Ever wonder what the settlers were reading by candlelight in the long evening hours? Well, the Middleton Library records give some hints. The settlers were often isolated for many days at a time and any chance to share items for mutual benefit was pursued. The early days of community building often included establishing a common source of reading material to both educate and sustain people's interests. Most families had brought a small supply of books along with their other possessions when they emigrated, but these were soon consumed and people sought more titles to read. Pooling their resources was a way to satisfy this need. Many communities established a library in some form or other. In Middleton, a tall, stately cabinet housed the titles collected for borrowing. The Middleton Library cabinet stood in the Township Hall for many years. It now stands in the Middleville and District Museum with its shelves holding books surviving form early days. The titles and subjects of these old books give a glimpse into what the settlers brought with them and their interest in reading material. The subjects include agriculture, religion, geography, history, astronomy, science, politics, memoirs and essays.
Many local names appear in the minutes of the meetings and among the lists of borrowers. The books were each given a three digit number and this was recorded beside the name of the person borrowing the book. The number was stroked out when the book was returned. The family names on record as members in 1875 were: Anderson, Affleck, Guthrie, Mathie, Ballantyne, Rankin, Croft and Thompson. Each individual member paid a fee of seventy five cents. This money appeared to go toward library subscriptions for Dominion Monthly, Canadian Monthly and Chambers. The record shows that seven dollars and fifty cents was collected from the membership and the expenses for the subscriptions and postage amounted to seven dollars and thirty-six cents.
With the arrival of the Post Office in 1853, the community name of Middleton changed to Middleville. The Library, however, seems to have retained the Middleton name for longer. In the early 1900's, a library bearing the name Middleville seems to have been established according to minutes that have survived. Some books in the Middleton Library cabinet have both names on them so at least some of the books transitioned from one library to the next.
Be sure to stop and take a few minutes to look at the books on the shelves of the Middleton Library in the Middleville and District Museum on your next visit. They tell a story of the settler life and their interests.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.