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A History of the Canaan Public Library Building


NOTE: This history of the Canaan Public Library building, at 288 Main Street, where it has been located since 1951, was written by Willard Walker in 2006 for the Trustees of the Canaan Public Library. It is based primarily on the minutes of The Wilshire Public Library Association (1878-1905), The Prescott Free Library Association (1907-1955) and The Canaan Public Library Association, also called The Canaan Free Library Association and The Canaan Free Public Library Association, (1955-1974). Page numbers following quoted passages refer to the pages numbered with red ink in the Canaan Library Minutebook, which is housed in the Canaan Public Library.

The Canaan Public Library had its inception in 1878, when 24 men had themselves incorporated as "proprietors of the Wilshire Public Library Association" (p. 1), and, on 22 April, met at the Masons' Hall in Canaan Village and chose a committee of three men, Joseph Barrett, Abel Prescott, and George W. Johnson, to "draft a code of By- Laws for the government of the Association" (p. 3). The Library, and the Association, were named for George Wilshire, who had made a large donation in cash to establish a library in [Canaan], and also furnished the Same with a Seal, and has also contributed, very recently fifty volumes of new and valuable Books to Said Library (p. 18).

On 21 January, 1881, the members of the Association voted unanimously "to extend to George Wilshire Esqr. their sincere and heartfelt thanks, for his generosity and liberality in funding and sustaining an Association, which affords pleasure and instruction to its members, and will tend to elevate in no small degree, the community in which it is established" (p. 18).

For the first ten years of its existence, the Association's annual meetings were held at "the School House in district 6," that is in Canaan Village (pp. 13-26). The exact location of the Library is not known; but the members of the Association met at the School House in 1886 and "Voted that the Directors be instructed to pay George W. Johnson for the use of his building for the Library, & for his Services as Librarian" (p. 25); and "G.W.Johnson's store is shown on the map in Figure 1 on the east side of the Hill Road, just north of the Smith Hill Road.

Fig. 1 Canaan Village.

On the first Monday of 1887 the Association met in the School House (p. 26). The annual meeting in 1888 was at "A.B.Pennys office in Canaan Village" (p. 27). Thereafter, the annual meetings of the Association were often held at George W. Johnson's store; but, in 1897, the Association met again "at the School House in Canaan Village" (p. 45). What may have been the last meeting of the Wilshire Public Library Association took place "at P.O building" on 6 October, 1905, and was recorded on p. 47 of the Minutebook by F.I. Furber, Secretary.

The Wilshire Public Library Association was succeeded by the Prescott Free Library Association, which met to elect officers in April, 1907 (p. 47) and April, 1908 (p. 48). At a meeting at the Town Hall on 6 January, 1911, the members "Voted to Have the following officers the President Vice President Sec & Treas to procure a location, Librarian and a Contract of same for one year" (p. 50). Where the Library was at this time is not recorded; but it was "Voted to have the officers see to having a new cubbard for books" (p. 50).

The Association had its March, 1911, meeting at "the Post Office," (p. 51). On 28 February, 1912, "the Prescott free Library Asso" met "at the Library rooms" (pp. 52, 57). In 1914, the annual meeting took place on 10 January "in Harry Harris store" (p. 65). At this meeting it was decided to call a special meeting on 17 January to discuss the subject of "removing the 'Prescott Free Library' to a room by itself, and out of the public stores" (p. 66). It was also voted that "if the Library is to be moved then the board of Directors find a suitable place for library on Main St" (p. 66).
At the special meeting, held on 17 January at the Town Hall, the Association voted on whether or not to move the Library - "15 in favor of moving it - and 6 against it" (p. 67); and on 4 March, 1914, the Prescott Free Library was moved from the store of A.J. Keene to a room in the Grange building on Main Street by the "Trustees" of the P.F.L Association. The ladies Ola Maxfield, Lillian Purrinton, Dilla Harris, Mabel Harris, Murle Harris, Clara Moody, Idella Harrington, Harriette Lord, Gladys Nelson, and Gertrude Moody worked all the after-noon repairing books. Gave their time to help the Library and save the money it would cost (p. 67).

The Library was opened in the new room in the Grange Hall on 14 March, 1914, "at 1 o'clock P.M." (p. 68); but plans to move the Library to yet another location were already underway. On 13 March, the day before the move to the Grange Hall, Helen G. Tuttle and John R. McClellan (Trustee under the Van Ransalaer Tuttle deed of trust) signed a deed (see Figure 2) conveying a parcel of land on Main Street to "the Inhabitants of the Town of Canaan to be used for a site for a Public Library." This was a lot on Main Street bounded "on the south by the road leading from Skowhegan to Pittsfield, … on the north by the Carrabassett Stream, so called…".

Figure 2 Copy Of Deed

In 1915 a committee was appointed "to see about raising funds to build 'Library' building" (p. 79); and, on 27 July of that year, the Association met in the Town Hall "to discuss building Funds, etc." (p. 79). It did not immediately move the Library to the new lot, however. This may have caused some ill will on the part of Helen G. Tuttle, for the association voted on 10 January, 1916, "that Mrs. Winnie Moody write Mrs. Helen Tuttle for the 'Asso.' just why we had not built a library building or started one, on the lot given by her for a Library building" (p. 92).

At the annual meeting in the Town Hall on 27 March, 1924, President Ola Maxfield appointed a committee "to confer with the Selectmen to see what can be done to clean up Library lot" (p.109). At the annual meeting four years later, on 14 March, 1928, the Association voted "not to rent the 'Library lot.' to have it vacated so to clean it up this spring" (p. 115). By this time it had been rented for several years by the Town, which forwarded the proceeds to the Association's Treasurer. On 12 January, 1918, for example, $13.00 "rec'd from B.H.Harris for rent of library lot was Paid Tr." (p. 223). On 18 February, 1920, $6.00 was "Rec'd from town for rent of library lot yrs 1918&1919" (p. 226). This amount was then paid to the Treasurer on 22 February, 1920(p. 227). Rent in the amount of $3.00 was received from the Town again on 17 December, 1920, "rent of library lot," and yet again on 14 February, 1922 (p. 228). The minutes are difficult to read here; but $3.00 was evidently "Paid Tr. rent of Le - lot" on 27 January, 1923.(p. 229). On 14 February of what was probably 1923, and again in 1923 and '24, $3.00 was "Rec'd from Earl Burrill rent of library lot" (pp. 228, 229, 230).

At the annual meeting in 1929, the matter of the Library lot was "passed over" and "Left with directors to discuss" (pp. 116-117); but, three years later, at the 1932 annual meeting, a motion was made by Harvey Harris and approved by Bertha Furber "that the directors put an article in warrant for the next town-meeting to see what the town will do toward procuring a Library building" (p. 123).

At the annual meeting on 11 March, 1935, the "President appointed comm. consisting of Fred Nelson, Selden Fitzgerald, F.E. Earl with Directors, to make beginning on Library building, which was discussed at length" (p. 126). At the next annual meeting, on 9 March, 1936, however, the committee reported that "not much has been done in regard to the beginning of a Library building" (p. 128). In 1937, on 8 March, no action was taken; but a "Lengthy discussion about a Library building" took place (p. 129). In 1938, at the annual meeting in the Town Hall, "A vote was taken in regard to a Library building. 12 votes for new building, 14 votes for Nason school building …. President requested Directors and selectmen of the town to call a special town meeting if necessary" (p. 130).

The Nason schoolhouse was on the west side of the Battle Ridge Road, just north of the brook that flows under the Battle Ridge Road south of the Hoxie Road. It is marked there as "SH" on the map of Canaan, believed to have been printed in 1880, and reproduced in Figure 3.

Nothing was done to acquire the Nason schoolhouse in 1938; so, at the annual meeting in 1939, Harold Bean and Arland Smith were appointed to "act with Directors, to see about a building for a Library, and request a special town-meeting, if necessary" (p. 131). It seems that little progress was made, however, because, at the next annual meeting, on 11 March, 1940, Harold Bean announced that $25 to $35 was available "to enlarge Library room in Grange Hall, and put up book shelves. So voted" (p. 132). At the 1941 annual meeting, Esther Bean, the Librarian, reported that the Library room in the Grange Hall had been enlarged and more shelves had been added; and there was some discussion about "using the Library lot for parking cars" (p. 133). Horace Bean, the First Selectman, was said to favor the "Library Ass'n and Town Improvement Ass'n working together, and using Town Improvement money for improving Library lot." (Town Improvement funds had become available from the Hubbard fund, which also provided funds for new books for the Library.)

A special meeting of the Association was called on 17 January, 1948. At that meeting it was voted to accept the Nason schoolhouse for a Library building and to contact officials of the Town Improvement Association "to find out if funds could be obtained for moving the school-house" to the Library lot (p. 138). Four years later, at an annual meeting on 14 March, 1949, "a large majority of those present voted in favor of moving the Nason school-house onto the Library lot, and using it for a Library" (p. 140); and, a special meeting was called on 6 December, 1949, "for the purpose of having the money that was solicited from the town people turned over to the Treasurer of Library Association for purpose of paying for repairs on the building to be used for Library also the money from the rummage sale to be given to the Library association" (p. 141).

