historians spend a considerable time in libraries and, invariably,
many of them gravitate to the Jefferson Library, which has a unique
history of its own.
Photo submitted by author
As the Marion
County community moved from the l9th to 20th century, the people
of the town looked around for ways to restore their city to the
prominence it enjoyed as an inland port area in the mid-1800s.
Building a good library became a major project.
had a library located on Walnut Street, but it had only 200 books
and asked for a usage fee of $1 per person a year. So in an effort
to revive trade in the business district, the women of the Jefferson
Library Association proposed that for $30 a month, they would furnish
downtown “rest rooms” to local people and visitors alike.
“The rest rooms
will be a place where merchants can take customers for social intercourse
and to learn to know them personally. The cost will be small, but
in the days to come, it is certain to bring fruit,” the proponents
The plan apparently flopped, so the ladies of the Association tried
something else: a ten-cent tea in the library to buy badly-needed
bookcases for the 200 books.
A year later, the Association received a $7,500 grant to build a
library from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
with the stipulation that Jefferson
provide a budget for its upkeep.
built a host
of libraries in Texas. The first, ironically, was at Pittsburg,
1907, J.F. Berry of Morris
County won a contract to build Jefferson’s library with a bid
of $8,750. The Jefferson Jimplecute praised the project: “In the
good old town of Jefferson,
which has figured more in the formation and upbuilding of teeming
Texas than most any other city...the town is again assuming its
sway of ancient supremacy as a leading city and center of a superbly
rich county in Northeast
The library brought recognition to Jefferson
and today, only two of the original Carnegie libraries built as
a result of Andrew Carnegie’s gifts, Hearne
are still used as libraries. Others remain standing, but serve other
Between 1886 and 1919, Carnegie
donated more than $40 million that paid for almost 1,700 new libraries
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, April, 2006
than a century after it was built, Jefferson’s
library continues to serve Jefferson
and Marion County,
but with considerable improvements, including an elevator and an
The library is privately funded. A pie and cake auction each July
Fourth raises $4,000 to $5,000 for the children’s book section and
a golf tournament provides additional thousands.
Our thanks for Vic Parker of the Jefferson Jimplecute for helping
us with this story.
Bob Bowman's East Texas
22, 2009 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact