History of the Jordanville Library
By an application dated June 14, 1899 and transmitted to the
Regents of the University of the State of New York, Union Free School District
#5 Jordanville, New York was granted an absolute charter on June 26, 1899. This charter bears the signature of Melvil Dewey, then director of the New York
The library trustees were Charlie Crim, Freeman Hyde Bell,
Will E. Bill and Sophie Swift. These trustees were considered the
incorporators. Inventory listed was 965 books valued at $900.00, 200 pamphlets and magazines at $10.00, cash on hand $83.00, valid subscriptions $15.00 and other property valued at $151.00 for a total value of $1,061.00.
The library was housed in the Jordanville School Building
rent free. It was to be kept open for not less than six hours in three days of
each week. $50.00 was to be raised annually by gifts and $50.00 by
entertainments. An annual budget listed books at $167.00, fuel and lights
$2.00, insurance $9.00 and incidentals $5.00.
Before the library was located in District 5 School Building,
Mrs. Freeman (Elizabeth) Bell had distributed a collection of books from her
home. In 1894, the then School Commissioner, Ellis Elwood was able to obtain
educational funds amounting to $200.00 to purchase books. These were cataloged and later taken to the school. It was “Bess”, as she was known to
Jordanville folk, and Mr. Elwood who organized efforts which resulted in a
library at the school and the granting of the charter in 1899. Bess Bell held
reading in high esteem and actively demonstrated that everyone else should view
it in the same light.
She served as librarian at the school. Mabel Harter, who at a
young age worked for the Douglas Bell’s, recalls a Bell family anecdote. It
seems that Bess took Douglas, then an infant, with her to the school. She
placed him on a bench. When she finished her library duties, she locked the
door and went home. Sometime later she realized she had forgotten the
baby-probably she had an armful of books when she left.
Considering such devotion, it is not surprising that when
Mrs. Bell learned that the Robinsons of Henderson House were planning to give
the community a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Robinson, she was ready with a plan.
According to records on file in the Town of Warren Historical
Room at the Library, Dr. James Henderson, a Scotsman, arrived in New York about 1708. In 1739 the good doctor recieved a grant of 16,000 acres for services
rendered at Greenwich Hospital in England. That land grant comprised much of
what is now Herkimer County.
Dr. Henderson named his New York country estate Greenwich,
for his former hospital. The area that estate occupied is now know as Greenwich
Dr. Henderson had one son and six daughters. The son died
suddenly at the age of twenty. One of the six daughters married a Captain Peter
Corne. From the Corne marriage came three daughters. One named Margaret married a George Douglas.
It is said that Margaret Douglas was the first of the
Henderson heirs to take a real interest in the Henderson lands in the Mohawk
Valley. She saw fit to build a twenty-four room wooden structure referred to as
the Cottage. It still stands on the property now owned by the famous cellist
and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich.
Born to Margaret and George Douglas were five children:
Margaret born 1787, Harriet 1790, George 1793, William 1795 and Elizabeth Mary 1799.
It was Harriet, the red haired social lioness of the 1800’s
who in 1833 fulfilled her dream – the building of a “Castle” on the
Henderson property. After her death, “Aunt Harriet” became a renowned
poltergeist of the Mohawk Valley. Historical accounts indicate that she may
have been the strongest willed of her family. She made plans which she forced,
by one means or another, to be carried out. ‘Tis thought that the
“frustration of her spirit” may have been caused by the change in her
plan for burial. She had built very near the Henderson House an enormous ornate stone sarcophagus and there she planned to remain, at least in body. Her plans were foiled. She was buried in New York City. The sarcophagus became a watering trough for horses and so the restlessness of her spirit.
While Harriet’s generation seemed to do everything with a
vengeanace, one thing they generally failed to do was marry and have children.
Harriet’s marriage to Count Cruger lasted only long enough to result in
Henderson House being called Cruger Mansion for a brief period its history.
Margaret and William died unmarried and George left no children. It was
Elizabeth Mary who married James Monroe, nephew to President Monroe, and it was their daughter Frances who married Douglas Robinson and inherited Henderson House. It is Fannie Monroe Robinson, referred to by local folks as the “Old Madam”, whose picture hangs to the left of the library
fireplace. Her husband’s picture is to the right. It was her son Douglas and
his wife Corrine Roosevelt Robinson who were urged by Bess Bell to build a
library in memory of his parents.
