Amboy Library
Pankhurst Memorial
3 South Jefferson Avenue

Amboy, Lee County IL


Reading seems to have always been a part of the cultural life of Amboy as history records that when the John Dexter family emigrated to the area from Canada, they brought with them a number of books including an ancient family Bible with leaves yellowed by age. These books were often loaned to their neighbors. Mrs. Dexter never passed up an opportunity to benefit her children and the children of other early settlers. It was through her efforts a school was etablished in 1839.

The first circulating library was instituted in the winter of 1864 just 10 years after the town of Amboy originated. the IL Central RR conceived the idea of providing books for the use of their employees and sent about 1000 volumes to Amboy.

Here was formed the IL Central Library Assoc., limited at first to employees of the Company, but others were afterwards admitted by paying an annual fee doublt of that paid by the RR men. The association flourished as the books were much used. At length, more funds were needed and an excursion to Dubuque, Iowa was planned under the auspices of the Women's Temperance Union. The excursion took place in August 1869 with a net return of $613.45.

Interest seemed to lag and in 1872 the railroad discontinued the allowance for rent. The project languished until 1875 a reorganization was made under the laws of the State of IL and the Amboy Library Assoc. was incorporated April 2. The new board consisted of J.C. Jacobs, president; E.Hull, librarian and secretary; Josiah Little, treasurer; L.T. Moore and Lemuel Bourne. In October 1877 the trustees sponsored another excursion to Dubuque and cleared $965. $200 of this amount was spent on new books.

Records show that in 1881 the library had 755 volumes of standard works on history, biography, science and fiction, and 93 patrons. Mrs. M.L. Knowles was the librarian. As years passed many of the original group moved away and interest dropped. Eventually, in 1911, the Amboy Woman's Club took over the responsibility of maintaining the library. The book shelves and reading rooms were in the J.E. Ellsesser building on Main Street over the present location of the Town and Country cafe. The first library committee names was; Mrs. Fannie B. Doty, Mrs. Mary J. Staup, Mrs. F.N. Vaughn Sr., Mrs. C.A. Davis, Mrs. R.V. Moore, Miss Alice Gridley and Miss Mary Burnham. Mrs. C.A. Zeigler was named as one of the first club members to act as librarian.

The present building was provided for the city through the generous gift of the late James Pankhurst. It was dedicated with fitting ceremonies in May 1929. The first meeting of the new library board was called by Mayor F. N. Vaughan on May 11. Lots were drawn for the length of term of each member with the following results; W.A. Green, Dr. C.A. Zeigler and Miss Lena Johnson for one year; Mrs. C.A. Davis, L.S. Griffith and Miss Josephine Egan two years; John McGowan, Paul Doty and Dr. W.L. Berryman three year term.

Dixon Evening Telegraph Feb. 28, 1976

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