The public library of West Tisbury, privately owned until the February town meeting voted unanimously to take it over, was conceived in 1890 by Prof. Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, who founded Seven Gates Farms, also. With Rev. Caleb Rotch, pastor of the Congregational church, who canvassed up-Island, he collected $175 for the first step.
The Vineyard Gazette reported a meeting to take place at Dukes-County Academy, the school at that time, on Dec. 29, 1890. A small group attending formed the Dukes County Library Association, with Mr. Rotch president; Lyman Luce, vice president; Mrs. Frank Cottle, secretary; and Mrs. George Hunt Luce, treasurer. An executive committee was elected as follows, Professor Shaler, David Mayhew, William J. Rotch, George G. Gifford, Mrs. Lyman Luce, Mrs. Everett Allen Davis, and Miss Bessie Whiting. They were given the top floor of Dukes County Academy, now the elementary school, to house their books.
Committee members, Mr. Rotch, Dr. William H. Luce, David Mayhew, Mrs. Susan Adams, and Everett Allen Davis were chosen in January, 1891, to select $100 worth of books. The treasurer reported at the April meeting $25.99 on hand. In August Mr. Rotch resigned and was succeeded by Sanderson M. Mayhew as president.

Enough for Extras

The Mitchell school building on Music street was up for sale for $360 and the executive committee voted to buy it. Mrs. Everett Allen Davis, in her enthusiasm, solicited $450, which provided a margin for a brick chimney, painting outside, and enough to frescoe walls and ceiling and other improvements. This scale makes an interesting comparison with the value of the dollar in 1968.
In 1892 a committee was appointed, consisting of William J. Rotch, Cyrus Manter, William B. Mayhew, Martha J. Cottle, Louise A. Hancock, and Georgiana W. Davis to write a constitution for the library corporation which was to be known as the West Tisbury Free Public Library, to serve West Tisbury and Chilmark.
The original agreement, dated Jan. 1, 1893, hangs in the main room of the library, having been framed and presented by Miss Jane Newhall. At the first legal meeting, William B. Mayhew was elected temporary clerk and by-laws were adopted. The officers elected Feb. 4, 1893, were: Everett Allen Davis, president; William B. Mayhew, vice president; William J. Rotch, treasurer; and Cyrus Manter, librarian. Named for the board of directors were Georgiana W. Davis, Avis F. Mayhew, and Louise A. Hancock. Rules were made by which this li?rary has been governed ever since.
Finding enough money for books and operating expenses was a problem. All service was volunteer. The first fund-raising activity at the home of Henry L. Whiting Aug. 22, 1893, was a sale of donated articles, which could be classified as white elephants. The treasury was enriched by $17.05. In the fall of that year, a two-day fair was organized at Agricultural Hall which netted $64.55 and was a boost to the morale.

More Books in 1894

The directors voted $40 to buy more books in January, 1894, and the selections were made by Martha J. Cottle, Nellie H. Mayhew, Evelyn H. Adams, and E. G. Whiting. Sanderson Mayhew procured paper to make book covers, since books in those days did not have jackets. During that winter two suppers were given which brought in $20.
Soon a sign was hung out in front of the building - West Tisbury Library - shrubs were planted, and a fence, in keeping with the neighborhood, was put up by Cyrus Manter for $22.
Mrs. Warren Foote was chairman for a second two-day fair at Agricultural Hall, adding $40 to the funds for needed repairs.
The library offered its top floor as temporary quarters to the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society. An American eagle was loaned to the society by Daniel Look, and visitors were charged 10 cents each to view this specimen. Gifts of books and furnishings included a handsome black walnut bookcase made by Jared B. Vincent and Dana L. Hancock.
The annual meeting of 1896 and 1897 proved the library to be doing well, with $45 in the treasury and 1,055 books on the shelves. It was voted to have a concrete walk laid from the door to the street. Fund-raising continued, by means of theatricals, with Messmates, which was a huge success, bringing in $90. A few months later, A Vision of Fair Women was produced with less success, netting only $44. The Library Fortnightly Club was formed in 1897 by a group of women who had enjoyable meetings, at which they collected $28 for a 40 volume set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

