Tuesday, December 7, 2010

That Coonskin Library

The Marietta Register, November 25, 1875

The following communication is of local interest to our readers:

Springfield, O., Nov. 12, 1875.

Correspondence, Cincinnati Commercial.

The "Coonskin" Library in Amesville, mentioned by your Columbus correspondent "B. J. L." in to day's Commercial, is now, according to information supposed to be accurate, in the Library of Marietta College.  When sold it came into the possession of Messrs. J. H. and A. W. Glazier, of Amesville, and afterward passed into the hands of the Hon. William P. Cutler, of Washington County, for the purpose, as we understood, of being placed for preservation in the College Library, where it is now supposed to be.  Mr. Cutler's father, Hon. Ephraim Cutler, was probably one of the founders of the Western Library Association, having been in early times, a resident of Amesville.

When this Library was known to the writer, twenty five years ago, it was not a large but very choice collection of the best English literature, comprising poetry, history, science and fiction.  A nearly complete catalogue of it could doubtless be furnished by many, to whose young minds it was a "nursing mother," and by whom it is held to this day in the same affectionate reverence as the now gray-haired and venerable "boys and girls" for whose special benefit it was first instituted.  Among these please allow the mention (in addition to the father of general Ewing, now no longer living) of the names of Bishop Ames, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Walker, of Athens (whose son, C. M. Walker, Esq., of Indianapolis, has given some account of it in his history of Athens County), and Mr. and Mrs. Jason Rice, of Amesville.  The last named lady (Mrs. Rice) has made so good use of it as to have become an authority in history, even among scholars.

Mrs. J. K. Mower

*     *     *     *     *

As considerable is being published about the first library established in Ohio, and as there is more romance woven than actually surrounded the birth of this library, the facts themselves being of peculiar interest, we will furnish a correct statement, which shall include liberal extracts from the original records, now in the possession of Miss Sarah J. Cutler, of this place, the grand-daughter of Ephraim Cutler, who was one of the prime movers in the matter.  The records are getting dim, made, as they were, seventy-one years ago, and to preserve them, as well as to show our readers with what jealous care this pioneer library was guarded, we will give the constitution of the association in full, together with the original shareholders, and the books purchased, after the organization of the library.

Mrs. J. K. Mower, in a communication to the commercial, under date of November 12, stated that the library "passed into the hands of the Hon. William P. Cutler, of Washington county, for the purpose, as was understood, of being placed for preservation in the College Library, where it is now supposed to be.  Mr. Cutler's father, Hon. Ephraim Cutler, was probably one of the founders of the Western Library Association, having been, in early times, a resident of Ames."

Hon. William P. Cutler's father was the largest shareholder, and Mr. Cutler and his brothers had access to the books in their younger days.  Mr. Cutler purchased it rather as an heirloom, so intimately had his family been associated with it, and presented it to his only son, a lad, about the year 1864.  His son afterward died, and it became the property of his only remaining child, Miss Sarah J. Cutler, who has now 195 volumes, the original books of record, and the case in which the books were kept.

In those days, 1803-4, money was very hard to obtain.  The best market was for skins, which were readily purchased by the agents of John Jacob Astor, and no doubt many of the subscribers sold coonskins, and other furs, for their money.  After the sum of money was obtained, "Esquire Samuel Brown was just ready to make a business trip to New England.  He was going in a light wagon, and took with him a quantity of bearskins and other furs, which he designed exchanging in Boston for such goods as were needed in the settlement.  The money was placed in his hands, and he deputed to make the first purchase of books."  The following is from the original records, written, no doubt, by Mr. Moses Everett, a graduate of Harvard College, who was teaching in Ames at the time:

Laws and Regulations of the Western Library Association, Founded at Ames, February 2d, 1804.

Considering the many beneficial effects which sound libraries are calculated to produce on societies when they are established, both as a source of rational entertainment and instruction, we, the subscribers, wishing to participate in those blessings, agree to form ourselves into a society for this purpose, under the title of the Western Library Association, in the Town of Ames.

Furthermore, at a meeting of the said Association at the house of Christopher Harrold, on Tuesday, the 2d day of February, 1803, it was agreed that the following Articles be adopted as the rules and regulations of the society, viz:

Article 1st.  Resolved, That a standing committee of three, one of which shall be the Librarian, shall be chosen, annually, invested with power to appropriate all money which may accrue to the society, for the purpose of increasing the Library, as the Association shall from time to time direct.

Article 2d.  That each member shall pay into the hands of the committee, on or before the 1st day of April, 1804, the sum of $2.50 on each share subscribed for, and that it shall be the duty of the committee, on the receipt of the same, to proceed to the purchase of the books as soon as possible.

