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Bath in Beaufort County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

First Public Library

 
 
First Public Library Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mike Stroud, April 19, 2013
1. First Public Library Marker
Inscription.  In North Carolina was set up near this spot about 1700. Books sent from England by Rev. Thos. Bray.
 
Erected 1938 by Department of Conservation and Development. (Marker Number B-6.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Events. In addition, it is included in the North Carolina Division of Archives and History series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1700.
 
Location. 35° 28.598′ N, 76° 48.831′ W. Marker is in Bath, North Carolina, in Beaufort County. Marker is on Main Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Bath NC 27808, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Palmer-Marsh House (within shouting distance of this marker); James Adams Floating Theatre (within shouting distance of this marker); Matthew Rowan (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Post Road (about 300 feet away); Colonial Bath (about 400 feet away); Port of Bath and Thomas Harding
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(about 500 feet away); a different marker also named Colonial Bath (about 500 feet away); Historic Bath (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bath.
 
Regarding First Public Library. The Reverend Thomas Bray in 1700 organized a collection of books to be sent to St. Thomas Parish in Bath. The collection consisted of a variety of contemporary religious and general interest titles. Only one work from the collection is known to exist today, Gilbert Towerson’s Application of the Church Catechism. The book collection became the first public library in the American colonies. No other public library would exist in North Carolina during the colonial period.

Bray was an Anglican clergyman who was sent to North Carolina from Maryland to recruit new clergy members. Upon his arrival, Bray found the people of North Carolina under-educated and without literary opportunities. When Bray returned to Maryland, and then to England, he enlisted the help of the newly formed Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, chartered officially in July 1701, to gather three collections to be sent to the colony of North Carolina. Of these three collections, only one was officially
First Public Library Marker seen along Main Street image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mike Stroud, April 19, 2013
2. First Public Library Marker seen along Main Street
established, that being at Bath.

St. Thomas Parish, the Anglican parish to which the books were bequeathed, did not exist until 1700. The library came to the parish before it had an active minister or a church building. The library included multiple copies of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The collection was entrusted to Daniel Brett for delivery, but Brett proved unsuitable as a guardian of the library.

Brett arrived in the region between 1701 and 1702, officially establishing the library as part of the parish. He soon disappeared from the colony, leaving no one to administer the library. By 1715, the colonial government, under Governor Charles Eden, passed legislation guaranteeing the protection of the library and its collection, asking for “the more effectual preservation of the same.” Despite the government’s actions, the library disbanded before the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Only with the opening of the State Library in 1812 did North Carolina establish a truly public, state-funded library for its people. (North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 22, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 18, 2013, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 658 times since then and 69 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 18, 2013, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.

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Apr. 25, 2024