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Chapter 1

The Building Enterprise

Early in the spring of eighteen hundred and eighty-three, while engaged in accumulating material and facts for his ecclesiastical sketch of Rehoboth in the history of Bristol County, Rev. George H. Tilton was impressed by the large number of ancient and odd relics which he found in possession of the residents of the town. The antiquity and rareness of some of the documents, books, implements, &c., which he saw, awakened the desire in his mind that these be collected and preserved in some suitable place. Accordingly it was with this thought in mind that on the second day of January, eighteen hundred and eighty-four, while examining the relics in the possession of George N. Goff, Mr. Tilton said to Mrs. Goff, "We must have an Antiquarian Society here."

Thereupon he immediately went to work to raise subscriptions to erect a building. By dint of hard labor and the expenditure of much time, at the close of January he had the sum of fifteen hundred dollars pledged. On the thirty-first of January, Geo. H. Tilton, John C. Marvel and George N. Goff, went to Pawtucket to see Darius Goff, Esq., a former resident of Rehoboth, and find out if he would not aid them. After the facts were presented to him, Mr. Goff pledged an amount equal to that already raised and told them if they raised any more to come and

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see him again. The aim of Mr. Tilton at first was for a building simply for relics, &c., but this soon developed into the idea of a building which would contain a hail, a school room and a library. Encouraged by the liberality and prothise of Mr. Goff, Mr. Tilton set at work with renewed zeal to increase the amount pledged. With the aid of others who had already subscribed, he brought the sum up to four thousand dollars which was promptly duplicated and more than duplicated by Mr. Goff.

On the evening of March 5, 1884, the stockholders having been duly notified, the first meeting of the Antiquarian Society was held in the vestry of the Congregational church, when the following communication from Mr. Goff was presented and unanimously accepted:

"If the inhabitants of the town will increase their subscriptions up to four thousand dollars, I will raise mine up to the same amount, and in addition, give one acre of land to erect the building thereon, the location of which shall be the old homestead of my father, and a further condition that five gentlemen shall be elected as trustees, one for five years, one for four years, one for three years, one for two years, and one for one year, who, with the president and secretary of the society, shall erect said building and have the whole care and management of the property. After one year, one trustee shall be elected annually; and furthermore, I reserve the right to name three of the five trustees, and also to approve the plan of the building At least three thousand dollars of the four thousand subscribed outside of mine, shall be paid into the treasury before I am called upon. When that is done I shall be ready to pay mine in full. This offer will hold good for sixty days from date."

At this meeting the following officers were elected;

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President, Rev. George H. Tilton; Vice Presidents, Esek H. Pierce and Francis A. Bliss; Secretary, Wm. H. Marvel, Corresponding Secretary, Rev. G. H. Tilton; Treasurer, Wm. W. Blanding; Trustees—for five years, George N. Goff; four years, Esek H. Pierce; three years, Paschal E. Wilmarth; two years, Charles Perry; one year. George FL Horton. By the constitution of the society, the President and Secretary are made trustees ex-officio, thus making the whole board of trustees to consist of seven persons.

In the latter part of March, Mr. Tilton sent a letter to Hon. Thomas W. Bicknell acquainting him with the fact that quite a sum of money had been pledged, and that it was the intention to have a, school and library in the building, and that any aid or assistance he could render them would be duly appreciated. Mr. and Mrs. Bicknell were both very much interested in the under. taking, and sent the following letter which led to the founding of the Blanding Library.

 

BOSTON, MASS., April 1, 1SS4.

REV. GEO. H. TILTON President Antiquarian Society, 

Dear Sir:— Your plans with reference to a Memorial Hall, High School Booms, Antiquarian Hall, etc., at Rehoboth, have interested Mrs. Bicknell and myself very much, and have awakened the living embers of the sincere and deep attachment we have for old Rehoboth and her excellent people, formed under circumstances most interesting and important to all concerned. At one time, while we were teaching the high school at Rehoboth, very considerable interest was then manifested in the matter of erecting a high school building and hall at the village, and such public-spirited men and women as John C. Marvel, Win. R. Bullock, Mr. and Mrs. Deacon Brown, William Blanding, Reuben Bowen, Danforth Horton, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Carpenter, Tamerlane Horton, Josephine B. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Goff, Nelson Goff and others, were deeply interested in the project, which ended only in discussion. Nearly thirty years have passed since then, and it has been a matter of concern to us, what could be done to preserve the better standard of intelligence and virtue, traditional and historic, in this grand old town.

