Nesbitt Memorial Library

Mansfield Memorial Library

What became the Mansfield Memorial Library had its genesis in October 1946, when Joseph Jefferson Mansfield pledged to donate $100 toward the construction of a library in Columbus, and pledged to provide a lot on which to build it. The following month, the Columbus Study Club, under its president, Hattie May Dick, set itself the goal of raising the approximately $4600 needed to build the library.

Mansfield died on July 12, 1947. Within a month, the Study Club had decided to name the library after him. The following month, the Cullen Foundation, established by Hugh Roy Cullen, a Houston oil man with extensive land holdings in Colorado County, donated $2000 to the library, ensuring that it would be built.

Ground was broken on October 13, 1947. Contractor Arthur Newton Evans charged only his costs to construct the building. The building was completed in February 1948. The library opened on March 2, 1948, with Ruth Whitfield (Youens) Gillespie as librarian. Gillespie served the library until December 23, 1958, when she died suddenly, at her desk in the library, while in conversation with a patron. After her death, the library closed for a week, then reopened with Eldora Annie (Michaelis) Mattern as librarian. Mattern served for the next twenty years.

By the end of its first year of operation, the facility contained nearly 3000 volumes. By the mid 1950s, the library seemed full, though it contained only about 5000 volumes. In 1955, the Study Club began raising money for an addition to the library. Shortly, the recently-established Live Oak Art Club (now Live Oak Art Center) had joined in the fund-raising drive. The drive would culminate in additions to the south and west sides of the building which nearly doubled the size of the library and added a meeting room for the Art Club.

Above: Ruth Whitfield (Youens) Gillespie. Right: Eldora Mattern.

By the mid 1970s, the library was again struggling with its physical dimensions. The collection had reached 10,000 volumes, and further expansion seemed warranted. After suggestions that the Art Club forfeit its space in the building were met with opposition, the library sought an alternate plan. Lee Quinn Nesbitt stepped forward with an offer to buy a lot, construct a new building for a library, and donate the facility to the city. The city accepted her offer. The Mansfield Memorial Library closed on March 3, 1979, having served the city for 31 years and one day.
Facts about the Mansfield Memorial Library

Hortense Thompson of Cleveland, Texas, the mother of Jim Thompson, then coach of the Columbus High School football team, donated the first books to the library in October 1946. Joseph Jefferson Mansfield also gave a substantial number of books to the fledgling library before it opened.

The Nesbitt Memorial Library contains at least two books which were in the Mansfield Memorial Library’s original collection: Herbert Gambrell’s biography Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas and John Myers Myers’ The Alamo. Both books relate to Texas history and were published in 1948.

The first library board president was William Grady Clayton. The board published the library’s first set of rules in February 1948. Included among them were limits of two items per card (one fiction and one non-fiction) and charges (ten cents for the first three days, three cents per day for each additional day) for checking out fiction books which had been in the library for less than six months.

The first author to appear at the Mansfield Memorial Library was Mary Farrar Holland, who publicized her small, local history book in August 1948.

The library had a small collection of original art. Two paintings by Kindred McLeary were donated to the facility in November 1949. In addition, portraits of Joseph Jefferson Mansfield and Annie (Bruce) Mansfield, presented to the library by the Mansfield family, were exhibited in the library until it closed in 1979.

Joan Roeder, the library’s first professionally-trained librarian, replaced Eldora Mattern on February 1, 1979. She served as director of the Mansfield Memorial Library for one month, then became the first director of the Nesbitt Memorial Library.

Eldora Mattern died in Columbus on March 6, 2003.