History of Seneca Free Library

Seneca has been library-minded for many years, we have learned from newspaper files found back in the 1880s.

The men of the town had a library committee endeavoring to establish some sort of a library. Years later the women of Seneca put their shoulders to the wheel. Books were solicited and placed in stores then checked out to readers. The Women’s Club learned of the traveling library books that were rented fro9m there and circulated. The traveling libraries were originated by the Federated Women’s Clubs of Kansas. All you had to do is pay the transportation on the books and the use of the books was free. The Library from the beginning rented one hundred books every six months.

The demand for a public library arose in the Seneca Women’s Club a the time Mrs. Walter Fuller was president. A meeting of various city organization were held in the old Courier-Tribune office and others later in the city council office. At one of these meetings the late H.M. Baldwin, attorney-at-law became much interested. Mr. Baldwin was chairman of the civic committee of the Business Mens Club. Finding that Carnegie libraries were no longer obtainable for Kansas, he wrote to various cities obtaining advice as to procedure in towns the size of Seneca. It was decided to follow state law. Mrs. C.E. Mathews (mother of Lillian Vorhes) was chairman of Mrs. Fullers library committee that circulated petitions among taxpayers bringing the matter to the vote of the people at the city election, April 17. The proposition carried by majority of 167 votes. Some furniture was installed in the room reserved in the new city hall for library quarters but it was not until January 13, 1919 after WW1 was over, that the library was opened to the public. The library board organized in May 1917 during the administration of Mayor William Dennis with Charles H Herold serving as President and Mrs. C.E. Collins as secretary. Other board members were Mrs. J.L. Gillette, Supt. R.G. Mueller, Mrs. C.C.K. Scoville, Mrs. J.J. Vorhes and Mrs. R.M. Emery, Jr.

In addition to mothering the library, the Women’s Club created a memorial fund in honor of Mrs. E.M. Collins (who taught 1st grade for about 28 years). This money was raised by soliciting all her former pupils. On the 27th of January 1924, Mrs. Collins purchased two Seneca Building and Loan shares, the interest of $12.00 per year being stipulated to be used for the purchase of books with the amount to be known as Collins Memorial Fund.

When the Universalist Church building know as the Old Stone Church was about to be sold by the church state association, Judge Ira Wells, Mayor McCliman and other members of the Universalist church decided to preserve the landmark. The library by this time had outgrown its quarters in City Hall. Terms were agreed upon with the church association. Again, the Women’s Club took a leading part in the purchase of the church. Under the administration of Mrs. D.H. Piper, bringing the importance of securing the building for a library before the public. With all the club members working toward this goal, the proposal carried in April 1928.

The city administration of Mayor G.D. Meyers made extensive improvements within and with our the old church building and it stands today as one of the most beautiful library buildings in Kansas. The library moved into its new home in July of 1931.

Mrs. Ruth Collins was the first librarian elected in 1917 and served until January 1934. Mrs. R.E. Karnes followed, serving from Janurary of 1934 until November of 1934 when she had to resign due to her health. Mrs. Buehler was elected in November of 1934.

In November 1932 36 books were donated by members of the Women’s Club and in 1933 the club gave the library board $109.26 which was used to purchase tables and chairs in the junior department.

At the death of Miss Cora Young, she willed 2/5 of her estate to the library with instructions that the money received be invested and be known as the Young Memorial Fund. The interest from this fund to be used for the purchase of books. The amount of the fund was $3,300.00.

Two members of Women’s Club are credited with long terms of service to the library. Mrs. Emery Jr. served on the board from 1917 to 1957. The late Mrs. Fuller served from 1919to her death. It is believed that Mrs. Fuller was secretary for about 28 years.  No one will be able to serve this long again because the state now has a law limiting a board member to 2 four year terms.

In 1957 the city remodeled the library building by reinforcing the walls, installing new lights, lowering the ceiling about 6 feet and repapering the interior. The Business and Professional Women’s Club has contributed to the library a book card and a receptacle for the book drop.