The following is taken from "Ilion 1852-1952." We thank the Mayor and other officials of Ilion for granting us permission to provide this information to our visitors.

Ilion Free Public Library

The history of the Ilion Free Public Library dates back to 1893 when its doors were opened by the gift of an Ilionite, Clarence W. Seamans.

Back in 1860 or thereabouts, a religious society of Ilion attempted to provide a public reading room but funds and interest were lacking and permanent success was not possible. In 1884 the school library was opened to the public, housed in a room in the Grimes and Pelton Block on the south side of First St. with over 4,000 volumes on its shelves. In 1891 the school library was destroyed by fire.

In the same year Mr. Seamans purchased the land for this library from Michael A. Giblin and the deed to the property was sent in trust to Miss Carrie Richardson, Miss Cornelia Seamans and J. H. Rudd, a committee of the alumni of the Ilion Academy.

For some years the alumni of the Ilion High School had worked very hard collecting money to establish a much needed Public Library, but it was slow work. Then, Clarence W. Seamans, himself an Ilion boy, educated in Ilion's school, made this generous gift to his home town. This took the form of a thirty-thousand dollar building, Romanesque in architecture, in which to house the library's books. The interest of the village was then stimulated and $5,000 was raised by the Alumni Association for books and legal provision was made by the village for the care and maintenance of the building. The library was opened on October 28, 1893.

The Alumni Association of the Ilion Academy deserves great credit since primarily the idea of having a public library came from that association and the first efforts in that direction were made by it.

The control of the library at that time rested with a committee of five: Miss Harriett Russell, Miss Carrie Richardson, John Giblin, James Conklin and James Dygert. The first librarian was Miss Anna Perkins whose yearly salary was $500.

Serving on the Library Board at present are: Mrs. Stuart Fay, Mrs. Harold Walker, Mr. Leo Murphy, Mr. Thomas Shepherd and Mr. Kenneth Tillinghast. Miss Bonnie Elliott is the librarian.

There are at present 22,565 volumes in the library, compared with 7200 in 1893, including a fine and up-to-date reference collection of current newspapers, and periodicals. The library also houses a valuable collection of old Ilion newspapers and books of historic value.

It is interesting to note the changes in the trends of reading during the library's existence. More and more people today are calling for books on atomic energy, television, jets, flower arrangement and religious books as well as the technical books. Through the years the library has progressed steadily, always aiming to serve all the people from the tiny tot who delights in the joy of a picture book to the adult who may be searching for an answer to his problem.

The following is taken from "Alumni IHS." The description on a cover page reads,"This Alumni Book is published by the Senior Class of the Ilion High School, with the endorsement of the Alumni Asociation, and under the direction of the Superintendent of Schools. Ilion, N. Y., June 1, 1904"

Ilion Public Library

At the annual meeting of the Alumni Association held in 1891 the first steps were taken toward the establishment of a public library. The need for such an institution ws set forth in a paper read by Miss Harriett Russell. The initial steps for a library for public use had already been taken in 1884, when the school library was opened to the public. At this time Miss Fannie Avery, who has so long been an efficient techer in the school, acted as librarian. About four thousand books were placed in the library at this time and many more later. The library occupied rented rooms in the Grimes & Pelton block. Soon after the alumni meeting above referred to was held, the building containing this school library ws burned, and nearly all the books lost. The necessity of a public library and a separate building was now more fully appreciated than ever before. The library committee, consisting of Miss Carrie Richardson, Miss Harriett Russell, Mrs. S. G. Heacock, Mrs. E. G. Kern, Miss Cornelia Seamans and Messrs. A. D. Richardson, Gilbert Pelton, J. H. Rudd, Seward Hakes and Harry G. Folts, which was appointed in 1891, worked faithfully for a year, and was then reappointed to go on with the undertaking. The project seemed a very great one for so small an association, but the people of the community responded freely, and at an opportune time bounteous support came from an unexpected source.

Noting the efforts of the alumni of the school, and feeling a kindly interest in the village where he had spent his earlier life, Mr. Clarence W. Seamans came forward with the very generous offer to provide a suitable building if the association would raise five thousand dollars for books, and if the village would make legal provision for the perpetual care of the building.

The committee now worked with renewed courage. By entertainments, contributions from the alumni, and generous help from the townspeople in general, they secured more than six thousand dollars. The contributions from the Alumni Association alone amounted to eleven hundred dollars. The sum of one thousand dollars was permanently invested for the benefit of the library, and after a time was transferred to the Village of Ilin as the nucleus of a library endowment fund. To this sum two thousand dollars were added the same year by the will of Mrs. Harriett Carlton, whose sympathy with the endowmwnt plan was aroused by the efforts the association was making. The committee selected and purchased five thousand dollars' worth of books, and, with other members of the association, spent several months assisting in the cataloguing of the library. An authority on library matters estimated that the unpaid assistance given would have cost the village five hundred dollars had it not been done gratuitously.

In due time a splendid library building, costing more than $30,000, was completed, with the books on the shelves ready for circulation, and on October 27, 1893, was opened with appropriate ceremonies. On this occasion, Mr. C. W. Seamans formally deeded the land and building to the alumni, and presented the keys to Mr. Seward Hakes, then president of the association, who in turn transferred the entire property to the Village of Ilion.

As a mark of appreciation of what Mr. Seamans had done for the community in his generous gift of the library building, the Alumni Association erected in the vestibule of the library a bronze tablet with the following inscription:


Mr. Seamans was also elected an honorary member ofthe association.

The library is now governed by a board of five trustees, appointed by the village trustees. The first trustees were Miss Carrie Richardson, Miss Harriet Russell, Mr. John A. Giblen, Mr. J. H. Rudd and Mr. James Dygert. Miss Anna Perkins, formerly a teacher in the public schools, fitted herself as librarian, and has acted efficiently in that capacity ever since. By legal enactment the library trustees can draw on the village each year for an amount equal to one and one-half mills on the dollar of taxable property. The full amount has never been required or asked.

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Created 4/1/01
Copyright © 2001 Paul McLaughlin/Judy Breedlove/Martha S. Magill