Carteret County Public Library, Beaufort, NC- A Brief History
Susan W. Simpson, Librarian
If books could talk they would tell us the history of a library. Yet they do speak through the markings and stamps cataloguers and librarians use to designate “a library book.” These ‘technical service’ practices continue and the story being crafted today tells of the impact of computers in public libraries.
In 1995, the Carteret County Public Library conducted an inventory and bar-coded its collection prior to automation. The stacks were heavy and crowded so a major weeding project was also done. In the process books were found marked as “Town Library Beaufort NC”, “Work Projects Administration”, “Carteret County Public Library”, and “Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library.” It seemed that the library’s book collection represented a long history of accumulated titles and a disinclination on the part of the library employees to weed. Many books were discarded during the weeding project, but several bearing the older markings were withdrawn and placed in a cabinet housing Library Board minutes, papers, and other items kept for historic reasons by the librarian.
The purpose of this paper is to compile a brief history of the Carteret County Public Library; use the library markings on the retained titles to illustrate this story; and to try to identify the various locations around the town of Beaufort in which the library has been housed over the past 100 years and show these on a map.
CARTERET COUNTY AND BEAUFORT
Carteret County’s history, industry, and population are all influenced by its location on the Atlantic Coast of North Carolina. Beaufort Inlet (formerly known as Old Topsail Inlet) is an important and historically stable passage used by explorers, pirates, settlers, merchants, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, and the military. As part of one of the original Lords Proprietorships, Carteret County was settled very early by whites from Virginia, New England, Great Britain, and European countries. However, geographical barriers to the north and south isolated the county and its residents from the larger centers of commerce like New Bern and Wilmington.
Beaufort was established around 1709; the oldest house in town, the Hammock House, dates from about 1700. In 1715, Beaufort was laid out into lots, and many streets were named just as they are today. The town was incorporated in 1723 and became the county seat. Beaufort is the third oldest town in North Carolina.
Carteret County and Beaufort have played parts in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and of course the Civil War. The arrival of the railroad in 1858 was a significant event, but the tracks ended at Shepard’s Point in Morehead City not at Gallant’s Point in Beaufort. Not until 1906-1907 were the rails extended and the train arrived in Beaufort.
The turn of the 20th century was a period of economic transformation and social change in the entire county. For the first time in the county’s history more people lived in the urban areas of Beaufort and Morehead City than in the rural countryside. Education and literacy, for whites and blacks, were recognized as keys to social improvement and economic development. Women’s Clubs were organized in Beaufort and in Morehead City, and both groups worked to establish a public library in their respective community.
The first library in Beaufort is thought to have started about 1910-1911 in the old courthouse building located at the corner of Turner and Broad Streets (#1 on attached street map of Beaufort). Mrs. C. L. Stevens, superintendent of Beaufort High School, organized the effort, and students refurbished two rooms formerly used as an office by the clerk of court.
This building is plainly evident on the 1908 Sanborn map of Beaufort, as is the new courthouse which was built in 1906 and remains in use today. On the 1913 Sanborn map for Beaufort the old courthouse has become a School House with stove heat and no electric lights. The 1924 map shows it gone, either torn down or moved.
There is no information available about what happened to the library associated with the school.
TOWN LIBRARY OF BEAUFORT
According to a holographic history written by Annie Swann the Beaufort Community Club (today known as the Beaufort Woman’s Club) organized in 1921. A Library Committee was quickly formed, and donations of books and funds were solicited. In March 1922, a public library was opened in Beaufort in an office in the Martin and King Store on Front Street and was open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. Mr. Thomas Martin was librarian and the collection contained 120 volumes. A membership fee was $1.00 a year, and Library Committee members conducted a door-to-door membership drive throughout Beaufort.
I have not yet been able to find out where the “Martin and King” store was located on Front Street, but it seems reasonable to assume it was somewhere in the business and commercial district (#2 on attached street map of Beaufort). However, the library was not in this location very long, having been forced to move for reasons that are unclear.
THE FORLAW HOME
By October 1922 it was necessary to find a new location for the library. At a Beaufort Community Club meeting Mrs. Sallie Shelton offered a room in her home on Turner Street, but the library was eventually moved into the home of Mrs. John Forlaw, Chairman of the Library Committee. From this location Mrs. Forlaw served as librarian, checking books in and out, and accepting donations.
