Lewis Library of Glasgow, MO

Lewis Library is the oldest public library west of the Mississippi

Before the Civil War, two brothers from Glasgow had become very wealthy in the tobacco and hemp business. The hemp was raised to provide bindings to secure the bales of tobacco. Benjamin and James Lewis had a dream of founding a library and college to foster cultural interest in the Glasgow area.

After the battle of Glasgow, Bloody Bill Anderson came to the Lewis mansion which was known as Glen Eden. The mansion is no longer standing but was located just north of the city in the area where Glen Eden Drive is now located. Benjamin Lewis had offered a $6,000 dollar reward for the capture of the notorious guerilla. Anderson told Lewis that he was there to collect the reward.

Anderson tortured Lewis by beating him, sticking a pistol in his mouth, and trampling him with his horse. Lewis, with the help of one of Glasgow's founders-banker William Dunica, eventually paid the amount requested. Lewis was severely injured and his death two years later in 1866 was at least partially caused by these injuries.

In Benjamin Lewis's will, $10,000 was left to construct a college which was to be controlled by the Methodist Church. Construction began almost immediately and the library was opened in March of 1867. The public was able to use the library by paying a fee. The Missouri Secretary of state officially recognized the library in 1869. The total construction cost was $20,000. In 2013 dollars, that would be nearly $300,000!

When Lewis College closed in 1891, the library continued to serve the area. The second floor was the original library and the first floor was the lecture hall for the college. In 1947, the library became a public institution administered by the Glasgow Public Library Board. The city passed a 2 mil tax to support the library.

In 1995, the Lewis Family dissolved the Lewis Library Association and the Glasgow City Council accepted ownership of the library, now called "Lewis Library of Glasgow". Miss Carrie Wachter continued to serve as librarian. She retired in 1991 after serving for nearly 50 years. The reading room located on the stage of the first floor is named the "Carrie Wachter Reading Room" in her honor.

Research for this history was compiled by Rachael Scott.

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URL: http://www.lewislibrary.org Site last updated 27 NOV 13. © 2013