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Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library

History of the Library - Part 6

Before the Township, There Were the Ladies By Suzanne Lind

In 1844, just seven years after Michigan became the 26th state to join the Union, and only 17 years after the Potawatomi tribe ceded the area around present-day Kalamazoo to the US government, three women in the wilderness village of Kalamazoo formed a book club.  These women had recently arrived with their settler families from New England, and were anxious to create a cultured society in their new home, one that appreciated books and the arts.

The women initially described their activities as "sewing group gatherings" because one woman would read while the others sewed, but it was not long before the group grew into an active book club with big plans for encouraging reading in Kalamazoo.   In 1852 they founded the Ladies’ Library Association (LLA).  It was the first women’s organization in Michigan and the third in the United States. 

In 1895 women in the small town of Marcellus also formed a Ladies’ Library.  The following year, the women in Schoolcraft did the same.  The Kalamazoo and Schoolcraft Ladies’ Libraries still exist, though with a somewhat different focus than they had before the advent of public libraries.  The Marcellus LLA book collection was donated to Marcellus Township for use as a public library in the late 1890’s. 

The Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library archives contain the very first Treasurer’s Book for the LLA in Marcellus.  In this town, anyone could join the association and check out books by paying a $1.00 annual fee; some paid only ten cents, presumably because they could not afford to pay a full dollar.  All entries in the treasurer’s book were made by hand with a fountain pen in a very careful handwriting.  In 1895 113 people paid $1.00 each, one person paid 25 cents, and 56 paid ten cents.  These were the first Marcellus library patrons!

This early record book includes annual financial reports for the years 1895-1904.  For the year ending October 1896 treasurer Minnie O. Hall reported:





 from socials              $ 17.80

 from members         113.35

 from fines                       2.90

                                     from contributions      6.05

                                     from library dinner    15.00

                                                            Total     155.00


                                    Treas., sec. books      $     .60

                                    Librarian’s book               .75

                                    Book labels                         .90

                                    Book case                       15.00

                                    Tickets                                 .75

                                    Books                               63.07   

                                    Magazines                        2.85

                                    Books                               41.16

                                    Books                                 3.25

                                    Interest on bank note     .10

                                    Book lists                          5.00

                                                              Total     133.00


A second ledger for the same time period contains an alphabetical list of all patrons.  Each patron then has a page on which the books s/he has taken out and returned are recorded.  The books were numbered, facilitating faster recordkeeping.  Each married woman is classified using her husband’s name or initials (Mrs. Charles Long).  Given names are used for single women (Miss Maud Arnold).

In 1896 the Marcellus Ladies’ Library printed a catalogue, a small book listing all the books in the collection.  The list, nicely printed in small print on five pages, includes 234 books and three magazines (Godey’s, Munsey’s and Cosmopolitan).  Bound copies of the Methodist Magazine are classified as books. 


Among the books in the library at that time were:  The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan; Twenty Years of Hus’ling by J.P. Johnson; Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott; Bertha’s Engagement by Bertha M. Clay; Kit Carson by Dewitt Peters; A Noble Life by Miss Mulock; How to Win by Frances Willard; 14 volumes of Ancient History, History of Rome and England; Women of Colonia and Revolutionary Times by Alice Earl; Elsie Venner by Oliver W. Holmes; Boots and Saddles by Elizabeth Custer; Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; Opening of a Chestnut Burr by E.P. Roe; Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome; and 12 books by Sir Walter Scott.


The Rules and Regulations of the Ladies’ Library Association were:

  1. The Library shall be open every Saturday from 2 till 5 and from 7 till 8 P.M. for the delivery of books.
  2. All members with NO UNPAID DUES may draw books.
  3. Members retaining books longer than 2 weeks to pay a dime for                             every week of such detention.
  4. No member is allowed to lend the books belonging to the                                          Association.
  5. Books lost, or injured, shall be paid for according to the                                             assessment of the Executive Committee.       


By 1905 the library had become the Marcellus Township Free Public Library.  Now any “properly identified” township resident could take out books without paying for a membership.  Non-residents had to pay $1.00/year and sign an agreement.


 A new catalogue was produced for 1905-1909.  It is 52 pages long, and has a bright red cover.  The first page lists the Library Board:  President, S. Stern; Treasurer, Mrs. A. Shannon; Secretary, Mrs. A. Taylor, Mrs. G.P. Worden, Mrs. A.E. Sill and C.J. Bradt. 


Books were now classified into nine classes:  Religious Works, Philosophy, Science, Art, History, Biography, Literature (fiction and juvenile), Stationary References, and Bound Magazines. By 1909 there were:

            23 books in Religious Works class.

            1 book in Philosophy class (Building of Vital Power by Macfadden).

            44 books in Science class (sociology, political, science, astrology, astronomy, education, natural science).

            2 books in art class.

