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Joyce Endee

Ashland library celebrates 150th anniversary



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David Ruell, local historian and member of the Ashland Library's Board of Trustees, pointed out the many places the town's library was located since 1871 as they celebrated its 150th anniversary last Saturday. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 07, 2021
ASHLAND – On Saturday, Oct. 4, the Ashland Library invited the public to join them for the 150th Anniversary of one of northern New Hampshire's longest surviving libraries, now located in the Scribner House at 42 Main St. in downtown Ashland.

While folks enjoyed refreshments on the lawn from Just Like Meme's in Rumney, they were also able to take part in a raffle with prizes from local businesses, tour the library and enjoy the music of Leah Cordero and Matt Smart. A special treat was the table full of free books for children provided by Pond & Peak Reading Council.

The library was not always at that location however, and library trustees were more than happy to share with everyone a bit of its storied history. A display of photos was available on the lawn showing each of the six locations, starting with the Cheney House.

When the town voted in May of 1870 to appropriate $100 to start a library, they chose Col. Thomas Cheney to collect the funds and purchase the books. In 1871 Cheney was able to open the library in his own home on Highland Street with a total of 500 volumes of reading material. His wife Mary was paid $4.50 per month as Ashland's first librarian.

Somewhere around 1871 Rinaldo Rinal Dinal Dearborn was named librarian and the facility was then moved to his print shop, now located at 10 Main St. in Ashland. In February of 1872, Dearborn reported there were then 599 volumes in the library.

In 1874, Ashland selectmen appointed Sarah Jane Brown as the town's librarian, historically making her the first female appointed to an Ashland town office. The library collection was then moved to her home.

According to local historian and library Board of Trustees member David Ruell's compilation, titled "Outline of History of the Ashland Town Library," in or about 1877 or 1888 the library moved once more. This time it was relocated to "the Cheney house on Main Street into what was formerly the local post office," Ruell quoted from the records. (It has since been identified as the building now occupied by Highlites Salon at 23 Main St.).

According to Ruell's research, in 1882 it was back to the Dearborn house for the library collection until 1895 when the town voted to build a "hose house" for the fire department and combine it with a library room. There it stayed until Emma Scribner died on Sept. 11, 1936 and left her home at 41 Main St. to the town.

Still in the Scribner House today, the library now boasts a circulation of 16,000 items ranging from traditional books to Audio and EBooks, movie CDs and magazines. They also have Wi-Fi and computer services and host a number of special programs and events throughout the year. Downstairs in the children's room the latest addition is a number of STEM kits that can be borrowed. Fouts said the kits were acquired through a special grant from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, along with other state programs, and have been extremely popular with the boys and girls.

The newly refurbished second floor now has additional offerings, too. In the New Hampshire Room, patrons and visitors will find shelves filled with old books covering the Civil War, maps of the Town of Ashland in the 1800s and so much more.

"It's a great place to learn about historical events or look into the genealogy of your family," said Assistant Director Terry Fouts.

There is also a room with shelves lined by more historical books and older literature. Included are chronicles from Teddy Roosevelt, old Webster Dictionaries and, for the Baby Boomer crowd, even a collection of childhood favorites such as the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series.

Just inside the back entrance, the Ashland Library also has the Little Free Pantry for those in need of food or personal care items.

For more information on their services, programs and hours, please visit them at www.ashlandtownlibrary.org or call 968-7928.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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