Our Library's History

accessions page
A page from the 1900 library accessions log, listing books purchased that year. Click for a larger image.

The first Social Library was formed from a sub-division of the Friendly Society founded in Sept. 1787 by various individuals, between Newcastle and Ducktrap. Members from Thomaston were: D. Fales, D. Jenks, E.G. Dodge, Benj. Webb, and John Paine.  Members became so numerous that in 1792 the eastern portion became the “Friendly Society on St. George’s River.” Meetings alternated between Warren and Thomaston with 86 members in 1799. The following year the society was divided again and the members from Thomaston incorporated themselves as the “First Social Library in Thomaston.” It continued to flourish with meetings and books kept in turn at East and West Thomaston until 1831 when it was again divided between the two villages. The Western branch met and the “Thomaston Athenaeum” was formed for the purpose of establishing a well selected library.

By 1843, there were a number of literary associations and small libraries in Thomaston in addition to the Athenaeum. The records of these association is incomplete, and it is not certain whether some were related to one another or were the same group with a new name, making it difficult to determine conclusively which collections and persons ultimately became the Thomaston Public Library.

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The Thomaston Ladies Literary Association had 29 members and was also referred to as the Ladies Literary Club and as “The Ladies Library”. They met in various homes of the founding members; Sarah D. Washburn was named as the first president and Sarah F. Woodhull was the librarian; two volunteers staffed the library, alternating on the one day of the week that it was open; Minimum age limit of 18 for taking out books.

At some time before 1851, there was a small library at the home of Mrs. Stimpson, Mill River. According to the census of 1860, the existing libraries in Thomaston were, besides those of the schools, the "Ladies," of 403 volumes, the “Female,” of 821 vols., and the private library of Mr. Humphrey, set down at 1500 vols. 

A library known as ‘The Lyceum’ in West Thomaston (present day Thomaston), which had existed for some years, was converted into the Thomaston Village Library Association on Jan 6, 1843. 

circulation records
Circulation records from 1899. Click for a larger image.

1898 Ordinance
A copy of the 1898 Library Ordinance (page one). Click for a larger image.

Records of a library at that location can be located back to 1851. There were 42 members and it was started with membership fees and donations of about 300 volumes. The Lyceum was located in the Jordan Block, the librarian was Mrs. Richard Robinson and Mrs. G.W. Robinson was the president. When it became the Village Library Association, a handsome collection of valuable books was purchased and a library room provided in the O. W. Jordan building.

The beginning of the consolidation of these private libraries into a public library began around 1857. A literary association was organized in the autumn of that year under favorable circumstances; and the following year preliminary measures were taken for the formation of a public library. The town appropriated $300, March 21, 1859, and choose H.B.Humphrey, Wm.Singer, J.P.Cilley, and C.E.Ranlett, trustees.  However, by 1860, there were still several private libraries and literary societies, and no firmly established public library.

In 1876 the “Ladies Library” printed a catalogue of their holdings, which amounted to some 4000 volumes and just under 100 members. It was this collection which ultimately formed the basis of the Thomaston Public Library.

Some time before 1898, a man named George R. Fuller made a bequest in his will that under certain circumstances part of his estate, amounting to roughly $13,500, would be “delivered into the possession of the Town of Thomaston, to be ultimately used as a library fund for the establishment of a Town Library.” The town of Thomaston received this money in 1899, when Fuller’s sister Jennie A. Fuller forfeited her claim to the money after her brother’s death by marrying Melvill C. Libby, a man her brother disliked.

Proposals for a Thomaston Public Library were initiated at a meeting held on March 21, 1898; an ordinance for the establishment and maintenance of a public library passed at the annual town meeting on March 28, 1898 and was organized on April 4. The first Thomaston Public Library moved into W.E.Vinal Block (currently 153-159 Main St) for $80.00 per year, heat $65, and opened its doors to the public January 1, 1899.

The Ladies Library gave over 3,000 volumes, forming the bulk of the original collection. Anne O. Gerry was hired as the librarian. The town raised $500 for books; additional funds were raised by food sales and entertainment; a pop concert netted $140. A year later, according to the July 18th issue of the Courier Gazette, the trustees of the library voted to employ an assistant librarian, saying “the patronage is larger than can be cared for by one person”.

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George R. Fuller
      Will
A copy of the portion of George R. Fuller's Will dealing with the Library (page one). Click for a larger image.

Patron records

Patron records from January of 1899. Click for a larger image.

In 1929, the Library moved from the Vinal Block to the Levensaler Block, also sometimes known as the Elliott Block. The library remained in that location until 1986. Several more bequests were made to the growing organization, including the Caroline J. Tobey bequest, dated 1944. $80,000 was set up as a Book Fund account in 1952, and a bookplate honoring Caroline Tobey is still placed in all books purchased from the income the fund generates.

In March of 1986, the library moved into the Thomaston Academy Building, which underwent two years of renovations to prepare. 20,000 books were moved from the Levensaler building; the town’s public works department and crews from the Maine State Prison helped with the move. People were lined up along the street from the old library to the new, passing along the books.

In 1998, Bernadette Hackett organized the celebration of the library’s 100th anniversary with a year long celebration. She organized a wide range of activities from a prize-winning 4th of July parade float to poetry and prose readings, and Deborath Beckwith created a commemorative print, showing the Academy Building as viewed from Main Street.

In 2008 and 2009 the Academy Building once again underwent renovations, and the Library space got a complete makover. Thanks to a generous donation from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation the library was able to re-invent itself. A new children’s wing was opened in the winter of 2009, and the Friends of the Library began operating Hallway Books, a used bookstore housed in the corridor between the main library and the new wing.

Today the Thomaston Library has over 2,500 members and houses a collection of nearly 25,000 books and A/V materials. The library’s annual circulation has gone up for the last three straight years, and each year new and innovative programs and services are offered to the public, free of charge. The library staff, volunteers and Trustees are dedicated to continuing to uphold the rich legacy of the library’s 100+ year history.