To find out where Mrs. Forlaw lived I researched the 1920 Federal Census available through HeritageQuest Online. I found that Mr. John Forlaw and his wife Lucy J. lived with their daughter Lucy in a house on Front Street. Mr. Forlaw was a real estate agent, and their daughter taught school. Mrs. Forlaw apparently kept house. The enumerator did not list the house number so I turned to the 1930 Federal Census. Since an index to this census is not completely available it was necessary to browse the actual census pages. Mr. and Mrs. Forlaw were easily found in this census, and there was additional information. Their home was worth $8,000, and was enumerated between 505 Front Street (the Thomas Duncan House, earlier known as the Carteret Academy or the Beaufort Female Academy and in 2004 is still standing) and 513 Front Street.
The 1924 Sanborn map of Beaufort clearly shows the Forlaw’s home at 509 Front Street, between 505 and 513 (#3 on attached street map of Beaufort). Unfortunately Mrs. Forlaw’s home and temporary home to the public library no longer exists. A brick building, formerly a hardware store and then Mike’s Restaurant, stands in its place.
As Annie Swann writes, “Mrs. Farlow deserves our cheers and heartiest thanks, for by her kindness and hard work a critical period in the history of our library was safely passed.”
The local newspaper of the time, the Beaufort News, contains occasional articles about the library and the Beaufort Community Club. In articles from 1924 and 1926 it is clear that the library is now part of a Club project, the “Public Rest Room & Library,” located on the first floor of a building at the corner of Front and Craven, owned by Charles A. Clawson of Beaufort. (Incidentally, this is right around the corner from Mrs. Farlow’s home.) On the second floor was a Hall where the Community Club met. Beaufort town commissioners eventually appropriated $150.00 each year for the library and “rest room.” At this location the library grew from 225 volumes to over 550 through donations of clubs, organizations, and individuals, and with funds raised through subscriptions and “other legitimate ways”, i.e. overdue fines. Annie Swann mentions that Martha Carrow was librarian. According to advertisements in the Beaufort News, in 1926 the Town library was open one hour one day a week, September through May.
I contacted members of the Clawson family now living in Beaufort but they had no knowledge of any family connection with the library. The 1924 Sanborn maps of Beaufort indicate a building at the corner of Front and Craven (106 Craven Street) which has a “Hall” on the second floor; could this be the “Clawson building” used by the Beaufort Community Club? Today this location is a parking lot (#4 on attached street map of Beaufort).
STILL ANOTHER MOVE
According to Minnie S. Simpson (librarian from 1960 to 1982) the library next came to be located in the courthouse annex, the former graded school on the courthouse square, at the corner of Turner and Broad, but it is not clear why the move occurred. Perhaps the book collection was growing and the library required more space. (#5 on attached street map of Beaufort.)
Here the books were kept in what had been the principal’s office. When this space became too small commissioners gave permission for the library to be moved to a larger room on the first floor. Mrs. S. H. Haywood, President of the Woman’s Club, served as librarian. This was in 1930. Mrs. Haywood moved away and Annie B. Loftin succeeded her. The Beaufort Woman’s Club (as it was then known) continued to raise money for books through bake and candy sales. Mrs. Loftin was succeeded by Vera Stubbs.
The 1924 Sanborn map of Beaufort clearly shows this building as the Beaufort Graded School, and then in later years it is the courthouse annex. In December 1982 the building was torn down, replaced by a parking lot.
Few books remain today that have the hand lettered identifying markings of the “Beaufort Town Library” crafted by the various librarians who maintained the library as it moved from place to place. There are a few treasured copies in the current librarian’s archives that also have card pockets with professionally printed messages for borrowers. Some of the books have been repaired with meticulous care, so that even today they are in excellent condition.
In 1934, through the efforts of Miss Clyde Duncan, the Beaufort library became a North Carolina Work Projects Administration (WPA) Library Project. The Carteret Post 99 of the American Legion offered to the library the use of their clubhouse, a log cabin on Turner Street, with heat, lights, and water. This proposal was accepted and the library was moved again (#6 on attached street map of Beaufort). WPA funds could only be used for salaries, so under the program the librarian, who was Miss Clyde Duncan, became the first salaried librarian of the Beaufort library. In 1935 she resigned and Mrs. Vera Stubbs became librarian again.
