Celebrations are in order for Manchester New Hampshire’s Public Library. The current building, originally called the Carpenter Memorial Library, is 100 years old on November 18, 2014 (using the dedication day of November 18, 1914 when 5,000 people assembled for its opening). However, the library history of Manchester goes much further back, when the area was part of the small village of Derryfield. Although the current library edifice is wonderful even today, an important part of its history would have to include people and events that appear earlier on Manchester’s timeline.
If we count back to the earliest library in old Manchester in 1795, we should now be celebrating 219 years; and if to the opening of the Manchester Athenaeum in 1844, then 170 years. Both of these early libraries were private, owned by groups of Manchester area people who pooled money and resources with subscription rights to use them. In addition to the libraries highlighted in this article, there were several other ‘reading rooms,’ in the city, hosted by a variety of groups and mostly closed except to members.
If we count back to the year that Manchester’s library first became public, then September 6, 1854 should be celebrated with an anniversary of 160 years. The Library is now already mid-way through its year of celebration, with a Library Foundation Gala on September 23rd, and an Open House on October 18th from 5-7 PM. The Manchester Historic Association has a holiday ornament depicting the library planned for sale.
— THE DERRYFIELD SOCIAL LIBRARY (1795-1833) —
Mr. Potter’s History of Manchester (NH) states that “in the latter part of 1795 the project of a social library was started by the inhabitants of Derryfield and vicinity.” An article entitled, The Derryfield Social Library, in Volume I, Part One of Manchester Historic Association Collections (1897), offers a more detailed early history, noting that this library was “owned” by its proprietors, each owning a share, so to speak, and paying an annual fee. Proprietors were able to sell their “right” to other persons. They bought their first books on January 4, 1796 “of E. Larken of Boston, at a cost of $32.94.” These books would have been mostly religious in nature, as were more of the early libraries, however mention is made of various histories, gazetteers, and other books being purchased. The library appears to have been kept at the homes of the Librarian-Clerk, or other convenient home of a member. An original group of forty-six incorporated in December 1799, Daniel Davis and Samuel P. Kidder being their spokesmen, having seventy-eight volumes in the library at the time. The list below includes all known members, and is valuable because it is also an indicator of some of the literate and more affluent members living in the area at this early time.
Although some histories state this group was comprised of “gentlemen,” that is not completely true. Though rare, a few women were early members of this social library. The list of all known social library members included: David Adams, John Adams, Robert Adams, Jesse Baker, Phineas Baley, Lieut. Hugh Boys (Bois), Jacob Chase, Nathaniel Connant, Ann E. Couch, Daniel Davis, Moses Davis, Samuel Davis, David Dickey, John Dickey, Capt. John Dwinell, Peter Emerson, Joseph Farmer Jr., William Farmer [transferd to John Gambel], David Flint, John Frye [sold his right to Aaron Seavey], John Gambel, John Goffe, James Griffin, Lieut. Daniel Hall, John Hall, Robert Hall, Samuel Hall, Philip Haseltine, Asa Haseltine [sold rights to his son Asa Haseltine], Capt. Moses Heseltine [sold his right to ‘leftenant hugh Boys of Manchester], Peter Hills, Isaac Huse, Samuel Jackson, Nathan Johnson, Samuel P. Kidder, Benjamin Leslie, George McAlester, Samuel McAllester, John G. Moor [sold interest to Moses Davis], Capt. Joseph Moor, Nathaniel Moor, Samuel Moore, The Widow Moor, Eliza A. Nutt, James Nutt, James Parker, John Perham, William Perham, Phineas Pettingill, Stephen Pingry, John Proctor, Elisha Quimby, John Ray, Lieut. Job Rowell, Reuben Sawyer, Aaron Seavey, Benj. F. Stark, John Stark, Widow Eliza (Elizabeth) Stark, Thomas Stickney, Ephraim Stevens, Ephraim Stevens Jr., Thomas Stickney, John Tufts, William Walker, Lieut. Amos Weston, David Webster, Israel Webster, Ephraim White, Ruben White, Stephen Worthley, David Young, and Jonathan Young.