            114 books in history class (travel and description, and history).

            62 books in biography class.

            1250 books in fiction class (932 in adult fiction, 318 in juvenile fiction).

            3 stationary references (Atlas of Michigan and the World, International Cyclopaedia, Webster’s International Dictionary).

            2 bound magazines (the same two bound copies of Methodist Magazine).    


Here are some excerpts from the library board secretary’s minutes in the 1920’and 1930’s:


                  June 9, 1928 – Paid out librarian’s salary for March, April, May  --  $60.00

                    The Secretary reported having written letters of thanks to Mrs. Shannon and Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Huyck for pictures given the library.

                    During this time books were received from the Friant Library (possibly the personal library of the Friant family in Kent County).  Mrs. Clarence McClintock and Mrs. Norris gave the books from the Friant library to the Marcellus library. J.M. Whitenight was paid $1.50 for delivering the Friant library to the Marcellus library.  The board decided to “pay drayage out to Sills farm for the Friant library books not wanted.”

            Nov 7, 1928  --  A  motion to “employ Mrs. Huber at 25 cents an hour to clean the library at Miss Dora Schall’s command” was passed.

            Dec 5, 1928  --  Moved by Mrs. Brown, seconded by Miss Schall that we sell the old dictionary for $2.00; carried.  It was moved by Mrs. Brown, second by Mr. Patch that we buy our coal from all of the dealers instead of one.  Carried.

            Feb 6, 1929  --  After a discussion about placing petrified wood in the library it was decided we had no room.

            April 1, 1931  --  It was moved by Miss Schall seconded by Miss Lewis that Mrs. Young look after the urns at the same price as last year, $10.00.  Carried.

            Oct 6, 1931  --  Decided to have the outside of the library painted by Mr. Grenell at 30 cents an hour and to pay for a subscription to the Michigan Historical Magazine.

            May 4, 1932  --  A discussion of Boy Scouts using the basement ensued.  No action.  The librarian reported the screen doors were not up.  The geraniums were paid out of fine money $2.50.  Two books had been kept by R. S. Clarke 12 weeks and were returned that day.  The Sec. offered to send him a bill $3.36.

            Aug 3, 1932  --  Board voted to ask the Township Board for a $600 appropriation for library for next year. 

            There are frequent mentions of paying people to clean or repair the furnace (payment had to be delayed at one meeting until money was received from the Township), wash the windows on the outside, clean up the lot behind the library, decorate around the flagpole, repair closet and lavatories.

            Feb 37, 1935  --  It was moved by Mrs. Jones and seconded by Mrs. Davis that the following resolution be adopted and sent to the Marcellus Township Board by Mar. 1, 1935:  “That the Marcellus Township Library Board recommend the spreading of a tax on the assessed property of Mar. Twp. which will yield $450 for use of Library.  That this tax be over and above the 15 mill tax to which we have been limited by law.  In or about 1900 the Township voted to support the Library with a tax not to exceed ½ a mill.”  (I think.)  This will be found in the records of the Township.  This was carried.

            Sept 9, 1935  --  Miss Holliday was appointed to buy a cord of wood for library.  The fumigation of books was urged by librarian and was discussed favorably.


Sometime in 1935 this item was printed in the Marcellus News:


Can You Spare Any of these Books?              

“The following books, classics, in the Marcellus Township Library are so worn it is almost impossible to use them.  Do you have any of the following, you would like to donate to the library?”  Included in a list of 37 books are:  The Call of the Wild —London; Ben Hur—Wallace; The Hoosier Schoolmaster—Eggleston; To Have and to Hold—Mary Johnson; The Scarlet Letter—Hawthorne; several by Hawthorne, Cooper, Eliot, Kipling, Twain; Sentimental Tommie—Barrie; The Blue Bird—Maeterlinck.  The list ends with, “Do you have any Zane Grey’s books you would like to give to the library?  The boys like them.  Secretary of Library”


In 2017 the Marcellus Library’s collection of books, magazines, videos and other resources contained 29,583 items.  17,345 of those were used or read by people from Marcellus Township during 2017.  Library patrons continue to donate books to the library, as they have since 1895.  But because the people of Marcellus have voted for many years to support the library through their local taxes, new books are purchased on a regular basis, and the library is able to provide many services to the community. 


The ladies who bravely started the Ladies’ Library Association in 1895, donating their own books and soliciting more from others, would probably be astonished to see the Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library today. They would be grateful that Russell Wood gave money to build a library for their beloved books.  This is particularly true because the Ladies of the LLA had to move their books from place to place during the 31 years between the start of the Marcellus Ladies’ Library and the building of the current library.  Their precious books had been stored for a few years in Flander’s Jewelry Store on Main Street, but had to be moved several times to a variety of local homes, and to the east room of the Marcellus News building, before they finally came home to 205 East Main Street in 1925.