In 1895 some of the public spirited women of Cherry Valley organized a Village Improvement Society. Among the many good things that the women of that society did was to organize a public library. Mrs. Mary S. Leaning, Mrs. Eva B. Hetherington, Mrs. Lizzie M. Barnum, Mrs. Julia A. Bronson, Mrs. Cornelia R. Swinnerton, and Miss Rebecca Wilkin constituted the committee which did all the work of managing the library for five years without any compensation and with occasional aid from voluntary assistants. The Village Improvement Society gave the committee $50.00 to start with. They expended $20.00 for books, $20.00 for subscriptions to magazines and kept $10.00 for incidental expenses. Quite a number of books were given to them. They raised money by subscription, suppers, entertainments etc., but they never had as much money as they needed. A room in the house on Alden Street then owned and occupied by the Reynolds sisters was leased for which an annual rental of $30.00 was paid.
In 1901 the library was moved to the Lancaster School house and combined with the Public School Library. Miss Anna Phelon was then employed as librarian. She had charge of both libraries, keeping separate accounts, and received a salary of $25.00 per year.
In 1901 Mr. Willard S. Gibbons acting in behalf of the committee, obtained a Provisional Charter from the University of the State of New York, which was issued to Willard S. Gibbons, Alva S. Pearson, Charles Bierman, Mary S. Leaning, Julia A. Bronson and their associates, with the provision that a Permanent Charter should be issued to The Cherry Valley Library after five years if all the rules of law and of the University then in force had been complied with. One of the requirements was the ownership of $1,000.00 worth of books.
Mr. Gibbons was then elected President, Mr. Pearson, Treasurer, Mr. Bierman, Secretary, and Miss Anna Phelon, Librarian.
In 1907 all the conditions of the Provisional Charter having been complied with, a Permanent Charter was issued to The Cherry Valley Library. This charter was signed by Hon. Andrew S. Draper Commissioner of Education, and Hon. St. Clair McKelway, Vice Chancellor of the University of the State of New York.
In 1907 the library was moved from the Lancaster School house to a room in the Village Hall which had been fitted for that purpose by Miss Catherine Roseboom and was donated by her for the use of the library.
In 1908, Miss Anna Phelon, who had served faithfully as Librarian for seven years, resigned to accept a more lucrative position at Worcester, Mass. Miss Alida McAdam, an experienced librarian, was elected in Miss Phelon’s place. She served satisfactorily until 1910 when she resigned because she was about to leave Cherry Valley.
Miss Mollie Sutliff was then elected to fill the vacancy caused by Miss McAdam’s resignation and has rendered excellent service ever since.
When Miss Sutliff was elected, the librarian’s salary had been raised to $50.00 a year. The work of the librarian has gradually increased during the twelve years that Miss Sutliff has been in the service: her salary had been gradually increased until she is now receiving $200 a year, which she more than earns.
Mr. Gibbons served as President until 1921 when he declined re-election, and Capt. Cox was elected and is still in the service.
Mr. Pearson is still serving as Treasurer.
Mr. Bierman served as Secretary until 1912 when he declined re-election. Henry S. Coats Jr. was the elected Secretary and is still serving.
Ever since the Provisional Charter was granted in 1901, the State has duplicated all money that has been spent for books: The State will not pay more than $100 for that purpose in one year.
The library is not for the benefit of the village exclusively, it is for the whole town of Cherry Valley. The Treasurer receives $200 from the Town and $200 from the Village each year.
During all these years money has been raised by subscription, suppers and entertainments.
The room in the Village Hall was large enough at first but the increase in the number of books and in the number of borrowers has been so great that more commodious quarters have been needed for several years.
After the armistice in 1918, there was a general feeling that some kind of a memorial to the soldiers, sailors and nurses of the Town of Cherry Valley, who served in the World War, should be erected somewhere in the village.
The late Mrs. Sarah Morse O’Connor, Regent of Cherry Valley Chapter, D.A.R., started a movement for a memorial by inviting several citizens to meet with the D.A.R., at her residence, about three years ago to discuss the matter, but little was accomplished at the first meeting. Mrs. O’Connor’s desire was to have a memorial erected for the living as well as the dead; a monument which is only suggestive of death was not wanted. After due deliberation, the erection of a memorial library building was tentatively agreed upon.
At the annual library meeting held on the 7th day of July 1922, a resolution was adopted authorizing the president to appoint a committee to act with a committee of the D.A.R. in formulating a plan for the erection of a memorial library building. The president appointed as such committee Rev. Wm. Powell Hill, Seth Pearson, Fred L. Armstrong, Benjamin Wightman and Sylvester W. Barnum. The D.A.R. was represented by Mrs. Cora Winne, Mrs. George B. Green, and Mrs. Fred L. Armstrong. The eight people so appointed constituted the general committee of which S. W. Barnum was elected Chairman and Seth Pearson Secretary. A committee consisting of many citizens in addition to the general committee was appointed to raise the necessary money; that work was done systematically and successfully. The people of Cherry Valley, including those who only reside here during the summer, and their friends and former residents of the town subscribed liberally; considerable money was obtained by means of food sales and high class entertainments.
A committee was appointed to select a site. Many sites were considered and there was doubt about obtaining a site that would be satisfactory to all, until Capt. Cox, with his usual generosity, bought the Smith property on the corner of Main and Church Streets, moved the house back and gave the portion of the lot, which faces Main Street, to the Association. The lot has a frontage of 87 ½ feet on Main Street and is 79 feet deep. The location is ideal. The following persons were appointed as a building committee: Mrs. S. A. McClung, Mrs. Seth Pearson, Miss Mollie Sutliff, Capt. Cox, Fred L. Armstrong, J. L. Sawyer and Herbert Dakin. They employed Mr. Lynne Kinney of Utica as Architect.
The contract to erect the building was let to Charles A. Winslow & Son of Cherry Valley and Henry Sheldon and Earl Sheldon of Springfield. They sublet the painting to G. H. Wilmot and Walter Eldridge. Electric lights were installed by Montgomery Electric Light and Power Company. The plumbing was done by VanAlstine & Weller. The grading and seeding were done by V. R. Moore and George A. Walton.
All of the work has been skillfully done. The committee that has the memorial tablets in charge has not completed its work. The words “Cherry Valley Memorial Library” will appear over the door and there will be a tablet on each side of the door containing the names of the soldiers, sailors and nurses from the Town of Cherry Valley who served in the World War.
The building cost approximately $11,000.00
We have received by subscription
And otherwise 7,000.00
Leaving an indebtedness of $4,000.00
The money has been loaned to the society by VanRensselaer Moore, who holds a mortgage on the building and the lot on which it stands as security for payment of the debt.
The mortgage bears six percent interest which is payable semi-annually in January and July of each year. $100.00 of principal becomes due in July of each year with the privilege of paying any larger amount of principal at the same time.
The people of Cherry Valley, including those who only have summer places here, have worked together enthusiastically and harmoniously to obtain this beautiful building, and we have been aided generously by many former residents of the town. If that harmonious and enthusiastic work continues, it will not take long to pay the mortgage.
The building was formally dedicated on the 8th day of September 1924. An account of the dedication ceremonies was published in a recent issue of the Gazette.
The annual report of the librarian for 1923 shows that at the date of the report there were 4797 books in the library. Receipts for the year: $892.41. Circulation that year: 8646 volumes. There are 696 borrowers of books on the list for 1924. The library is open to the public in the afternoon and evening of each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In all, 13 ½ hours each week.
[This article is taken from the Cherry Valley Memorial Library’s scrapbook. Author unknown]