LIBRARIANS OF THE DERRYFIELD SOCIAL LIBRARY:
Daniel Davis (1796-1797, 1799, 1801); William Farmer (1798, 1800); Samuel P. Kidder (1802); Samuel Moor Jr. (1802, 1805); Philip Heseltine Jr. (1803); Benjamin Leslie (1804); John G. Moor (1806); Mrs. Farmer (1807-1808); Amos Weston (1808-1810); Isaac Huse (1811); Moses Haseltine (1811); Robert Perham (1813-1814); John Dwinnell (1814-1821, 1823-1826); Samuel Jackson (1821; 1827); S.P. Kidder (Dec 1821-1822); Daniel Hall (December 11, 1826).
One has to remember how difficult life was in Derryfield at this time, and by 1833 the library is believed to have ended. According to William H. Huse in a paper read before the Manchester Historic Association in 1896, “in 1833 no annual meeting was held and the library was at an end, each proprietor appropriating such books as he chose.”
— MANCHESTER ATHENAEUM (1844-1854) —
No. 6, Union Building until 1854 when it was moved to Patten’s Block
(The Union Building was located at 898 Elm St. between Market and Merrimack Streets)
The Manchester Athenaeum organized Feb 19, 1844. It transferred its property to the city in 1854, and a public free library was thus founded with 3000 books.
The 1848 Manchester City Directory, page 168 shows the following advertisement:
Organized February 19th, 1844. Annual meeting, 1st Monday in May.
Situated No. 6, Union Building.
J.A. Burnham, President
Rev. W.H. Moore, Vice President
Directors: S.D. Bell, David Gillis, Daniel Clark
Treasurer: H. Foster
Secretary W.C. Clarke
Librarian: D. Hill
Persons can obtain shares at $14 each. Young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, may be admitted to the privileges of the reading-room and library, by payment to the treasurer of one half the value of a share. Admission to the library and reading-room, $3 per year. The library contains 2200 volumes.
LIBRARIANS OF THE MANCHESTER ATHENAEUM:
1846-1852: David Hill (per the Manchester directories for those years)
1854: Dr. Sylvanus Bunton
— MANCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY —
1854-1871 No. 3, Patten’s Block, Elm Street
(Patten’s Block was 922-938 Elm Street, between Stark and Market Streets)
1871-1914 Franklin and Market Street
1914-today 405 Pine Street [see photograph at top]
The Manchester City Library web site states that “In his inaugural address that year  Mayor elect Frederick Smyth proposed the establishment of a free public library for all of Manchester’s citizens.” This was a great step away from the previously membership-based libraries to a library and reading room open to the public. In April of 1854 a ‘City Library’ is first mentioned in the Town of Manchester reports, and was appropriated $1,000. The Manchester Athenaeum book collection was officially transferred to the city on September 6, 1854. The library was still located in Patten’s block [Elm Street between Stark and Market Streets] when a fire broke out on February 5, 1856 that destroyed the building and almost all of the library’s book collection. [Besides the library, the fire destroyed three newspaper offices, at a lost of $75,000]. What books remained were taken to Smyth’s Block and from there to rooms in the Merchants’ Exchange.
In July of 1871, a city library building which cost $30,000, and located at Franklin and Market Streets, opened. The lot was given to the City by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. By the early 1900s, with the growth of the city, and an increased need for the library, even this building had been outgrown.
Elenora Blood Carpenter died 30 January, 1910. Her husband, Frank P. Carpenter who was the president of Amoskeag Paper Mill, and also a banker, offered to build a library building in her memory. The booklet printed about the dedication exercises states: “He secured the tract of land lying between Amherst and Concord Streets and fronting Pine Street, 300 feet facing the Concord Square [now called Victory Park] and extending to the rear 160 feet. On this site were some of the first houses erected in the early days of Manchester. These, together with others then standing, were removed to make way for the proposed Carpenter Memorial Library and the land thus cleared provided an ideal site.”