Article 3d.  That each volume shall have its price marked on the title page, and subscribers shall be entitled to draw books to the value of two-thirds of a share to each share subscribed for, quarterly, from the first day of May to the last day of October, then monthly to the last day of April.

Article 4th.  That any person who may wish to join the society shall signify the same to one of the committee, who at the next meeting shall propound the desire; it being put to vote, and two-thirds of the members present consenting, he shall be duly elected one of the society, and on his paying for a share or shares, shall be entitled to all the privileges of an original member.

Article 5th.  That each share shall be subject to an annual tax of 25 cents, to be collected on the day of the annual meeting.

Article 6th.  That a member shall have the liberty of transferring his right or rights to any resident in the town.

Article 7th.  That a member who shall lend a book belonging to the Library to a non-subscriber, on the first offense shall pay as a fine into the hands of the committee 50 cents for each volume; on the second, his privilege of drawing shall be suspended for one year; on the third, he shall forfeit his share or shares, as the case may be.

Article 8th.  That members shall have the priviledge of exchanging books with each other by becoming accountable for damage done to their particular draughts.

Article 9th.  That is shall be the duty of the committee to meet in the Library room on the first Monday of May and August, and from November to May, the first Monday in each month, precisely at 9 o'clock A.M., to examine the books, pay fines, and to do other business of the society, and to prepare for the draught, which shall begin precisely at one o'clock.

Article 10th.  Any member who shall fail of returning his book on or before the time of the committees sitting and shall return them during their session or in the time of draught shall be fined in the sum of 6-1/4 cents per hour on each share.  If not returned before the end of the meeting, shall be fined 50 cents on each share[.  A]ny person who may feel himself grieved by the decision of the committee, may appeal to the meeting, which shall consider of his excuse, and may remit his fine.

Article 11th.  Any member who shall deface, by soiling or thumbmarks, or suffer to be defaced, any book or books belonging to the society, to the damage of 50 cents, in the opinion of the committee, shall deposit in their hands money to the value of the damaged work, together with the damaged work, until such time as the book or books can be replaced, then shall be entitled to the injured work.

Article 12th.  For each map, plate or chart or leaf that shall be torn three inches in length, the drawer shall pay 26 cents; if torn less than two inches, 12-1/2 cents; for each grease spot, one inch in diameter, 25 cents, less than an inch 12-1/2 cents; each burn which shall render uninteligeble an inch square of a leaf shall be fined not exceeding 50 cents, nor less than 25 cents if it be of less dimensions than an half inch, not exceeding 25 cents nor less than 12-1/2 cents.

Article 13th.  For each chart, plate, map or leaf, which shall be torn out, 50 cents.

Article 14th.  For each leaf turned down, 6-1/4 cents; for fire cracks on the cover in proportion to the damage, not exceeding 50 cents nor less than 12-1/2 cents.

Article 15th.  In case a member refuses to pay his fines at the annual meeting, his privilege as a member ceases until all arrearages are made up, which if not done within one year, his share is to be forfeited for the good of the Association.

Article 16th.  That no member shall hold a fractional part of a share.

Article 17th.  That each member shall be entitled to as many votes and privileges as he holds shares.

Article 18th.  That no innovation shall take place in the laws and regulations of the society, unless by the consent of two-thirds of the members.

Article 19th.  That votes may be given by proxy in all cases.

Article 20th.  That after the present year, the annual meeting shall be on the first Monday of January.

Article 21st.  That all elections shall be made by ballot.

Article 22d.  The chairman of the committee shall be furnished with a book in which he shall record all the transactions of the society, also a regular account of all money received, the time of receipt, and of whom, and for what received shall be kept, and shall report annually, he shall preserve all the bills of the different purchases, and exhibit them at the next meeting, for their inspection.

In testimony whereof, we have set our hands.

Ephraim Cutler
Jason Rice
Silvanus Ames
Will. Green
Ezra Green
Martin Boyles
Benj. J. Brown
George Ewing, Jr.
John Brown, Jr.
Josiah True
George Ewing
Amos Linscott
Daniel Weethe
Benj. Brown
Samuel Brown, 2d
Samuel Brown
Simon Converse
Christopher Kanold
Edmund Dorr
George Wolf
Nathan Woodbury
Samuel Beaumont
Joshua Wyatt
George Walker
Zebulon Griffen
Seth Fuller
Jehul Gregory
George Casttle
John Johnson
Reuben I. Davis
Luther Danielson
Samuel Johnson
Obadiah Clark
Chester Pool
Ezra Walker
Othnial Nye
Seth Child
Sally Rill
Nehemiah Gregory
Thomas Quinn
Wm. Brown
John Boyles
Ebenezer Chaplin
Elisha Lottimer
Cyrus Tuttle
Barnum Clark
Joel Dodge
Lucy Ames
Benj. Davis
Absalom Boyles
A. L. Hebbard
John M. Hebard
Perley Brown
James Pugsley
Silas Green
Robt. Fulton
John Wyatt
Robt. Henry
John Pugsley
Elias Hebard
Jacob Boreman
R. W. Lovell
Justin Steel
Jonathan Allin
Sophia Walker

