Auction Thursday, grand opening Saturday for new library

Dave Marner

Naming rights for eight areas of the new Scenic Regional Library in Owensville will be up for auction Thursday evening in a Friends of the Library celebration ahead of Saturday’s grand opening festivities.

Gross Auction will be accepting live bids for the chance to have you or your company’s name displayed in a framed 22-inch by 28-inch color sign for one year in one of eight areas of the new 6,800-square foot facility. Bidding begins at $150 for each of the areas including the service desk, the study room, a teen area, the children’s area, the children’s patio, the adult seating section, the public meeting room, and the outdoor patio. 

Activities begin at 5:30 p.m. with hors d’oeuvre provided by Friends of the Library and local Gasconade County wine from White Mule Winery and Wenwood Winery.

Dejun King will entertain the group with music at the event which includes sponsorship participation from Art’s Sports and Liquor, Walmart and the Owensville Save-A-Lot. 

An auction for the “Love of the Library” is scheduled during the event which concludes at 7:30 p.m. 

Proceeds will be used locally by the Owensville branch’s Friends of the Library chapter for special purchases. 

“The Friends of the Library will dispense of the funds as they see fit,” said Friends member Robert Niebruegge who also serves as a library district trustee.

The naming rights won at auction will be good for one year. The public is invited.

On Saturday, the community will celebrate with an open house starting at 11 a.m. and a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for 11:30 a.m. featuring local speakers. Children’s activities are planned until 1 p.m. (see story on page 24).

The first library in Owensville

The new facility is a testament to the Owensville community’s support for a public library dating back to the mid-1950s when one was opened in an upper room at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ — then an Evangelical and Reform congregation.

A story on page 1 of the Sept. 23, 1954, edition of The Republican announced “The Owensville Community Library officially opened Wednesday, Sept. 22.”

The room housing the library was listed as an upstairs room on the north side of the church. Today, that room is used as teen room, according to Pastor Stephanie DeLong.

Initially, hours of operation appeared to coincide with other regularly scheduled church services including 7 to 8 p.m. each Wednesday and from 11 a.m. to noon on Sunday. By mid-December of 1954, a report in The Republican noted hours of operation had expanded to include Saturdays from  to 3 p.m. and 7  to 8 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. 

An assortment of 300 books were on loan for three months from the Missouri State Library that winter including a “versatile selection”
 which included “adult fiction and mystery stories, teen-age, juvenile and picture books for children.” 

Among the titles was “The Caine Mutiny,” the paper noted.

New books were being received from the state library every three months on a rotational basis. New bookshelves were donated “by interested persons” and approximately 275 books were owned by the community library either through donations or purchased with the $1 asked of those interested in joining a “Library Association” which would eventually select a “Board of Trustees.”

Donations of books were also being accepted from those who wished the join the association instead of paying the $1.

The number of patrons had grown from 50 in October to 100 by November. “This indicates that interest is rapidly growing in this fine institution, which is available to all persons interested in reading,” the newspaper reported.

The report noted the church advanced funds to open the library. “However, the library is in no way connected with the church,” it was reported. “It is a community library, an institution of Public Service for the benefit of the people of Owensville and community.”

Church records from this period do not offer much insight into the planning and implementation of the library in their building. There is a reference to a pastor’s report from a Jan. 14. 1955, annual congregation meeting where he gave an update about the “community library sponsored by the Board of Christian Education” but nothing further was written down. If there are separate records from the Board of Christian Education from St. Peter’s E&R Church, those had not been located in church storage or a display case as of Tuesday evening.

It is possible, their pastor said, they may be inside another set of boxes stored in a closet adjoining what was once the community’s first library. She found a set of plans by chance from a 1955 building addition inside another box searching for records used in this story.

As noted in an editorial from June 30, 1955 (which appears on page 2 this week), the need for more room was quickly growing apparent.

In the June 30, 1955, edition, Tom Warden penned an “Our Back Yard” column under the name “Owen Lee Gabbin” (only gabbing) noting:

“It won’t be long before our present Community Library in the Evangelical and Reformed Church will grow too big for its location. Already, the shelving space has grown from a few books to 898. In addition to this are 100 State Library books for children. The number of patrons has grown to 174. Now, there are five shelves in each section, and every week more books are being donated to the Library. The small amount of money that is collected on fines for delinquent books goes into upkeep of the Library, such as cards and ink and book repair.

“The Community Library organization, located in the north upstairs room of the Church, is under the chairmanship of Dr. R. M. Keller. Mrs. Henry Brinkmann is a secretary-treasurer, and members of the board include Mrs. Henry Ruskaup, Mrs. Ross Holler, and Mrs. Henry Buchholz.

“All of the people are donating their time and effort to this beneficiary organization, and, although they are seldom recognized for their efforts, this is to extend to them a ‘thanks’ for their service. And we shouldn’t forget the valiant ladies who act as librarians. Our recognition to you too for your diligent work and service: Mrs. Martin Maciejewski, Mrs. Ruskaup, Mrs. Brinkmann, Mrs. Buchholz, Mrs. Holler, Mrs. V. H. Hengstenberg, Mrs. Lydia Fritsch, Mrs. Leland Henneke, Mrs. Joe Scott and Mrs. George Plummer.”

Mrs. Henry Buchholz — Ruby — would serve as librarian when the new community facility was constructed on top of what was the band stand atop the “rock foundation” building at the old Railroad Park — later renamed Luster Park. The building was later used as the city’s communications dispatching center on Second Street across from the church.

Bonnie Hengstenberg recalls the building once used as an ice cream and concession stand during community picnics with bands performing on the top of the concrete slab. When not used for music concerts, she said the roller skated there.

Her mother-in-law, Dorothy (Poppenhouse) Hengstenberg was among those who served as a librarian in the early days.

Beatrice “Bea” Lehman, whose husband S.J. Lehman was a Lutheran pastor in town, also worked as a librarian, according to Linda Little, the current Scenic Regional Library librarian since Dec. 5, 1988. Little is planning to retire in August. She started in the building on Second Street and moved into the First Street building when it relocated in June 1993.

She, too, fears some of the old records may have been lost over time. A collection of items which made the move last month to the new facility include some “how to use the progress reports” from 1965 and an assortment newspaper clips about local businesses and people receiving awards.

A report of how the Scenic Regional Library  system began in April and May of 1959 is found on page 21. 


If we find more information, we’ll pass it along at a later date. If you have additional information to share we’d love to hear it — especially if anyone has any old photographs of library activities at the church. (With research assistance from Pastor Stephanie DeLong and Christine Yearwood of The Republican’s staff).