They, along with his sister did just that. The plague to the
right of the library entrance reads:
ERECTED IN MEMORY OF
FANNY MONROE ROBINSON
CORRINE ROOSEVELT ROBINSON
HARRIET WOLRYCHE WHITMORE
The Hyde family had purchased the land from the Henderson Patent. A small
parcel was given to Freeman Hyde Bell. The Robinsons paid for the building of
the library on that land. Folks came from miles around to its dedication on
August 26, 1908. Notables present included then Secretary of State, Elihu Root
and the Honorable James E. Sherman. The then highest ranking man in the United States gave the dedication address, President Theodore Roosevelt, brother of Corinne Robinson. He came by train with his wife, Edith, daughter Ethel and son Kermit. They were met in South Columbia by the Henderson “Tally-Ho”, a high wagon, and brought to the library.
As one reviews the words spoken by the president it is
evident that a “quality of life” was high on “Teddy’s”
priority list. He spent time alluding to the role all women, mothers, wives and
sisters, played in the lives of families. He cautioned against expecting them
to carry more then their share of work and responsiblity.
Douglas Robinson in his address to the crowd present, spoke
about the need for better roads and more and better advertising for Herkimer
County farm products. Most significant for the future of the library were
these, his words, directly quoted; “Mr. Crim, I herewith hand you as
president of the Board of Trustees, the deed to the library and all its
contents, from my sister, Mrs. Whitmore, Mrs. Robinson and myself conveying to you, representing the board, all the interest we have in the property. From this
time we have no further financial interest in it except as subscribers, as
others do, to the expenses year by year. From this time it becomes a public
library supported by public subscription and helped by the public interest in
The library building has remained essentially unchanged since
its dedication. The once wooden porch is now concrete with the original wooden
doric columns. The large main room once provided a place for Election Day
lunches and suppers, dances, box socials, card parties, sewing classes and
meetings of various groups and organizations. Many of these events were fund
raisers to help with upkeep and support of the library. For years the Central
School Band played an annual concert, while library Friends served strawberries
and ice cream.
Former Jordanville students, in particular, will recall Miss
Emma Bell, who for many years checked out their books. Emma was a sister to
Douglas H. Bell. During tenure, Mrs. Douglas H. Bell served as librarian and
until her death, Mrs. Thadeous (Zula) Purchase, a trustee, was also active in
As long as Jordanville had a school, classes visited the
library weekly. In the late 1930’s a Van Hornesville School bus doubled as
traveling library to outlying areas. In its early years the library attic
housed a cistern to collect rain water and toilet facilities were available to
both ladies and gentlemen. When this system no longer functioned, a chemical
toilet was installed. In 1986 water was piped from the town barn and work of
many volunteers resulted in an adequate restroom. The staff rejoiced.
In 1960 with the advent of a Library System in New York
State, Trustees elected to join the Mid York System based in Utica, New York.
In 1976, the former kitchen was made into an Historical Room
for the Town of Warren. In 1983, the library was added to the National Register
of Historic Places.
And so over the years, the library has survived through the
efforts of volunteers who have served as trustees, librarians, and library
staff. A meager budget comprised of minimal monies from county, town and school district along with donations from Friends of the Library has made possible library service to the community. Our association with the Mid-York Library System has enabled us to earn, through an incentive formula, state monies allotted for this purpose. These grants earned through programs along with other merchandising and marketing efforts make possible the purchase of new books. The book budget is supplemented by memorial gifts. The generosity of local families through their use of the library for memorials has often made possible the buying of books, maintaining the building and purchasing equipment.
In May 1988, the school district approved a proposition which
will provide the library with $4,000 raised annually through taxes. It is the
sincere desire of our Board of Trustees, Friends, staff and volunteers that our
library will be here serving Jordanville and the surrounding area for many
years to come.
Hyde-Bell Lane was deeded to the Library in 1985 by the
present Bell Family. In 1988 a sign was erected to mark the road which leads to
the Town of Warren Garage.
Since 1988, the Library has employed a Director to oversee
the activities of the library and provide customer service to the patrons. The increased interest and desire for library materials has required a new type of dedication from the Trustees and Director. The ongoing need for updating the collections, along with the new electronic tools and databases are challenges both financially and educationally. The community generously continues to support the library with funding and with dedicated people to fill the volunteer
Please consider the Library when donating your time and