At a meeting holden at the house of Sylvanus Ames, December 17th, 1804 -

Voted that Ephraim Cutler be chairman of the Committee and Librarian.

Voted to accept fifty-one books purchased by Samuel Brown, as common property of this Association.

Voted to draw for choice in books, and that the person who holds No. 1 is entitled to his first choice, and so on.

Voted that each share shall be entitled to draw one volume.

Voted that David Boyles' name be erased from the list of subscribers, agreeably to his request, which was done accordingly.

Catalogue of Books Belonging to the Association, With Their Original Prices:

1. Robertson's North America, 3.62-1/2
2. Harris's Minor Encyclopedia, 1.12-1/2
3. Harris's Minor Encyclopedia, 1.12-1/2
4. Harris's Minor Encyclopedia, 1.12-1/2
5. Harris's Minor Encyclopedia, 1.12-1/2
6. Morse's Gazetteer, 3.25
7. Morse's Gazetteer, 3.25
8. Morse's Geography, 3.00
9. Morse's Geography, 3.00
10. Zimmerman on Solitude, .83
11. Adam's Truth of Religion, 1.25
12. Kaimer's Sketches on Man, .75
13. Kaimer's Sketches on Man, .75
14. Kaimer's Sketches on Man, .75
15. Kaimer's Sketches on Man, .75
16. Goldsmith's Works, .87-1/2
17. Goldsmith's Works, .87-1/2
18. Goldsmith's Works, .87-1/2
19. Goldsmith's Works, .87-1/2
20. Evelina, .75
21. Evelina, .75
22. Children of the Abbey, 1.00
23. Children of the Abbey, 1.00
24. Neckar's Religious Opinions, .75
25. Blair's Lectures, .75
26. Forester, 1.00
27. Burgh's Dignity, 2.00
28. Clark's Discoveries, 1.12-1/2
29. Harris' Beauties of Nature, 1.00
30. Atala, .75
31. Winchester's Lectures, 2.12-1/2
32. Winchester's Lectures, 2.12-1/2
33. Ramsey's A Revolution, 2.00
34. Ramsey's A Revolution, 2.00
35. Adam's View of Religions, 2.25
36. Goldsmith's Animated Nature, 2.25
37. Goldsmith's Animated Nature, 2.25
38. Goldsmith's Animated Nature, 2.25
39. Goldsmith's Animated Nature, 2.25
40. Romance of the Forest, 1.00
41. Winchester's Dialogues, .75
42. Cortez, 87-1/2
43. Pizarro, 87-1/2
44. Columbus, 87-1/2
45. Playfair's History of Jacobins, 1.50
46. Playfair's History of Jacobins, 1.50
47. Interesting Memoirs, 87-1/2
48. Grandpre's Voyage, 1.00
49. Campbell's Journey, 1.12-1/2
50. Goldsmith's Greece, .75
51. Goldsmith's Greece, .75
Discount of 10 percent       7.07-1/2
Carriage and Paper          12.12

Bought at Boston, August 15th, 1804, by Samuel Brown, Esq.

The names above are still common in this part of Ohio, the descendants of most of these shareholders still being among us.  Judge Ephraim Cutler, and George Ewing, father of the late Thomas Ewing, were the first settlers in Ames, in 1797.  For three years previous, Mr. Ewing had lived at Waterford, on the Muskingum.  In 1800, Silvanus Ames, father of Bishop Ames, settled there.  Schools were soon established, and the teachers for several years were two graduates of Harvard College, Moses Everett, before referred to, and Mr. Charles Cutler.

The records are before us of the additions made, and the full manner of conducting the business of the Association, up to January 5, 1862.

We have neither time nor room for further notice this week.  We have shown that there is little ground for calling this a Coonskin Library, although no doubt several coons lost their lives that money might be raised for its purchase.  We give elsewhere the letter of Mrs. J. K. Mower in full, in which the names of several distinguished personages, or those of their descendants appear as connected with this first library of Ohio.

*    *    *    *    *

The Marietta Register, December 2, 1875

The Ames Library

More Extracts from the Old Record.

