By Sue Moore
Most people are given a birth certificate to tell the rest of the world exactly how old they are. Organizations have a little more trouble knowing for certain. Their birth date is often an evolutionary process. Case in point: The Vicksburg Ladies Library Auxiliary, which celebrated its 125 years last fall, found out that it actually had 138 years to its credit.
The extra 12 years were due to the sleuthing of Joy Reinstein, a fairly new member of the organization. She was able to document the founding in 1879 as the Ladies Literary Club, according to an article in the Vicksburg Commercial on September 18, 1884. By that year, the group had already changed its name to the Ladies’ Library Association. It had 289 volumes of choice reading matter on hand.
The ladies didn’t have a library as it is today. Books were stored in rooms over C.B. Mason’s store and were open to readers every Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. The newspaper went on to say, “Our citizens should each take a membership in this praise-worthy undertaking, as it is of the greatest importance to each family in the village to have just such reading for the entire family to peruse as is furnished by the Association.”
Reinstein dug even deeper to document the founding. She found mention of it in nine sources altogether. “We are 12 years older than we thought,” Reinstein told the current Ladies Library Auxiliary members.
The former Vicksburg third grade teacher shows a passion for reading and researching in her quest for the truth. She uncovered notes from Mollie Franklin about the early days of the library when she was a young girl. “The library suffered many vicissitudes, having to move from one small room to another, the Scotts having found need for all of their own apartment where the books were stored. I feel when I look at the old books that they are my personal friends, so many times as a young girl did I help my mother pack and move them with the aid of my father’s horse and buggy and unpack them.
“I recollect two places where the library was located – one a rear room of what is now Masonic Hall or else the rear of the building next on the south. The other was the rear room of the now Farmer’s Bank Building, with a door opening on the court. The membership was never large enough and much sacrifice was entailed to keep the library a going concern. I remember at one time when there were but four paid members (the officers).
“The Association felt it had reached the high tide of prosperity when in 1892, they were able to purchase a long narrow house, readily convertible into a small hall. This was moved to a vacant lot at the rear of the McElvain House (the current Vicksburg Community Center), the McElvains leasing the ground to the Association for a nominal sum. During the moving some of the machinery broke down, the movers got drunk, and the Association was placed in great consternation for blocking the public streets while the loafers of the town chortled in great glee, pleased to see the women ‘put in their place.’ “