had when they set their names to
its compact and luminous lines.

I have not as yet been able to ascertain, and perhaps it
* See Vermont State Papers (MSS.), vol. xix. p. 299.


cannot now be accurately ascertained, by whom this peti-
tion was drafted. A comparison of the text of the petition
with the signatures of the signers may afford some indica-
tion, and those who are curious will have ample oppor-
tunity to exercise their power of comparison of writing by
examining the photographic copy which I have caused to
be prepared and placed in your library.

I have never seen a document which was to me more
interesting than this ancient petition. Better English could
not be written, and the purpose of a library society could
not be stated in a more accurate or felicitous manner.

Respect for good order and good government, regard
for education and love of learning, are shown in every
one of its well-phrased lines. Considering the time and
the circumstances under which it was written, I think I am
justified in saying it is one of the most remarkable papers
to be found in the archives of any state.

Upon this petition the following act of incorporation
was passed, November 5, 1796 :

" An Act incorporating certain Persons therein
mentioned, a society, by the name of brad-
FORD Social Library Society.

"Whereas certain persons in the county of Orange,
influenced by a conviction of the many advantages
that have arisen from literary societies, and public
libraries, have associated themselves under the name
and title of the ' Bradford social library society ; ' and
whereas said society are desirous to promote and en-
courage literature, and considering that well regulated
library societies tend, in a very great degree, to pro-
mote knowledge more universally, have petitioned the
legislature, that the members of said society may be


created a body corporate forever, with the power of
choosing their own officers, and of making laws and
regulations necessary for the government of said
society, in such manner as may best answer the laud-
able purposes which the members of said society may
have in view; wherefore, to assist and encourage the
members of said society, in promoting useful knowl-
edge and literature.

"I. It is hereby enacted by the general assembly
of the state of Vermont, that the following persons,
to wit, Gardner Kellogg, Micah Barron and Ezekiel
Little, and their associates be, and they are hereby
created a body corporate, to be called and known by
the name of Bradford social library society, and they
by the same name, and their successors, are hereby
constituted and confirmed a body corporate in law.

"II. And it is hereby further enacted, that the said
society shall be capable in law to sue and be sued,
plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered
unto, defend and be defended against, in all or any
court of justice, and other places, in all manner of
suits, actions, complaints, pleas, causes and matters,
of what nature or kind soever, by the name of Brad-
ford social library society. And that it may and shall
be lawful for the said society hereafter to have and
use a common seal, and the same at the will and
pleasure of said society to break, change alter and

" III. And it is hereby further enacted, that the said
society shall have full power to make their own bye-
laws and regulations, such as the appointing the time
and place of holding their meetings, regulating the
mode of electing their officers, determining the author-


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Online LibraryJosiah H. (Josiah Henry) BentonAddress of J.H. Benton, Jr., at the dedication of the Bradford Public Library building, Bradford, Vermont, July 4, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 5)