History Wall Info #1

Early Madison and Its Libraries

The first library was formed in Madison in 1792 as the Union Library which later became known as the Farmers’ Library. The pastor of the Madison Congregational Church, Reverend John Elliott (1768-1824), was the first librarian.

For the next hundred years, books were kept in various locations such as local stores, including James R. Meigs’ grocery store and Fred T. Dowd’s shoe store and barber shop. The host of the collection was named the librarian. In the 1860s books were moved to the second floor of the Boston Street schoolhouse across from the current Allis-Bushnell House of the Madison Historical Society (on the current 800 block of the Boston Post Road). In 1878 the Madison Library Association was organized and in 1883 established in the school, but in 1895 a fire destroyed the building and nearly all the books. In 1896, the library reopened in Mrs. John Wilcox’s shoe store, with about 280 books. In 1897, another move brought the library into a small building downtown, where the Monroe Building was later built.

Early Madison

Madison was incorporated in 1826 and named after the 4th President of the United States. It was originally settled in 1641 and became known as East Guilford working in agriculture and eventually shipping timber, lumber, and general merchandise. The first passenger train in 1852 allowed for more access to Madison. The shipbuilding industry was active through the 1800s until the railroad replaced the draw bridge at the East River with a fixed bridge changing access for the shipbuilding and ship transport industries. The development of the summer colony of Madison followed.

Town historian Warner Lord wrote in his introduction to Madison, Connecticut in the Twentieth Century, “As the 20th century dawned, there was a fine new Memorial Hall, a library, a growing school system including Hand Academy, and an active citizenry. The first of many subdivision maps had been filed. Madison residents were beginning to sense they had something unique – open land near the sea and lovely beaches. Just the place for city dwellers seeking respite from their cares. When Mrs. Dexter of Detroit built the first summer house on Middle Beach in 1867, the locals thought her balmy. They could not know that their “worthless waterfront” would become a Mecca for city-bound seekers of sun and solitude.

J. Myron Hull [1850-1937] real estate and land developer, wrote in 1904 that Madison was “an ideal place to spend the hot months, a town that is worthy of the attention of every person contemplating spending the summer away from the heat of the city or inland town.” The summer residents and the tourists soon captured the interest of local property owners. Chicken coops were transformed into tourist cabins and the farmland of Middle Beach, Seaview, Buffalo Bay, and Webster Point became magnets for those with money to afford a summer home.”

Warner P. Lord and Beverly J. Montgomery, in the introduction to Madison, Connecticut in the Twentieth Century, Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives and Madison Historical Society, (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 1998), 9-10.

Librarians of the Scranton Library

Mary L. Scranton Evarts, niece of Mary Eliza Scranton, was the first librarian of the Scranton Library. She studied to become a librarian with Miss Theresa Hitchler of the Brooklyn Library. Prior to her role at the Brooklyn Library, Miss Hitchler had been the Head Cataloger at the New York Free Circulating Library, the predecessor of the New York Public Library. Hitchler was also Treasurer of the New York Library Club.

Library Directors/Head Librarians

  • Mary L. Scranton 1900-1911
  • Evelyn Merriweather 1911 – 1951
  • Miss Longlands
  • Charlotte Poirot
  • Sandra Broom Long 1969 – 2011
  • Beth Crowley 2012 – 2018
  • Laura Downes (Interim) 2018-2019
  • Sunnie Scarpa 2019 – present

Prior to the EC Scranton Memorial Library,

  • 1878 Mrs. Frank Dee, elected librarian when books were on the west side of Mr. James R. Meigs’ store.
  • 1879 Fred T. Dowd. Books moved to his shoe store.
  • 1883 Miss Helena R. Wilcox at the Boston St. School
  • 1885 or 1887 Miss Mary Griswold, librarian for the Corporation.
  • 1889 Bessie Bishop
  • 1890 Miss Fannie Fiske
  • 1892 Mary L. Scranton
  • 1894 Lillian Cram (until Boston St. School fire)
  • 1896 Miss Adella Wilcox (now Mrs. Carleton Dibble)
  • 1897 Miss Etta Bishop
  • 1898 Miss Mary L. Scranton

Resources:

Clayton, Lauralee Clayton, and Warner P. Lord. Editor Stephen P. Elliott. Madison: Three Hundred Years by the Sea. 1991. 1st ed. (Madison, Connecticut: Madison Bicentennial Committee).

Hitchcock, Frederick Lyman. History of Scranton and Its People, Vol. 1 (Scranton, Pennsylvania: Lewis Historical Publishing Company) 1914.

The Library Journal: The Official Organ of the American Library Association Chiefly Devoted to Library Economy and Bibliography,” Vol. 25. (New York: American Library Association) January-December 1900: 599.

The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) July 24, 1900.

100 Years Second National Bank, New Haven. Booklet. 1955.

Postcards of Yesteryear, An illustrated collection of postcards from Madison, Connecticut. 2012. The Charlotte Evarts Memorial Archives, Inc.

Review of History of Library Colorful. Unknown. n.d.

Ryerson, Kathleen Huser. 1960. A Brief History of Madison, Connecticut. New York: Pageant Press.

“What had Baghdad, Babylon, Nippur, and Ur in common with Madison, Connecticut?” pamphlet. 1964-65.