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  • Sandy Gibson-Quigley

Joshua Hyde Public Library Celebrates 125 years

by Sandy Gibson-Quigley

“NEW LIBRARY. Building Dedicated In Sturbridge Today”.

From the Worcester Evening Gazette, Last Edition (5 PM), Thursday, July 22, 1897

It’s interesting to speculate on which part of the above is more interesting – the opening of the new Library, or the fact that a complete report of the event was available in the Worcester Gazette published 4 hours later.

This was not the Town’s first library. The Proprietor’s Social Library whose members paid for subscriptions was established in 1804. In 1850 The Quinebaug Library Association was formed, open to men, and eventually women, who paid for subscriptions. The Library’s books were housed in various locations around the Common. In 1873 the Association voted to offer the library's nearly 500 volumes to the Town for the establishment of a public library. One of the members of the Quinebaug Library Association, and of the Town Library Committee was Julia Hyde, niece of George B. Hyde, and granddaughter of Joshua Hyde. Perhaps she made her uncle aware of the need for library space.

The Hyde Family

The Hydes are clearly important in the story of our Library.

In 1894 Sturbridge was notified of George Hyde’s bequest of $20,000 for a library to be named for his father – $10,000 to build the library, and $10,000 to be used in perpetuity for books, etc. George B. Hyde (1811-1889) was a longtime Boston teacher, head of school, and School Committee member. His father, Joshua Hyde (1762-1838) was a local farmer and Revolutionary War Veteran. He recognized the value of a sound education and, despite not having had such advantages himself, he “cheerfully bestowed them upon his children.” Julia Hyde, her brother Henry, and his son Henry, served for many years as Trustees of the Joshua Hyde Library. [Note: George Hyde’s portrait by noted local artist William Willard is located across from the circulation desk, as is his personal “best 8-day clock”.]

The Haynes Sisters

Another local family was vital to the JHPL throughout nearly three quarters of the 20th century – the Haynes sisters (no, not the singing duo in “White Christmas”). The Haynes’ homes/workshops are located diagonally across the street from the Library – 5 Haynes St., 307 and 315 Main St. Two sisters – Emily and Susan were librarians, and their sister-in-law Harriet was a member and chair of the Board of Trustees for 55 years, retiring in 1979. Emily Haynes was librarian from 1898-through1902. She was educated at Drexel, and went on to a distinguished career at the WPI Library, returning to help out in Sturbridge when she retired. Susan Haynes was the librarian at Joshua Hyde for 50 years, from 1908 through 1958.

Some interesting items from Miss Haynes tenure:

  • From 1897 through 1955 a messenger was employed to circulate books both to homes and stores (Blackington Building in Fiskdale)

  • 1915, two branches opened, one in Westville at the home of Mrs. C.C. French, and one at the Four Corners in the southern part of Town (Mrs. Phipps)

  • 1935 Miss Haynes noted the redecorating and painting of the exterior of the building by the E.R.A. workmen (Emergency Relief Administration, part of the New Deal)

  • 1942 The Library was collecting books for the Victory Book Campaign to supply books for libraries in the soldiers’ camps.

  • 1946 New lights installed in the Reading Room

  • 1948 Installation of the oil heater “which not only adds to the comfort of our patrons but to the safety of the building and its contents”

  • 1958 Miss Susan Haynes retired [Note: Miss Emily Haynes had been acting Librarian for the year as Susan was not in good health]

Library Expansion

In the early 1960s, as the population of the Town was growing, the Trustee yearly noted the need for more space – shelving, work space, and program space. Not until 1988 did the Town approve the building of an addition with the support of a $300,000 gift from Catherine Shumacher. The JHPL Addition was dedicated May 21, 1989.

Friends of the Library

Founded in 1986, the Friends of the Library is a major contributor to the fiscal operation of the library. They are a dedicated group of volunteers working to support and strengthen library services.

[For a full account of the JHPL, see the book Joshua Hyde Public Library: Centennial, 1897-1997, A Century of Progress, by Charles F. Burns. Available in the Library.]



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