HISTORY OF THE VAUGHN LIBRARY
March 23, 2000
Samuel Stuart Vaughn (1830-1886) was one of the first Yankees to settle at Lake
Superior. He was nineteen when he left Ohio for Eagle River, Michigan and twenty-two
when he first came to LaPointe in 1852. In 1856, he preempted a claim to 160 acres in
Ashland and he also opened the first store in Bayfield; While there, he also opened the
first stone building and sawmill, as well as running his general store in Bayfield.
Vaughn was convinced that northern Wisconsin needed a railroad and worked to bring
one to the region. In 1871, he laid out Vaughn's subdivision of Ashland just in time to
profit handsomely ftom the city's first boom. He moved to Ashland, opened a store and
sold supplies to the railroad as it built its way south to Mellen. When he died in 1886,
Vaughn left an estate valued at $300,000 to $500,000.
Emeline Patrick Vaughn (1841-1901) married her husband Sam in 1864 and came with
him to Ashland a few years later. She assumed a role of leadership in social and church
affairs. After her husband's death in 1886, she built the Vaughn Library in his memory.
Libraries have always played an integral part in Ashland's history. The first Library
Association was formed in 1872. The preamble to its Constitution states its objective as,
"mutual intercourse and improvement through the collection of a library, the establishment of a reading room, or by any other means as may be deemed advantageous. For the next three years the Association held weekly meetings with varied programs that included debates, music, essays and lectures.
The Association hoped to serve more people by allocating one hundred dollars to purchase books that were kept in the town clerk's office, The collection grew thanks to generous donations of Association. In 1876, encouraged by the response of citizens to the library in the clerk's office, the town started its own library in the same premises. It remained in operation until the Vaughn Library opened in 1888. The town library was now completely overshadowed by the superior advantage of the new Library. It soon closed and gave its collection to the high school.
The 1893 Annual Edition of the Daily Press remarked that "in the twilight of the
Nineteenth Century nothing is more prized and more highly indicative of a progressive
and aggressive city than a free public library." Samuel Stewart Vaughn certainly agreed.
He had spent extensive time and energy planning such an institution. Vaughn himself was not from a wealthy background and envisioned a free library where citizens from all economic levels would have ample opportunity to educate themselves in comfortable and hospitable surroundings. He died before he could see his dream materialize. It was his wife Emeline who competently and nergetically carried out the project. In her dedication address, she said, "When failing strength compelled him to give work to others to complete, he folded his hands and went to his rest with the assurance that it
should go on. I have faithfully tried to carry out my husband's plans and place before you a public library. It comes to you free from debt, as a gift from Samuel Stuart Vaughn. She explained her concern for moral standards in her restrictions for the library. "No infidel or atheistic works are allowed here, or can ever be placed on these shelves." In regard to fiction, Vaughn spoke of the growing numbers of novels that did not meet the standards of morality. She said, “she will not assume the responsibility of placing before young people of this city books that drain away all practical sympathy and leave no force of love and helpfulness for actual life. " Despite these restrictions, Vaughn's contributions to the book and periodically collections were most generous.
The Vaughn Library was impressive -wen lighted and homey. The collection included five
thousand volumes and one hundred periodicals --leading dailies, standard monthlies,
religious, German-American, Scandinavian-American papers, leading scientific and mechanical journals. The Bible in different languages were also found on the tables - giving the room its high moral tone." In addition children's literature reference works and fiction, there were impressive collections in the sciences, history and public documents Emeline was astute enough to provide for the library with money from the F.J. Pool Company on the first floor (the library was located on the second floor) and offices on the third floor of the building. Thanks to this arrangement Ashland's library paid for itself until the Depression of the 1930s. At that time although the building was still owned by the Vaughn Library Foundation, $6,620 in operating expenses began to be paid for by the
City of Ashland. In 1937, the library moved to the ground floor when Pool's store closed and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) moved into the second floor area. The appropriation remained the same for years until finally the city provided $14,145 to hire a full time librarian. When the building fell into serious disrepair in the 1980s, the City hired an architectural firm to examine the library itself: other possible sites at which the library could be located, and possible sites and costs for building a new building. The Council put the matter to a vote in 1982 and citizens chose to renovate the first and second floors of this building at a cost of $500,000. The basement was later remodeled with in-house employees and the third floor remodeled later by W.C.C. crews.
Emeline Vaughn was also a three time president of the Ashland Monday Club, president of the Vaughn Choral Club, and an active supporter of the Presbyterian Church as well as taking part in the Vaughn Literary Society and the State Federation of Women's Clubs.