Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Library placed on National Register

Coal Creek Library to be rededicated

February 26, 2004

Vinland's Coal Creek Library won't just have the distinction of being the oldest library in Kansas.

The small library has now been added to the National Register of Historic Places, joining neighboring Grange Hall on the list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.

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Vinland will celebrate the library's recent honor with a rededication ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday in the Vinland Elementary School gym. The public is invited to attend.

Mel Verhaeghe, who was instrumental in helping the library gain its place on the historical list, said the distinction was important because the library will now be recognized nationally for its historical importance.

"There are a lot of people who see it there, or who have driven by it and are curious about it, but don't recognize the history that it has," Verhaeghe said.

The Coal Creek Library was founded in 1859, shortly before the Civil War, amid a turbulent and violent time in the Kansas territory. Seventeen-year-old Anna Soule, with help from her friend Martha Cutter, began the library, according to its charter, to provide a "moral, social and intellectual improvement of its members."

"She wanted to start something that made Vinland a better place," Verhaeghe said.

The library was a subscription library, which required membership dues. The library had 20 members the first year, and with their 50-cent dues, the library was able to purchase 10 books.

Verhaeghe said the area experienced a drought in 1860, followed by the start of the Civil War in 1861, and though families had little money, the subscription library endured.

"The library was the focal point of the whole community," he said. "The library was important enough that they continued to buy books."

The library was located in family homes and the Grange Hall for the first 40 years of existence. The current one-room library was built in 1900.

Martha Smith has been the librarian at Coal Creek Library since 1926. Smith, who still keeps the library open on Sunday afternoons for visitors, will be honored at Friday's rededication for her years of service.

Her sister, Anne Hemphill, will also be honored at the ceremony for her work as Vinland's unofficial historian.

Also at Friday's rededication, Becky McMillen will share the history of the library, and Pattie Johnston, coordinator of the Lawrence Public Library will discuss the importance of the library.

Following the 30-minute ceremony, the Coal Creek Library will be open for those who want to visit.

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