At the annual meeting on 12 March, 1951, Elsie Salsbury, the Librarian, closed her annual report by saying "The year has been a pleasant one and we are looking forward to the day we can move into our new Library" (p. 144). At the next annual meeting, on 10 March, 1952, Elsie Salsbury reported that … in the spring work was begun on our new Library, and was completed so we were all moved and the old Library all cleaned the last of August and the new Library was opened September 12, 1951. On behalf of the Directors and other Officers of the Library association, we wish to thank all who donated money to repair the Library building, especially do we thank Vernon Gleason for the economical way in which he used the money raised by the Town for remodeling. Also wish to thank George Nelson for the sign he made and donated. Edith Downes heirs for the furnishings Lee Jewell the door he furnished for the store room Wentworth's and Holt's stores for supplies the[y] donated and the discount on material used (p. 146). What Elsie Salsbury described as a "store room" was probably the room later used for the chemical toilet acquired in 1973 (p. 202).

The last recorded meeting of the Prescott Free Public Library Association was held in the Library building on 18 March, 1953. "The motion was made for President to see Lawyer Bulten about having [the name of the Library] changed" to Canaan Public Library. "It was left with President Carl Wentworth to see about doing the general repairs of the Library such as fixing the door and crack in the floor" (p. 148). The first annual meeting of the Canaan Public Library was held in 1955 at the Library. It was voted at that meeting "to change the name of the Library from Prescott Free Public to Canaan Public Library" (p. 153).

At a special meeting of the Canaan Public Library held at the Library on 18 April, 1956, "it was moved and approved to construct a new walk, approximately four feet wide from the porch to the sidewalk, also to have a stone for the step" (p. 159). On 13 March, 1957, the treasurer, Elsie Salsbury, reported that $5.00 had been expended for a stone step, purchased from "Rosa Chase" (p. 161). In a separate report given on this occasion Elsie Salsbury, who was also serving as Librarian, said that "Last summer a nice stone step was placed in front of the porch and this added much to the appearance of our library" (p. 162).

At the annual meeting on 5 March, 1958, it was moved and approved to use the $50.00 given by Mrs. Annie Horne "in memory of her daughter, Miss Beth Horne" for "building a fence in front of the library, the exact location and type of fence to be determined by the trustees" (p. 163). At this same meeting Elsie Salsbury, the Librarian, reported that "We need another magazine table and another rack for Books and Vernon Gleason has promised to make them for us this summer" (p. 165). At the 1959 annual meeting on 11 March, "Ola Maxfield [a former president] suggested we give some thought in enlarging the library to make room for more books as our space is now very limited" (p. 166). At this meeting the Treasurer, Elsie Salsbury, reported an expenditure of $14.00 to F.S.Gilblair to "tar walk" (p. 167); and the Librarian, Elsie Salsbury, reported the recent purchase of a "table for magazines which will be much appreciated" (p. 168).

At the 1960 annual meeting, on 9 March, the Secretary, Xaverine Glidden, reported that "it was voted that the trustees tend to seeding the lawn and having a fence erected. It was also voted for the trustees to have a fan installed that would help circulate the air in the library" (p. 169). At the annual meeting on 7 March, 1965, the librarian, Bernice Dickey, reported that "the floor has been re-finished this past year, with much favorable comment on it' (p. 185). Xaverine Glidden's Treasurer's Report mentioned that $1.30 was paid to Don Sanders for his work on the floor (p. 187). At the 1967 annual meeting, on 13 March, Xaverine Glidden reported that $80 had been paid to Bernard Fitzgerald for painting and another $15 was expended for "Painting Library Sign" (p. 191). At the 1969 annual meeting, held on 12 March, the Secretary, Rita Smith, reported that "One storm window [was] put on this winter and also heavy plastic on one, Library banked" (p. 192).

A special meeting was called on 10 July, 1973, "for purpose of formulating budget and presenting list of improvements to come from Revenue Sharing Funds, Officers and trustees present came up with [the] following: "Capital Improvements Needed:

9 comb windows and 1 door

Insulation for attic space $53
Chemical toilet $80
Window shades $27


This account is followed by the words "These were O.K.'d by Selectmen and voters @ town meeting" (p. 202).

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