$70 from Embroidery

An embroidery club met every Tuesday afternoon at the library and in August held a sale of the articles members had made, gaining $70. A revival of the play Messmate brought enough money to renew the fire insurance policy.
The town voted in 1899 to contribute the dog tax each year to the library. The first payment was $47 and since then the town has made additional appropriations. The Fortnightly Club next gave a standard unabridged dictionary, Gazetteer of the World and a 12-volume set of Shakespeare. William J. Rotch in 1902 gave a rare book, Indian Converts on Martha’s Vineyard by Experience Mayhew.
In 1921 Mrs. George Furness became assistant librarian and envelopes were put into the books for cards.
Since the organization of the library, Judge Everett Allen Davis had been the president and William J. Rotch had been treasurer. In 1930, with the death of Mr. Davis, the vice president, Ulysses Mayhew succeeded him. Evelyn Adams became vice president and Daniel Manter became treasurer. With the benefit of some inherited money, Mr. Manter’s report showed $3,914.61 in a savings account and, $56.55 in the treasury.
From 1932 to 1939 there were no entries by the secretary.

And Then 6,700 Books

After the deaths of Mr. Mayhew and Mrs. Luce, Francis A. Foster became president and Mrs. Charles A. Turner was secretary. By then, the circulation of books and magazines totaled 2,969 and inventory showed 6,700 books. Mrs. Hancock’s death was saddening as she had been a director for 40 years and was the last of the charter members. The new directors were: Emma M. Whiting, Miss Elizabeth Magay and Mrs. Ida R. Furness. The new vice president was Miss Priscilla Hancock, the secretary, Mrs. Daniel Manter, and the treasurer, Frank B. Wight.
In 1947 a tribute was given to Mrs. Whiting at the annual meeting. She had been director and also librarian. Three new members came in: Mrs. George E. Martin, Nelson S. Bryant, and John W. Mayhew. Mr. Wight reported that the operating expenses were $375 and the treasury balance was $288.22, with more than $5,000 in the savings. Mrs. Helena MacNeill continued as librarian.
Mrs. Cleveland Foote sponsored an authors’ tea at her home, making $148.80.
The year 1948 yielded the biggest log tax up to that time, amounting to $88.75. It was also the year that the community services committee if West Tisbury Grange cleaned and painted the exterior of the library and redid the second floor for a children’s library. It is an inviting room, much loved and used by the children now.
Dr. Sidney N. Riggs presented one of his block prints, depicting the opening of the beach. Mrs. Joseph E. Howes, president, appointed a committee of 10 to canvass for new members. Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers first became a director in 1950 and has all these years taken an active part in library affairs.


More Help from These

John W. Mayhew became secre­tary that same year, and Commo­dore Henry Briggs was elected chair­man of directors. Miss Jane New­hall has been cited for her fine work with the library, and Mrs. Mildred Purdom praised for her help, par­ticularly in bookbinding and mend­ing. Mrs. Daniel Manter succeeded Mrs. MacNeill as librarian and she was followed by Mrs. Percy Burt. Mrs. Margaret Young was next in line and resigned in April, 1968. The present librarian is Mrs. Juliet Kraetzer.
At Mr. Wight’s death, Charles W. Tucker took over as treasurer. As of 1968 the inventory shows 11,408 books and a circulation of 8,122 for the past year.
A strong spirit of service predom­inated in the early years and the trustees are hoping that the town will give all that is needed for the continued growth of this fine library.
Mrs. Karl Borders, chairman of the trustees, has had a guiding hand in the plan to offer the library to the town. Mrs. Edward Child is vice chairman, Mrs. Elizabeth Keniston treasurer, and Mrs. Joseph Elvin sec­retary. The other trustees are: Mer­ton Snowden, Argie Humphreys and Dr. Milton Mazer.