We gave, last week, the names of the shareholders in the first library of Ohio, books first purchased, &c., &c.  One or two errors in proof came to our notice:  Sally Rill should be "Rice"; Christopher Kanold - "Herrold."

This association, organized in 1804, was not incorporated until 1810, and therefore does not appear as the first library, because other incorporations took place prior to 1810, though later than 1804.  In the Constitution, as published, the restrictions were onerous at times, considering the distance that many members had to travel.

We notice that at a meeting held at the house of Ephraim Cutler, on the first Monday of February, 1805, it was

Voted that, on account of the distance which Mr. Simon Converse resides from the place of the Library, the rules for returning his books monthly be dispensed with.

We are not able to state where Mr. Converse lived.  While a young man, he was captured by the Indians.  Later he became a successful merchant at Zanesville.

Samuel Brown, Esq., was afterwards excused from penalty for the same reason.  He lived on the Canfield farm, eight miles west of Marietta.  He was the father of John Brown, familiarly known as Jack Brown, whose death occurred a few weeks ago, at Athens.

Voted, that subscribers may return their books at any time previous to the stated meeting, and draw such other books as may be in the hands of the librarian, by paying 6 per cent of the cost of the books so drawn, &c.

Voted, that the committee be instructed to purchase Mavou's Travels and Washington's Life, as soon as the funds of the society are sufficient.

Voted, that the price of a share in the future shall be three dollars and fifty cents.

The life and growth of the association depended upon the taxes and fines, and to pay them in those days was no light burden.

As will be seen, new purchases began immediately.  The Life of Washington consisted of five volumes - Marshall's - and a map.  The volumes are common yet, but the maps are rare.  One of them is before us.  It is well drawn, and published by C. P. Wayne, Philadelphia.  It was drawn under the direction of Gen. Washington, and is a complete military map, chiefly this, of all the operations of the army under his command.

1807.  Meeting at the house of William Green, January 3d.  John Brown (father of Gen. Brown, still living, aged 90) elected librarian.

Voted, that the annual tax be reduced to 12-1/2 cents.

Voted, that there shall be a bookcase provided out of the funds of the society.

The book-case in which the books now are, is a plain walnut case, and doubtless the one purchased in 1807.

Timothy Wilkins transferred one share to Ralph Bingham, who is voted in, agreeable to law.

1808.  At the annual meeting held January 2d, at the house of John Brown, George Walker was elected librarian.  Benjamin Brown and Samuel Beaumont were appointed a committee for the ensuing year, and to take such means as they need to have said library incorporated.

The 6 per cent tax was rescinded, and the librarian granted such compensation as a committee might think best.

1809.  Members were not allowed to draw books until arrears were settled, by note or otherwise.

1811.  Agreeable to the act of incorporation, passed in 1810, Benj. Brown was elected chairman, and Zebulon Griffen, clerk.  Benjamin Brown was elected librarian.  Sylvanus Ames, Ezra Green and George Ewing, directors.  S. M. Fuller, treasurer.

The officers were qualified before George Walker, J. P.

January, 1813, it was resolved to sell at each quarterly meeting the privilege of drawing books to the highest bidder.

Also, that any person may have the privilege of drawing books, by giving sufficient surety for the safe return and the damage done to the books, and paying 6 per cent on the price of the books, on the return of the books.

At almost every meeting, resolutions were passed, adding censure and penalties to delinquents, until in 1818, it was resolved that all arrears not paid within 30 days be collected by prosecution.

The system of keeping the accounts with the members does not appear on the books until 1825.

There were some industrious readers for those days.  The following are the names of the readers in 1825, and the number of volumes drawn for the year:

Nabby Ames, 18
Lucy Ames, 12
Jonathan Allen, 9
John Brown, 2d, 9
Pearly Brown, 8
Absalom Boyles, 7
Jacob Beauman, 9
Barnham Clark, 1
Ephraim Cutler, 9
Abel Glazier, 8
Elias Hebbard, 9
John J. Johnson, 5
Robert Henry, 6
Daniel Wythe, 23
Ezra Walker, 9
John Wyatt, 10
George Wolf, 7
Josiah True, 6
John Johnson, 8
Justus Steel, 10
Robert Fulton, 16
Martin Boyles, 7
James Dickey, 2
Polly Green, 19
Charles Cutler, 9
Gulliver Dean, 3
S. Rice, 10
Isachar Graves, 12
Daniel Cutler, 9
Sabenus Rice, 10
Hosea Alderman, 4
Orin Hewitt, 16
George Aiken, 4
Robt. Fulton's heirs, 3

The readers increased, and the number of volumes read increased, but we find little more of interest than we have here and heretofore given.

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