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You may lie assured that your work as a pastor and teacher of the old church of the Rogersons, Thompsons and Grovenors, has been a source of delight to us, who, while absent in person, still have a lively interest in all that concerns the welfare of the parish and the people. Still more have we been delighted with the zeal and public spirit you have manifested in the preservation of the ancient landmarks of Rehoboth, and particularly in the work of faith and love which is about to be crowned with the plaudits of success, in the proposed erection of the Goff Memorial, which, while a monument to the noble generosity of the principal donor, is also the sure evidence of your courageous faith and indomitable perseverance, in collecting the generous gifts of self-sacrificing donors, to an edifice which shall be a means of social, educational and religions benefit to all of the people.

Let us congratulate you, then, in the near prospect of the consummation of what is consecrated by prayer and labor for the good of man and the glory of God; and let us hear testimony to our grateful regard for those who have given generously, lovingly and sacredly to perpetuate the names of worthy ones who helped Lo plant a town, which should in its history illustrate the principles of the Puritan stock, and which has sent forth so many men and women to make the world the better. It has occurred to Mrs. Bicknell and myself, if agreeable to you and the other trustees, that we would gladly aid you in some way in supplementing the good work you have undertaken, by laying the corner-stone of a public library, which shall be free to all the people of the town, under such regulations as the trustees may see fit to make.

We believe that a good library is one of the most valuable means of education; that communion with the best thoughts of the best men and women of the world, through their writings, is a sure method of elevating society. mentally and spiritually; and that the increasing value and power of pure literature in books and magazines are as necessary to the higher life of men, as are the streams in the valleys and the fresh winds of the hills and the ocean to physical life.

In order, therefore, to encourage the formation of a library to be kept in the Goff Memorial, we will donate five hundred dollars to the trustees of the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, to be expended by them in the selection of good books, a large portion of which, let us suggest, shall he chosen with special reference to the wants of the boys and girls, the young people of the town. We sincerely hope that others may contribute more or less freely to this nucleus of a library, and that the annual supply of books shall keep it fresh and interesting to all readers, so that the gifts may be a constantly increasing blessing to all who may enjoy their benefits.

We shall be glad to have the library become so valuable that all the

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eople of the town may seek its benefits and the inspiration which may come from it. We would have it free as air and water to all. We hope that many a boy and girl, possibly it may be with a few books or encouragements at home, will find help, cheer and hope on the shelves of the library, and that the character of the future men and women of the town may be stronger, manlier and more truly Christian for its existence.

We have but one request to make in connection with our humble gift, which we leave for your consideration and decision. The name of Blanding is one of the oldest and most respectable of this ancient town. William Blanding was a contributor to the expenses incurred in carrying on the war with King Phillip of Pokanoket, and for more than two hundred years the name of the family and the town have been associated.

In view of these facts, and that the name may be kept fresh in the minds of the future dwellers of Rehoboth, yet more especially for the loving affection we have for the character and memory of our beloved parents, Christopher and Chloe Blanding, whose dust sleeps with that of the long line of their kindred in the old church burial ground on the bill west of Rehoboth village, we most respectfully suggest that the permanent name of the library shall be The Blanding Public Library of Rehoboth, Mass.

With great confidence in the wisdom and ability of the trustees in administering all the valuable trusts committed to them, in connection with this beautiful memorial building and its various interesting departments,

We are, very sincerely,

Thomas W. Bicknell

 

Amelia DAVIE Blanding BICKNELL.

 

On the spot selected by Mr. Goff as the site of the new structure, the old "Goff Inn the birthplace and home of his ancestors, was still standing. The land upon which it stood had been in the Goff family by direct descent ever since 1714. The excellent picture of the old inn, given on another page, shows that a series of additions had been made to the original house. Situated on the road leading from Taunton and various points in the Old Colony to Providence and Newport, the Goff Inn was one of the noted hostelries of Colonial days. As we view it in counterfeit, we can almost hear the coachman’s horn and see the four horses swing the stage up to the door with a

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burst of speed reserved for that special occasion As we look upon its time-honored walls it seems almost too great a sacrifice that they have been torn down even to make room for so handsome a building as the one which succeeds it.

The old Inn was removed in April, and in May ground was broken for the new structure. Owing to obstacles, however, the work was delayed until fall. It was then renewed, and the cellar was built under the direction of Mr. George N. Goff. On September 8th, 1884, the contract was signed by the contractors, Lewis T. Hoar’s Sons of Warren, R. L, and by the committee on contract, consisting of George N. Goff, Charles Perry and Esek H. Pierce. The plastering was let to H. Bryant & Brother of Fall River.

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