Library History



The first library was suggested by Miss Mamie Miller in 1876 and the first meeting of the proposed Library Society was held at the John Maloy home. Each person attending donated a book for the little library, which was established in the home of W. A. McCollum, first minister of the Congregational Church. In 1881 the library came into the possession of the A.O.U.W. lodge until it was destroyed by fire in 1886. Later, Messrs. White and Barth gave the upper rooms of their stone store building to the ladies of the T.P.M. Club to be used as a club room and reading room. A library association was formed by several “talented and energetic women.” One of these women was Mary Rebecca Miller, wife of James Monroe Miller, the future Congressman, who issued a call for a meeting in 1897, and a stock company was formed for a library.



Kansas Congressman Miller led the fight for passage of the bill providing for fortification of the Panama Canal, and by doing so had made quite a name for himself across the land, probably the reason he and his wife were asked to dine with Andrew Carnegie at the Willard Hotel in Washington. Over dinner Mrs. Miller told Carnegie something of the history of Council Grove and its unique position in Kansas history as a point on the Santa Fe Trail. She told of the big fire which had destroyed half the town, including the library. Carnegie at once asked whether they then had a library. She explained that they started again, but had no building. As the Congressman’s nephew, William A. Miller, later explained in a letter to A. H. Strieby, “He [Carnegie] immediately turned in his chair and beckoned to his secretary who sat at another table. He told the secretary to write out an order for a library building for Council Grove.” This was on March 27, 1903, the date the Carnegie Corporation papers show that he offered $10,000.00 for a building.

By some strange irony, on that exact date the Council Grove Republican gave a history of the library (written by Mamie Sharp) in which Sharp talked about the problems of keeping the library going and asked why there could not be some kind of tax support or other show of support by the city. “Would that some good fairy in the disguise of Miss Gould or Mr. Carnegie would [sic] endow us liberally,” she wrote.

The offer was not acted upon for some years–probably because of the terrible flood and fire in the first part of June, 1903, which caused considerable damage to the town. It was not until April, 1914, when voters went to the polls to vote on two library propositions, the first to decide whether the city should take over the old library and support it; the second, whether they wished the commissioners to petition Andrew Carnegie for a public library building. The vote was in the af- firmative on both measures. On July 14, 1914, the board formally applied to the Carnegie Corporation, and the offer of $10,000.00 was made (or renewed) in October.