Thirty Years of Progress

"Thirty Years of Progress" by Esther Davidson (c.1935)

Forest Grove has changed from a small country village to a center of education and trade during the last thirty years. Paved streets, lighting and water systems, new stores, school buildings, garages and filling stations all mark the progress of the last generation.

One of the most interesting developments, however, is that of the city library. Mrs. Boldrick, mother of Mrs. Keith Abraham, says that the Women's Christian Temperance Union started the whole movement. this organization of women wanted to start a reading room in Forest Grove, and someone suggested that the matter be taken up with Civic Improvement Society. A committee of three was appointed to make plans for the library. The members of this committee were Mrs. L.M. Hollinger now of Long Beach, California; Mrs. S.C. Roberts, who died recently at Pasadena, California, and who was W.C.T.U. president at the time of her appointment; and Mrs. Soldrick who lives in Rockaway, Oregon. They succeeded in renting a small upstairs room to be used as a reading room and hired an elderly man as caretaker. Mrs. Hollinger did more than any one else to boost the library in its early days. Every month she would collect $25.00 from subscriptions of twenty-five cents or more for the library. Later Mrs. E. Williams helped her in this work.

In September of 1905, Miss Penfield opened a book store. She says that previous to this time there wasn't a place in town where one could buy stationary. Mr. Burdan and his wife, who had a millinery store on the site of the present library, offered her a small corner of their building for her shop. She took it with the understanding that she would have her portion free for the care of the rest room in the back of the building. Miss Penfield kept a few of her own books on a separate shelf for people to read while they rested. But the miniature library soon outgrew its small quarters. When Mr. and Mrs. Burdan quit the millinery business, the whole building was leased for three years to be used as a library.

These important facts are found in the minutes of the first library board meeting on January 30, 1906. "The members of the city library board appointed by the city council met in call session in the free reading room. The board members are Professor Marsh, Mrs. Rogers, Reverend Boyd, Mr. A.G. Hoffman, Mr. Edwin Allen and Mrs. Hollinger. Miss Penfield was consulted and upon her agreeing to accept the position of librarian was elected on motion of Professor Marsh."

The minutes for December 3, 1908, tell that the board decided to ask the city council to vote a one mill tax for the support of the library. The council accepted their proposal and still continues to levy the one mill tax. Mr. Peterson was city mayor at the time.

Mrs. Rogers became interested in the library after it became fully organized. She cherished the dream that Forest Grove might have a rest room where tired work-a-day people could rest and read, where out-of-town guests might meet their friends, where students and working women could eat their lunches, and where tired, sick babies might be made more comfortable. To help make her dream come true she deeded her entire property on fifth street south to the City, but later changed her mind about the advisability of the action. She had the city deed the property back to her, and bought the library building to give to the city. She made generous gifts of her books, time and money. At the age of twenty-six she had married Dr. G.O. Rogers, a practicing dentist of Lancaster, New Hampshire. The doctor's health required a change of climate so they went to Hong Kong, China, where he followed his profession for ten years. There he became interested in Oriental porcelain, and made several collections. He presented his most valuable collection which is composed of Imperial porcelain only and is valued at $30, 000.00 to the Boston Art Museum. It is known as the G.O. Rogers collection. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers spent a short time in Florida and Mexico before they were attracted to Forest Grove to make their home. Mr. Rogers died in 1900, but his wife continued her helpful work until she was called in 1922. In her will she left $6000.00 to the library with the provision that $200.00 should be used annually for books.

Back in the early days the library had to remain closed on Sundays. The Woman's Club helped remedy the situation by paying a college boy one dollar a Sunday to build the fires and keep the reading room open. In time this practice proved unsatisfactory for the boys would pass the job from one to another until no one was responsible.

As a reward for the efforts of Mrs. Rogers and the other women of town, Forest Grove gained the distinction of being the only library in the State of Oregon in 1909 supplemented by a rest room.

The name O.M. Sanford is closely associated with the library. For twenty years she served as librarian dreaming the same dreams that Mrs. Rogers had. She kept the rest room warm so that college girls might have a place to study and to heat soup for their lunches. Country people could rest there, and tired mothers let their children sleep on the couch.

One year Forest Grove held a fourth of July celebration on College Way between Pacific Avenue and the library. A merry-go-round was the main attraction of the day. That is, until it started raining. But then the festival was ruined: The red, white, and blue banting became streaked and the merry-go-round lost its appeal. Oh, what an attraction the warm, dry library was: Every one who could get inside did so, and watched the deluge while under cover.

In the summer of 1919 the library as well as a large part of the town was destroyed by fire. Books were stacked on the college campus, but many disappeared. The volumes of Charles Dickens' works, now on the shelves were scorched. Later the remaining volumes were taken to private homes for safe keeping. A clipping from the News Times for August 7, 1919 reads, "A committee of Mrs. Charles Hines, Mrs. F.S. Whitehouse, Mrs. C. T. Richardson and Mrs. P. W. Schultz with Miss Margaret Hines as chaperone, representing the Woman's Club, appeared before the city council and asked that steps might be made toward rebuilding the Rogers' City Library. The ladies inquired about the insurance carried by the city and offered their services in any matter which the city council might find for them to do."

According to the News Times for August 28, "The contract for building the library was let to Mr. J.S. Loynes whose bid was $2,337.00. The contrast calls for concrete floors and a Willamette cream colored pressed brick front."

Mrs. Sanford died in 1928 after serving twenty years as as librarian of the Rogers' City Library. Mrs. Holmes then took up her duties. This report issued in September, 1931, gives the following standing of the library.

Books in the library September 1, 1930

2,923
Books purchased in 1931

158
Books donated in 1931

90
Books discarded in 1931

93
Books lost in 1931

14
Books in library, September, 1931

3,076
Magazines in circulation in 1931

384
State library " " "

163
Additions to membership in 1931

216
Withdrawals from member ship in 1931

152
Membership, September, 1931

1,270



Signed Mrs. May H. Holmes



Knowing how the library has developed helps us to appreciate the position it holds in our community. The Rogers' City Library is the fulfillment of many beautiful dreams; the result of labor and cooperation; and a symbol of achievement.


Information from:
Mrs. J.E. Bailey
Mrs. Boldrick
Miss Emma B. Penfield