During the “WPA days” many books were added to the collection to judge by the number of titles bearing the “North Carolina Work Projects Administration Library Project” label. Travel books, the River of America series, and general local history titles, many of these books were themselves written through other WPA projects.
In 1936, WPA funds were directed to recreation projects, and the library program was not renewed. Mrs. Stubbs was asked to supervise the recreation (i.e. dances and socials) project to be conducted in the same log hut. The library was allowed to continue but there was increasing pressure to find it a new location.
The American Legion cabin appears on the Sanborn maps of Beaufort; many local residents remember it and recall the library being there. They also fondly remember the many dances and socials that took place in the building. A few years after the library moved out the cabin burned down. Its brick chimney foundation is still visible in the ground between the large oaks in the parking lot south of the current Carteret County Public Library building.
THE TRAIN DEPOT
A few blocks away, on the corner of Broad and Pollock Streets, stood the vacant terra cotta tiled roof passenger train depot built in 1906 when the railroad came to Beaufort. Owners of the depot were persuaded to sell it to the Town of Beaufort for the library.
The 2,570 square foot depot required considerable refurbishing, but once again the Beaufort Woman’s Club, under the leadership of Mrs. W. L. Woodard, came to the rescue raising funds for the work. In December 1940 the library moved into its new home (#7 on attached street map of Beaufort). Sara Rumley was Supervisor of Library Projects, and Annie Gaskill and Thomas Respess were librarians.
With Federal WPA funds for salaries soon to end the library faced a financial crossroads. Emily Loftin, a retired professional librarian, teacher, and library supporter, approached the State Library Commission about the matter. Library Board minutes indicate that she was told that for the Beaufort library to receive state funds it had to become a county library, presumably with the attendant funding and support from county government.
In February 1943, the Beaufort library was incorporated by the NC Secretary of State as the Carteret County Public Library. Named as incorporators were Lena Duncan, Mrs. H. C. Jones, and Mrs. W. L. Woodard. This document is framed and today hangs in the librarian’s office. Books added to the collection in this era proudly bear the stamp “Carteret County Public Library Beaufort NC.”
By 1949, in addition to State funds, Carteret County government was making appropriations for the library, and the Town of Beaufort was contributing funds in addition to providing space for the library. Financial troubles continued for many years, however, and the Carteret County Public Library survived and grew through the shear determination and dedication of many women in the community.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Carteret County Library Board of Trustees was under increasing pressure from the State Library Commission to obtain additional local funds to hire a trained librarian. To qualify meant that an individual had earned a BS in library work or had completed at least 30 hours in library school studies; a trained librarian on staff was a condition for continued federal and state funding. State officials made many trips to Beaufort to discuss this issue and as early as 1956 Library Board members considered joining a regional library association with Onslow or Craven County or to share a professional librarian part-time from these counties.
In May 1956, the Carteret County Library Board hired Miss Dorothy Avery, who had 28 hours of library school work. Miss Avery worked five afternoons a week. During Miss Avery’s tenure a branch library in Newport was established, and Bookmobile service grew to 35 stations throughout the county. Dorothy Avery resigned on June 30, 1959. Mrs. Paul Woodard succeeded Miss Avery, but she was not a trained librarian. Mrs. Minnie S. Simpson was hired as librarian in 1960 (she retired in 1982), succeeding Mrs. Woodard, but she also was not a trained librarian.
The loss of Miss Avery occurred during a difficult period. The condition of the building declined and included electrical problems and leaks in the roof. In June 1959, mayor elect of Beaufort Mr. C. R. Wheatly commented that it was his plan to cut the library completely out of the town budget “in the interest of economy.” A note in the Library Board minutes tells of an interesting outcome: “Mrs. Barbour to write C. R. Wheatly a note of appreciation for making it possible for the library to have the town appropriation of $600.00 by contributing the amount to make up the deficit from his salary.”
