Irrespective of the subject, we must find the source somewhere and cannot depend on the details to spawn from our very brain. Therefore, we must depend on those before to speak ways of then, and listen to when they gazed upon the building of the walls on which we now lean. When searching for such a source, one book is full of voices to tell of the mold which, once created, formed our very existence. This of course is The Early History of Upson County, Georgia, which was intelligibly written by Evelyn Hannah and Carolyn Walker Nottingham. Reaching from the beginning of Upson County in 1824 to approximately 1934, the overflow of this book alone can educate even the most enlightened soul, therefore; even the imagination cannot conceive of the intellect to be gathered if one dares go to the depths of this work. The Preface alone is a masterpiece of literary lore as an Angel of prose must have been present when Evelyn Hannah marked the page on February 20, 1930. As a result we find an endless list of very interesting topics of Upson County, such as the creation of the first Public Library.
As always, the masses often depend on the wisdom of one who knows the need of the people and the ways to better advance society. One such person was Emmie Trice Girardeau, which knew the importance of literacy and the necessity for all humankind to have access to literature of both fact and fiction. As a result, during the autumn of 1927, she began Upson County’s first circulating Library out of her own home. This was a Readmore Lending Library and the response from the community was overwhelming. Mrs. Girardeau’s foresight for such an institution and her inspiration of taking on the task herself, led to others in the community to procure space and resources to accommodate the demand. As a result, the plea of the citizens found a willing County Commission who granted a room in the Court House to use as the Public Library. This was essentially an experiment to see if the demand in the courthouse would outgrow the room as it did once Mrs. Girardeau opened her home. This experiment was for one year as the City Council also joined the cause as long as other organizations in the city sponsored the Library. Once this call was placed to the public the local United Daughters of the Confederacy took the challenge.
The room allocated to this worthy cause was the former Tax Collector’s Office. Once this room became the Readmore Lending Library the walls were lined with shelving by the County Commissioners to accommodate the books. Committees were organized to promote the progress of the library as it was intended to “create an equal chance for rural children; Educational opportunities for all ages; Recreation through books for every one”. The hours for the Library were Tuesdays and Fridays from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., with Mrs. Girardeau serving as the Librarian. Obviously, the popularity of this idea extended the one-year trial period and in 1930 the City Council, County Commission and the Thomaston Board of Education agreed to combine the public library with the school library at R.E. Lee. This of course expanded the holdings for the public’s quest for knowledge. Furthermore, the hours of operation were also extended from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mrs. Girardeau would serve as librarian until 1938. The idea of educating the many grew beyond the welcoming doors of the Girardeau home into the hallowed walls of the courthouse and even beyond the halls of higher education of the R.E. Lee Institute. As a result we now have a Public Library in a beautiful building of its own as many daily crowd the doors of the Hightower Memorial Library on Gordon Street.
When we learn of the days since gone, we must not keep it to ourselves but rather continue forth with the traditions, as our ends are not yet known; although a look back to our beginnings can better tell us how to go forth with our future.