The plans for the building were prepared by Mr. Edward L. Tilton of New York, assisted by Mr. Edgar Allen Poe Newcomb of Honolulu. They called for the erection of a building 150 feet long and 90 feet deep, constructed of white Vermont marble fronting on Pine Street. The foundation was prepared by the R.H. Howes Company of New York [a construction company owned by Ralph Holt Howes of New York City], and the contract for the construction of the building was let to F.G. Fearon & Co. of New York. The Renaissance style was adopted for the building, with Concord granite, and Botticino and Lastavena marble used in the construction. ‘The building was fire-proof with reinforced concrete floors and roof….The basement included a lecture room….The building is heated by a system of direct steam…The exterior is faced with white marble from the top of the cornice to the Concord granite base and steps. The roof is covered with Spanish shaped tile of a soft grey green tone….The marble key-block over the arched entrance represents an owl which, as Athena’s bird, symbolized Learning….Within its claws are branches of native oak and pine which may be interpreted as “Strength and Truth” grasped by “Learning,” a fitting key-block for the arch and good key to open the treasures within the building.’ [read more details here]
“Ground was broken in September 1912, and the corner-stone (a five-ton block of Concord granite, inscribed “A.D. 1913.”) was laid June 11, 1913. In its copper receptacle in the stone were placed records, newspapers of the day, coins, cloth of Manchester manufacture, and articles of historical interest and value.”
The dedication of the new Carpenter Memorial Library occurred on Wednesday afternoon, November 18, 1914, at two-thirty. Among the many speakers were Governor of New Hampshire Samuel D. Felker; City of Manchester Mayor Charles C. Hayes, and Library Chairman Edwin F. Jones. The Historical Society was “allowed for the present the use of two rooms for the security of their treasures.” The bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, by John Rogers, originally sat inside the library, but it was felt that it took up too much room. It was moved to in front of (the Burns Building at) Central High School.
LIBRARIANS OF MANCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY:
– Francis Brown Eaton (1825-1904) was the librarian from 1854 until October 1863, when he resigned.
– Marshall P. Hall was appointed in October 1863 and served until June 1865.
– Benjamin F. Stanton was librarian from June 1865 to April 1866 [He was the son of Rev. Charles F. & Betsey Stanton, and a printer and publisher of “Manchester Republican” located at 85 Merrimack Exchange in Manchester NH]
– Charles H. Marshall was librarian starting April 1866 to July 1, 1877. (He wrote the History of Candia NH in 1852)
– Mrs. Elizabeth H. “Lizzie” Davis was librarian from July 1, 1877 to June 30, 1878
– Mrs. Mary Jane (Adams) Buncher, elected librarian June 30, 1878. Served 15 years to 1893. [SEE additional biography below]
– Miss Kate Emery Sanborn, elected librarian February 5, 1894. Left in 1897 following her marriage to another librarian, Gardner M. Jones
– Miss Florence Elizabeth Whitcher was librarian for 3 years from 1898-1901.
– Miss Flora Mabel Winchell, 35 years from December 1901-1936 [the Winchell Room of the Library is named for her].
– Miss Caroline Belle “Carrie” Clement from 1937-1955
– William T. Weitzel 1956-1958
– David Dorman 1959-1965
– John J. Hallahan, 25 years Library Director from 1966-1991
– John A. Brisbin, Library Director from October 1991 to January 2006
– Denise van Zanten, Library Director 2006-today
Carpenter Memorial Library: The Gift of Frank P. Carpenter to the City of Manchester, New Hampshire, a Memorial to His Wife, Elenora Blood Carpenter. Dedication Exercises, November 18, 1914 (Google eBook)
Life From The Roots: Manchester City Library (a wonderful blog article by Barbara Poole about the current Manchester City Library with many photographs added 19 Dec 2018).
— Mrs. Mary Jane (Adams) Buncher —
While researching this story, it became evident that Mrs. Mary Jane (Adams) Buncher was a woman of note, beyond her accomplishments at the Manchester City Library. Mary Jane Adams, daughter of Phineas & Sarah W. (Barber) Adams, was born about 1823 in Waltham MA and died 10 July 1895 in Nashua NH. She married 23 Nov 1848 at Manchester NH to James Buncher. He was born in Lowell MA.
