Library legacy lives on 100 years later

TORRINGTON – In 1921, a group of community-minded women decided their county needed a library.

The Goshen County Journal reported on the group in its Oct. 13 edition of 1921.

“The Community Dames held its first meeting of the year Tuesday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Henry Sevison,” the article reads.

These ladies spent the next 13 months raising funds to bring their vision to life. They faced many difficulties, including farmers who didn’t want to see their tax money going to build something they thought served little purpose. Unfazed, these determined women forged ahead despite the opposition.

Once the Community Dames had succeeded in raising the money to start the library, the Goshen County Commissioners appointed the first Goshen County Library Board. Erle H. Reid, Mrs. Odessa Dearing and Mrs. Lois E. Sevison served as the first board members. On Nov. 14, 1922, the Goshen County Library was established, albeit with very limited funding. The local school district furnished a room in the new Torrington High School for the library.

Mrs. Helene R. Warthen became the first Librarian with Mrs. E. B. Dearing as the first Assistant Librarian. Warthen also worked as a full-time teacher, Secretary to the District Superintendent and Stock Keeper for the school. The library was only open after school and on Saturdays because of Warthen’s full-time job as teacher and other part-time jobs.

Warthen wrote a brief history in 1967 of her first few years at the library.

“Our only source of books was through donations,” the document reads. “Donations from citizens and local clubs such as The Woman’s Club and the Community Dames.”

Warthen also details how most of the readers who visited the library were students at the high school. Once the county financing the library, Warthen and Dearing were able to order books and the library “grew rapidly.”

Although 2021 only marks the Goshen County Library’s 99th birthday, the Library Board has decided to begin the celebration early in honor of the work the Community Dames did for an entire year to procure the funding for the library. The celebration begins Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. at the library with a reading of the official proclamation and celebration kicking-off a year’s worth of parties and events.

A special thanks to Andy Espinoza and the others at the Goshen County Library for their help in finding sources for this article.


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