|Book plates, from Cooksville book owner|
In 1884, some folks in Cooksville decided to start a local lending library. That December, the Evansville Enterprise’s Cooksville reporter announced that in Cooksville, “There will be a tree at the church on New Year’s eve, also an entertainment to be given, a small admission fee, ten and fifteen cents will be charged, the funds to go towards the Public Library which has been started here.”
By early 1885 the library effort in the village was moving ahead. The story writer from Cooksville with a dateline of February 4, 1885, in the Enterprise newspaper describes the villager’s venture:
“Our library prospects are so flattering that I cannot resist the desire to inform your readers of its future outlook. A few of us banded together last December and incorporated a ‘Public Library Association of Cooksville’ and since January first we have accumulated upwards of $40 and no skating rink about it either. We hold sociables every two weeks. Last night we had a box sociable where ladies brought nicely decorated boxes and the gents bid them off at various prices. The boxes brought by Miss Belle Rice and Miss Mable Woodbury sold each for $1.25.... In two weeks there will be another sociable and the weight of each lady with name will be sealed in an envelope and the gent drawing such will pay 1.4 cts per pound and the lady designated for partner during---well as long as the spirit moves, which shall not be short of the gate.”
Money for the Library was raised in short order, probably because the ladies were good cooks and prepared tasty box-lunches— and tipped the scales sufficiently.
The Library Association believed book readers in general were divided into those who read for “information” and those who read for “momentary pleasure.” The first thirty volumes were soon obtained, including were such authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Mrs. Stowe, George Eliot, Hugo and Robinson.
Membership in the Public Library Association cost $1.00 per year, which allowed members to borrow books and vote at meetings. Fines were charged to members for over-due books.
In 1887, a new bookcase was purchased for $8.00 and a hundred cards with book titles and authors names were purchased for $2.00. New books continued to be purchased now and then as funds allowed.
By 1895, the Library consisted of 150 books, as well as a number of magazines such as Harpers Monthly, North American Review and Chautauqua. And in 1898, membership was reduced to 75 cents.
The location of the library moved around from home to home, depending on who was in charge of the library books at the time. The librarian checked out books collected late fees, solicited new membership fees, and ordered new books as the Association’s budget allowed and as the elected officers decided. It appears books were checked out regularly as the 19th-century ended.
The records of the Library in the Cooksville Archives are sketchy, and it is not known when the Library Association ceased operation. By the early 20th-century, large public libraries had been established in small cities near Cooksville, many with funding from Andrew Carnegie, which made borrowing a wide selection of library books possible for many more people.
In the 1960s, “Waucoma Lodge,” once the Cooksville home of Susan Porter (1859-1939) and, later, Cora Porter Atwood (1884-1952), contained several book cases filled with a variety of books—novels, histories, geographies, poetry—as well as magazines. Waucoma Lodge may have been the last home of the Public Library. Certainly, the two women had been very active in Cooksville’s cultural and intellectual life, and they may have eventually become the caretakers of the old Library’s collections. The contents of the bookcases in Waucoma Lodge were probably the remnants of the once-popular Cooksville Public Library.