Webster U.S. Hospital aka Webster General Hospital had been created in Manchester, New Hampshire, as a place to treat the ill and injured of the Civil War. The hospital was located on the fair grounds on Elm Street north of Webster Street. According to “The Granite States of the United States, Volume I, by James Duane Squires, Ph.D., “this was the only war-time U.S. Hospital to be established in the Granite State.” Mrs. Buncher was among the nurses who worked there.
In “Our Army Nurses, Interesting Sketches, Addresses, and Photographs, of Nearly One Hundred of the Noble Women who Served in Hospitals and on Battlefields During Our Civil War,” compiled by Mary A. Gardner Holland, 1895; page 330 to 334, Mrs. Buncher writes: “AGREEABLE to your request, I will try to give some account of the hospital to which I was called, and in which I served as a nurse during the last year of the war; or, from October, 1864, to September, 1865. In the fall of 1864 the hospitals along the frontier had become overcrowded, and a question arose in the minds of the public-spirited men of our State in regard to providing a hospital for the sick and wounded of our own State. Very little time was lost before a well- equipped United States building was established in Manchester, NH, receiving the name, “Webster Hospital.” It would accommodate six hundred patients, and during the time of its existence, sixteen hundred were admitted and cared for; quite a number from Maine and Massachusetts, as well as from New Hampshire. The working force consisted of Col. Alex. T. Watson, surgeon in charge, and seven or eight assistant surgeons, four medical cadets, and four stewards, five nurses, and an extra woman of all work. Four convalescent soldiers were detailed to render such assistance as we needed. Our assigned work was in the Extra Diet Department, and we were appointed by Miss Dix [i.e., Dorothea Dix]. The nurses were Mrs. Eliza P. Stone (deceased) and Mrs. Mary J. Buncher, of Manchester (sisters); Miss Mary J. Knowles, Miss Elizabeth J. Dudley, and Mrs. Moore (deceased). The responsibility rested more especially upon my sister and myself; the duties devolving upon us included the supervision of preparing the diet and stimulants for all the sick and wounded needing special care, visiting them, and administering such comfort and cheer as we could. The other nurses had their full share of the labor of love in preparing all the little delicacies for the sufferers, from whom we all received ample compensation in their grateful expressions of thankfulness. We saw much suffering bravely borne. Thirteen deaths occurred from various causes, — the first five of as many different nationalities. Those were very solemn occasions. Another sad scene came when the convalescents were sufficiently strong to return to the front; also, when more wounded ones were brought to us. But there were many pleasant things connected with our hospital life. The people of the city and state were deeply interested in the work. The pastors took turns in coming each Sabbath. The large “mess hall” was arranged for an audience room, and we had excellent discourses delivered there. The singing by the soldier boys was fine. Colonel Watson permitted them to have many kinds of amusement, in which all who were able participated. They frequently gave concerts of no mean order, to which many were invited from the city. The young ladies also gave a fair, and the proceeds were devoted to the purchase of a nice little library, which gave the men a good selection of books, and they were greatly appreciated. Colonel Watson always maintained the same strict discipline as was observed at the front: only special days were allowed for visiting; no one could enter or leave the grounds without a pass; and after the evening guard went on duty we could not go into any of the wards without giving the countersign. Gifts of all kinds sent to the sick ones were delivered at our quarters, to be dispensed according to the judgment of their physicians. Thanksgiving Day, I remember, a bountiful provision was made for all those who were able to partake. That year at Webster Hospital will ever remain a bright spot in memory, notwithstanding the many painful scenes we were called upon to witness; and I rejoice that I was permitted to share in the services rendered by so many noble-hearted women to the brave and heroic sufferers, the defenders of our beloved country. I possess many tokens of kind remembrance from those who were under our care,—letters, photographs, etc.,— and as the years go by, they seem more and more valuable. Quite a number of those who were then young men, now occupy very responsible positions. I have an excellent photograph of the hospital and grounds, taken before the buildings were removed. It was presented to my sister and myself by Colonel Watson, and I prize it very highly. My dear sister, Mrs. Eliza P. Stone, died seven years ago. Her experience at the hospital was identical with my own; but her sweet Christian character, and strong faith, impressed itself upon the hearts of many suffering and dying ones, and gave consolation to many in their hours of trial.”
–Mrs. M. J. Buncher.
182 Main Street, Nashua, N. H.