The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter XX
Books and Libraries

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton




Carlyle says, "In books lies the soul of the whole past time, the articulate, audible voice of the past, when the bodily and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream." Any victim of the commonplace worries of life, stepping into the cool, harmonious silence of a well-kept reading room find himself banished from the heat of the business world. Here he may convene with old sages and philosophers, or, for variety, brush elbows with kings and emperors. In this, perhaps, lies the reason for the general feeling that a good library is worthy of reverence. The residents of this county have never been inattentive to the inborn desire to read print.

The early settlers of Genesee county were of a high intellectuality. They came largely from New York state and, being mostly descendants of the Puritans of New England, they brought with them the love of learning that characterized their New England and New York ancestry. Mayhew's report on the schools of Michigan, quoted by Hon. D. W. Leach in a communication to the National Era in 1851, is authority for the statement that of four thousand six hundred and five whites in the county of Genesee in 1847, over twenty-one years old, there was only one who could not read and write. Among a people of such a high standard of literacy it must be assumed that books were demanded.


In one of the earliest records of the town of Flint, we find a list of the names of library books received of Jonathan Lamb, of an Arbor, bought July 26, 1843, belonging to the several school districts of the town of Flint. The list as was follows

Treatise on Domestic Economy

Universal History (four sets)

Letters on Astronomy

The Useful Arts (two sets)

Science and the Arts of Industry

Education and Knowledge

The Seasons-Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn

The Farmer's Companion

Lives of Eminent Men (3 sets)

Paleys' Natural Theology (2 sets)

Great Events by Great Historians

The Fireside Friend

Life of Columbus

Story of the Constitution

Knowledge under Difficulties

Columbus and Vespucius

Historic Tales for Youth

Juvenile Budget Opened

Scene in nature

Means and Ends

Country Rambles

Pleasures of Taste

Things by Their Right Name

Juvenile Budget Re-opened

Balboa, Cortes, Pizarro

The Child's Friend

Pictures of Early Life

Lucy's Conversations

Lucy's Stories

Lucy at the Seaside

Lucy at Study

Lucy at the Mountains

Lucy at Play

Rollo Learning to Talk

Rollo Learning to Read

Rollo at school

Rollo at Vacation

Rollo at Play

Rollo at Work

Rollo's Museum

Rollo's Philosophy, Sky

Rollo's Philosophy, Fire

Rollo's Philosophy, Water

Rollo's Philosophy, Air

Rollo's Travels

Rollo's Correspondence

Rollo's Experiments

Hayward's Physiology

The Teacher's Manual

Combe on the Constitution of Man

Willard's United States

Hitchcock's Geology

Spurzheim on Education

The Americans in Their Moral, etc., Relations

Lectures to Ladies

Slate and Blackboard Exercises

Teacher Taught

Wayland's Moral Science

Wayland's Political Economy

Philosophy of Human Life


These books were under the control of the board of school inspectors of the town, then composed of R. D. Lamond, George W. fish, and Henry C. Walker, and on April 19, 1844, the board adopted certain "rules for the regulation of the township library."

Under these rules the several school district directors could draw from the library books according to the proportion to which the district was entitled and loan them to families of the district, not more then one at a time to a family, to be retained only two weeks and then returned.

On august 14, 1843, James McAllester, director of district No. 1, comprising the present city south of the river, drew twenty-nine of these books, from which it would appear that his territory contained three-seventh of the families in one town. The books were to be returned in three months.

John L. Gage, director of school district No. 5, drew out ten volumes, August 24, 1843, and Asahel Curtis, director of district No. 6, drew seven books, December 3, 1843. On April 2, 1844, Isaiah Merriman, director of district No. 1, drew thirty-four volumes, or practically half of the entire library of seventy-one volumes. On July 6, 1844, J. T. Peck, director of district No. 10, drew three books. In this manner the books circulated among the several districts. John Hiller, director of district No. 6, Mr. Chase, of district No. 8, appear from time to time as having received from H. C. Walker their quota of the library.


In 1844 the library evidently received another invoice of books, for we now find:

Lives of Female Sovereigns

History of China

History of Insects

Tales of American History

Swiss Family Robinson

Thatcher's Indian Traits.

The Poor Rich Man and the Rich Poor Man

Tales of the American Revolution

Lockhart's Napoleon

Abercombie on the Intellectual Powers

Adventures in Africa

Montgomery's lectures on General Literature

Brewster's Life of Newton

Russel's History of Palestine



There were many others, all of which shows excellent judgment in the selection. The library now numbered one hundred thirty-nine volumes and district No. 1 (Flint village) was entitled to draw sixty-six volumes. The library grew in 1845 and district No. 2, comprising the present city north of the river, drew, by William Thayer, director, twenty-five volumes in November, 1845, showing the population of the north side to be about two-fifths of that on the south side. In the winter of 1845-6 the library had grown to two hundred and fifty volumes and in quality showed discriminating literary taste in selection, history, philosophy, biography, travels and literature making the bulk of the library.


In the list of directors, 1846, who drew books for their districts, are the names of:

Charles Johnson, No. 8

Randal Calvin No. 6

R. J. Filmore, No. 4

Willard Eddy, No. 1

Jacob Plass, No. 7

John Delbridge, No. 9

S. Stone, No. 6

Jesse J. Beasley, No. 8

B. Dodge, No. 2


In 1847 the library has grown to about three hundred fifty volumes, and we find:

H. J. Higgins, No. 1

Jonathan Cudney, No. 3

Rosal Stanard, No. 4

William Milton, No. 7

Elias J. Bump, No. 16

Ira Standard, No. 4

Cephas Carpenter, No. 6

J. L. Martin, No. 16

Horace L. Donelson, No. 8

Nelson Norton, No. 10

R. J. Artkin, No. 16



The library still grew and there appear in the list:

Life and times of Patrick Henry

Sketch Book

Prescott's Mexico

Heroes of the Revolution

Stephen's Central America

Gibbon's Rome

Rollin's Ancient History




Black Hawk

Paul Jones

Wayne and John Eliot

. .


In the years from 1849 to 1858 the library appears to have been actively circulated and to have grown by purchase from time to time to about five hundred volumes. It was rich in Americana, travels, history, morals and philosophy. If the character of the books they read may be taken as an index of the intellectuality of the people of Genesee County in those days, if must be conceded that the standard was a high one, as compared with the commonly circulated works of our library of 1916.


The list of books selected march 5, 1850, by Levi Walker, director of district No. 1 (Flint City), and returned June 1, 1850, is in point. They were:


Useful Arts

Washington and His Generals

Philosophy of Human Life

The World and Its inhabitants

Famous Men of Ancient Times

Famous Indians

Agricultural Chemistry

Curiosities of Human Nature

History of Switzerland

Constitutional Jurisprudence of the United States

Edgewood's Moral Tales

Belknap's American Biography

Goldsmith's Rome

Turner's Sacred History

Painters and Sculptors


Life of Alexander the Great

Live and Let Live

Original Tales

The American Poultry Book

The Flower Basket

The Floweret

The Ornament Discovered

Lucy on the Mountains

Display and Poetical Remains

Fairy Tales

Pailey's Grace



Pailey's Anecdotes

Love to Run After Children



Alonzo Torrey, on May 19, 1851, selected for district No. 3:

History of Greece



History of the Indians

Great Events by Great Historians

The World and Its Inhabitants


Markham's History of France

Knowledge under Difficulties

Patrick Henry

Life of Columbus

Famous Men of Ancient Times

Past, Present and Future

The Pillars of Hercules

Famous Indians


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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