The Library of Graham was first established in 1911 by the women’s club know as Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Club (CLCS) The CLCS operated the library in the corner of Morrison’s Store, located in downtown Graham, until the City of Graham made the library a city department in 1924, after which it was in the Young County Courthouse. When the Graham Municipal Auditorium was built in the mid-1930s, the library occupied a room in that building until 1968. Then it was moved to 1100 Cherry Street. The Bertha Foundation of Graham in 1991 offered to donate monies to build a new library to replace the old one. Groundbreaking for the new building was held on April 28, 1992. On January 15, 1994, the library was completed. 

The story of our library’s Chautauqua foremothers is a very interesting one. The Chautauqua movement originated at Lake Chautauqua, NY where Methodist Episcopal camp meetings were being held in the mid-1800s. In 1874 a Methodist Episcopal Bishop, Dr. John Vincent, and philanthropist friend, Lewis Miller, founded the Chautauqua Assembly as a means of encouraging adult education. At first, two weeks of Bible study and training for Sunday school teacher were offered. Soon a system of home reading followed on subjects such as mathematics, hygiene, and languages. Also, musical, and dramatic entertainment. The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle was established. Correspondence courses were established, books were published, and an annual summer school was begun. In its early days as many as 7000 adults were attending Chautauqua meetings. Traveling Chautauquas were established by 1904 and they moved from town to town presenting speakers and entertainment in tents. Because of theis Chautauqua became a generic name for programs given by traveling groups of lectures and entertainers performing in rural areas.

As the twentieth century moved forward, hundreds of local Chautauquas were being formed throughout the country. Of course, the one we are most interested in was organized on September 20, 1911, in Graham, Texas. It was in the home of Mrs. Gallaher with twenty-one women attending. 

The Graham Leader of October 12, 1911, reported this:

“On the last Friday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock an enthusiastic group of ladies assembled at the hospitable home of Mrs. Gallaher for the purpose of organizing a Chautauqua Reading Circle. Mrs. Gallaher occupied the chair, with Mrs. R.G. Hallam acting as secretary, pro tem. Mrs. Dees made an entertaing concise talk, explaining the object and benefits of such a course, ably seconded by Mrs. Rose, Mrs. Akin, Mrs. LaVeaux and others. Mrs. Widmayer read an appropriate poem with much expression, subtle echoing the thought of each one present who aspires to that ephemeral mental state, “culture.” The following officers were elected:

Mrs. Phillip Dees, president

Mrs. Gallaher, first vice president

Mrs. bruce Street, second vice president

Mrs. Harry Graham, secretary

Mrs. Albert key, assistant secretary

Mrs. Widmayer, reporter

Mrs. LaVeaux, critic

Miss Ollie Kidwell, door-keeper

Mrs. Jackson, treasurer

The committees on constitution and by laws and to arrange a course of study were appointed. Besides the all afore mentioned, the following constitute the charter members of this interesting club:

Madames Evan Mabry, Fisher, Jno.E. Morrisonj, Chism, Bryan, Q. Street, McLaren, A.B. Eddleman, Hudson, Hall.

Misses Mary Hays and Mozelle Morrison.

Fast falling twilight found much unfinished business so the body adjourned to meet with Mrs. Widmayer next Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock.

“This course of study fells a long felt want among the ladies of Graham and they regret to limit the number, the amount of available Chautauqua books and the face that few homes can entertain more at one time, necessitates the restriction to twenty-five.” (members)

At first the club held weekly meetings and observed a social hour the last Wednesday in the month. During the period of the first world war, however, when women were engaged in the work of the Red Cross, the social hour was abandoned, and the months of October through May were set as meeting times. The fifth Wednesday was designated for Bible Study.

Then the club became affiliated with the Women’s federation in 1912, the members selected as their civic activity the sponsoring of a public library. To start the library a book shower was held at the home of Mrs. A.A. Morrison, with each member contribution one or more worthwhile books. Later a public book shower was held. Members were exempt from a fine is they were delayed by a motor breakdown. At that time the library was in space arranged in the hardware department of John E. Morrison’s store and was kept open of Saturday afternoon with the club members taking turn about as librarians. The library was moved to City Hall, then to the Graham Land Office building, then to the building on Cherry Street, and finally to the present location. It moved to the courthouse in 1924, when it was made a department of the city. At this time the club turned the books and equipment over to the city which were valued at $1400. There was enough demand to employ a full-time librarian and open the library every day. During this time the club wanted to build a club house with space for a library. The county judge and commissioners had gone so far as to give the club a deed to a lot on the NW corner of the courthouse park. The club had raised $3800when it was decided to build the memorial auditorium. The women then relinquished their dream of a club house and contributed $5000 toward the erection of a community building. The library moved to the Memorial Auditorium in the mid-1930s. In 1968 it moved into one wing of the building at 1100 Cherry Street. In 1994 the new library at 910 Cherry Street was opened.

In the early years the club brought Chautauqua courses, entertainments and lectures to town, not only as money-making projects but also to furnish wholesome and pleasing events for the community. In 1930 the club began landscaping the track of land at the end of Shawnee Park, and for many years members contributed shrubs and trees. Also, during these years, the club worked with restoration of Fkort Belknap, highway beautification and statewide projects with the Women’s Federation. 

Earlier programs were planned to develop its members knowledge of art, music, letters, children, sentiment, food, religion, sports, the outdoors, and work with the comment that these things make the 10 rooms of a woman’s house full and make her a perfect woman. Early programs always included study courses set down by the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs and were supposed to lead to a better understanding of the world and its problems as well as other cultures. In 1940 the name of the club was changed from CSL Circle to CLS Club. On December 15, 1966, the first tour of homes was held with five homes on the tour with an admission of $1.

As the club moved through the years there were changes. But even today basically the programs still continue to stimulate our minds and our effort and work for the library remain our major project. While the establishment of a library has been a noteworthy achievement, it is far from being our only one. The records show the club has been an important role in the life of this community. They have contributed to the cultural, civic, social, and moral progress of Graham. 

“It is not to boast that we call attention to these facts about our club. But we are here to rejoice that we have been able to share in the responsibilities and achievements of our day and to wish for our CLCS many more happy birthdays. We believe the seed has been planted that will make the second twenty-five years of her history even better than the first.”

Mrs. Fred T. Arnold on the club’s 25th anniversary, 1936

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