In 1959, the Carteret County Public Library Board of Trustees again gave serious consideration to the idea of sharing a librarian with Craven County and the possibility of joining a regional library system. There was a great deal of negotiation and discussion on this topic; Library Board members were concerned that with regionalization they would lose authority and control over their library. By 1962 an agreement had been reached and on October 1, 1962 the Carteret County Board of Commissioners signed the contract merging the Carteret County Public Library with the Craven-Pamlico Library forming the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library, with Elinor D. Hawkins director. The now familiar “Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library” stamp appears on books in the collection.
These new associations did not, however, stop the problems with the Train Depot building. In February 1966, the terra cotta tile roof leaked during a Board meeting, underscoring in the minutes a situation that was already damaging books and breeding termites. An old pot belly stove provided inadequate heat and only half of the library could be used year round.
In 1961, the Friends of Carteret County Public Library was organized, and a local movement was started to plan and work for a new library building to be constructed on a vacant lot on Turner Street. This site is adjacent to where the American Legion log cabin had once housed the library. The Beaufort Woman’s Club, local businesses, and individuals all supported the project, which was made possible with federal and county funds.
Groundbreaking for the new library occurred on November 10, 1970, and in about a year’s time it was ready for occupation. Over 28,000 books were moved from the Train Depot into the new 7,500 square feet facility at 210 Turner Street. At a cost of about $142,028 the Library featured a large children’s area, more space for open stacks, a magazine and new book reading area, an auditorium for meetings and programs, carpeted floor, and air conditioning. On October 17, 1971 the new Carteret County Public Library was dedicated and it opened for business the next day. Finally, the library had a permanent home (#8 on attached street map of Beaufort).
The Beaufort Train Depot still stands at the corner of Broad and Pollock Streets. In 1993 the Beaufort Woman’s Club decided to restore this old structure and proceeded to raise the funds to do so. On October 27, 1996 the beautiful restored building was dedicated. These days the Train Depot is used by the Town of Beaufort, the Beaufort Woman’s Club, and many civic organizations.
“30 YEARS ON TURNER STREET”
On October 25, 2001, former and current Library Board members and many other interested individuals were on hand for a “30 Years on Turner Street” celebration for the Carteret County Public Library. Rosemary B. Garrish, who was librarian from 1982 to 1993, was present, as was Minnie S. Simpson. The library now has over 45,000 books, computers with Internet access, materials in various formats, and an online catalog. The library has two branches and operates an Outreach Service for the Homebound and Physically Handicapped.
As children ate cake and candy the adults looked over displays about the history of the library and reminisced. Former Library Board Trustee Lucille Guthrie summed up with the words, “This whole library is a testament to the women of Beaufort.”
Street Map of Beaufort indicating the various locations of the Carteret County Public Library over the past 100 years:
Blake, Beth. “It’s A Party! The Carteret County Public Library celebrates its 30th Anniversary on Turner Street.” Carteret County News-Times (21 October 2001): 1B.
"Community Club Meets." Beaufort News (26 October 1922):4.
“County Library Observes Fifth Birthday Today.” Carteret County News-Times (18 October 1976):1-19A.
Dudley, Jack. Beaufort: An Album of Memories. Morehead City NC: Coastal Heritage Series, 2004.
Gebeaux, Howard. “Library Dedication Set for 2:30 Sunday.” Carteret County New-Times (14 October 1971):1A.
“Great Day Coming!” (editorial) Carteret County News-Times (14 October 1971):1B.
Lefferts, Aleeze, H. C. Lay, and C. W. Lewis. Carteret County: Economic and Social (UNC Extension Bulletin). Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1926.
Powell, William S. The North Carolina Gazetteer. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1968.
"Public Library Makes a Start." Beaufort News (16 March 1922): 1.
Simpson, Minnie S. “County Library Got Its Start in 1910.” Carteret County News-Times (14 October 1971): 9A.
Swann, Annie Gardner. “Library” unpublished manuscript.
A note on my sources: The minutes of the Library Board meetings are only available starting in January 1955. The old Beaufort News newspaper is a wealth of information about Beaufort in the 1920’s, but the exact location of the "Martin and King Store" remains elusive.
Susan W. Simpson, December, 2004.