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A Place for Everyone

A Brief History of the Scott County Public Library

Our fine, present-day Scott County Public Library, of which we are justly proud, is the end result of a chain of events going back through history to the very beginning of our State. In 1806 the Territorial legislature passed an act incorporating a libretto at Vincennes, which still exists as Indiana's oldest. The Constitution adopted in 1816, when Indiana became a State, stated that "the General Assembly, at the time they lay off a new county, shall cause at least 10% to be reserved out of the proceeds of the sale of town lots in the seat of justice n each county, for the use of a public library..." Additions to the law in 1831, 1837, and 1847 provided for better care of the funds collected.

Among the first semi-private libraries in Indiana were those of the New Harmony Community, from 1825 to 1840. The fine collections of Owens, Maclure and others were freely put to the use of the reading public. In 1838 "The Workingman's Institute and Library" was formed by William Maclure and received liberal donations of property, money, and books.,

We have not been able to determine the exact date the first county library was established in Scott County, but it was at a very early date. In the Commissioner's Record Book, we find the following under the date of September 3, 1851: "It is hereby ordered that John H. Duffield be appointed one of the Library Committee in place of R.H. Byers, who has been removed out of the county." So we know that a county library was in existence previous to 1851.

By a new law in 1852 both county and township libraries were provided for. The Clerk, Auditor, and Recorder were given charge of the county libraries and made Trustees for that purpose. In the "Western Casket", Lexington, April 23, 1857, Editor E.W. Paynter said in an editorial: "The old county library consisting of 1000 of the best and most useful books extant. There is a field of knowledge there, which, if explored, will amply repay anyone for their time and trouble." Second of Lexington's trio of libraries was the Lexington Township Library. Paynter said it was "kept by Dr. Elisha Hallowell, containing over 800 excellent volumes which are doing a vast amount of good as they are read by more persons than any other library in the county." The third was the Maclure Workingman's Library, which Paynter stated was "donated to the laboring men of the county, contains over 500 well-selected books and is kept by Abraham Campbell."

William Maclure was born in Scotland in 1762. He came to the United States in 1799, and to New Harmony, Indiana in 1825. He was a man of Wealth, especially interested in natural sciences. By his will, executed in Mexico City in 1840, he directed that his executors should donate "the sum of five hundred any club or society of laborers who may establish...a reading and lecture room with a library of at least one hundred volumes.

On July 17, 1855, the "Maclure's Workingmen's Institute" was organized at Lexington. The officers were: Alfred Amick, President; James Campbell, Vice President; A.H. Campbell, Librarian; and Hezekiah H. Smith, Secretary. There were twenty four original members, including Scott County's most illustrious son, William H. English, who gave up his occupation as farmer.

In the Western Casket of April 30, 1857, one who signed himself Lexingtonia said, Our libraries are not read as they should be because they are not sufficiently exposed to public view. He suggested the combing of the three libraries of nearly 2500 books into one under a librarian who would attend to all three and superintended the reading room. He stated, such a hall would be an honor to our village, and an accumulating monument to the character

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