1882 - 1905

A number of citizens of the village and its environs instituted proceedings to establish an association library in the early part of 1882. Among the leaders of this movement was Oscar A. Tobey, Town Clerk of the Town of Smithfield, whose name appears first in the Act of Incorporation passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly April 18th 1882.

The twenty-six incorporators were authorized to establish the Greenville Public Library "for the purpose of providing a library and reading room and promoting literary and social intercourse among its members." The act also provided for the associations list of officers.

Mr, Tobey called the first meeting in his office on May 8, 1882; a week later, on May 15, 1882, a constitution and bylaws were adopted and the following officers were elected:

President: Rev. W. Ingram Magill

lst Vice-President: Rev. Henry S, Latham, Jr,

2nd Vice-President: Miss Josephine E. Winsor

3rd Vice-President: Miss Orra A. Angell

Secretary: Oscar A. Tobey

Treasurer: William Winsor


George M, Appleby

George B. Perrin

Alonzo P. Mowry

Daniel F. Chandler

John F. Gardner

At a meeting on May 17th, it was voted to consult with Nicholas S. Winsor about leasing a small building facing the common. On September 18th the treasurer was authorized to execute a five-year lease from September 1, 1882, for this building, which Mr. Winsor had fitted up for library use. Shelving was installed and necessary items of furniture were purchased.

In the meantime Orra A. Angell, who had volunteered as librarian, prepared a catalog of the books, which were "classified in accordance with the directions of the Rhode Island Board of Education, in their circular issued for the guidance of libraries". Miss Angell was appointed librarian and continued in that capacity until August 13, 1883. She was paid 50 cents per evening.

The original book collection consisted of a large donation of books purchased by Wllliam Winsor from the former Lapham Institute in Scituate. These were supplemented by numerous other gifts. At the first meeting of the Board of Directors in the library building on August 25, 1882, it was voted to appropriate $30 to purchase books for the library, one-half of said sum to be expended for juvenile books. Additional volumes were obtained from a $50 grant from the state of Rhode Island in October, l882. Small annual appropriations of $100 were later added by the Town of Smithfield.

In September 1882 the library opened its doors for the use of the association members and other Smithfield residents. Members paid dues of one dollar annually, but Article 7 of the original bylaws adopted May 15, 1882, reads: "The use of the library shall be free to all residents of the town of Smithfield above the age of twelve years. Non-residents of the town may be admitted to the use of the library, upon such conditions as the Board of Directors may determine". Only one volume could be borrowed at one time. The library was open two days a week: Wednesday from 6:30-9:00 p.m, and Saturday from 4:00-9:00 p.m.

No successor to Miss Angell was appointed, but various officers fulfilled the duties of librarian; Rev. Henry S. Latham, Jr, is known to have served from 1890 to 1895, followed by Lloyd L. Mathewson, 1895 to 1905.

Members of the Board of Directors served as a book committee selecting new purchases from the limited funds, and accepting various donations of books. In 1887 President W. Ingram Magill was instructed to increase the holdings of the library to at least 2 ,000 volumes so that the library could obtain a larger state-aid grant. From time to time additional shelving was installed, providing space for the growth of the collection.

In October l887, Josephine E. Winsor, daughter and heir of Nicholas S.Winsor, sold the building and lot to the library, with a mortgage of $1,000 at 5% interest. In May 1907 the will of Mary S. Foster, an heir of Miss Winsor, provided a bequest clearing the mortgage held by the other heirs of this estate,

In this twenty-three period there were only three persons elected to the office of President of the Board:

l882-1891 Rev. W. Ingram Magill

I89l-l895 Daniel F. Chandler

1805-1928 Nicholas S. Winsor