The contents of this account come directly from a small booklet:
Gordon-Nash Library came to New Hampton through the generosity of the late Stephen Gordon Nash of Boston. The library first opened to the public in 1896 with Rev. Lewis P. Bickford serving as librarian. It was formally opened to the public, with interesting and appropriate ceremonies, June 25th, 1906. A volume entitled New Hampton, published shortly after that event, contains the dedicatory addresses, a poem by Mrs. Nash, and much valuable information concerning the inception and the carrying out of the far-reaching plans of the donor. The records of the corporation, also, preserve important historical matter, as well as facts of much interest concerning the later development of the library.
Judge Nash seems long to have had this benefaction in mind. He was a native of this town and a graduate of the Institution. For one year he taught the classics in the school. He greatly loved this community and was, himself, respected by all. The library, therefore, which his forethought has placed in our midst is as welcome and deserved a monument to his memory as it is to that of his father and mother for whom he named it.
The will of Judge Nash expressed this purpose: To establish a public library and reading-room in Smiths Village, New Hampton, N.H., my native place, for the free use of the people of said town, whether residents, students, or sojourners. He directed, also, that there should be erected A building of agreeable architecture with ventilated walls.
These plans have been faithfully carried out. The library, as it stands, was designed by James E. Fuller, architect, of Worcester, Massachusetts. The contractors and builders were G. Cook and Sons, of Laconia. Soley at Mrs. Nashs request, the building was faced with beautiful Perth Amboy brick, instead of with the cheaper and more common red variety; For, she humorously said, I dont want the library to look like an old schoolhouse. The spacious and convenient lot upon which the structure has been placed was selected and paid for by Judge Nash, himself, several years before his death.
In 1887, an appropriate charter was obtained for the Gordon Nash Library by Judge Nash, who, at once, named five corporators: himself, Edwin C. Lewis, Henry P. Rolfe, Samuel G. Davis, and his wife, Mary Upton Nash. Very fittingly, the founder was elected President and Edwin C. Lewis, Clerk.
In his will, furthermore, which was drawn but a few months after the act of incorporation, he gave to the library, in distinct terms, the sum of eighteen thousand dollars, besides making it his principal residual legatee.
May first, 1894, Judge Nash passed away.
Upon the death of his wife, Mary Upton Nash, December twenty first, 1901, the total bequest - lot building, equipment, and endowment - amounted to the princely sum of fifty thousand dollars. Besides this, there were donated seven or eight thousand volumes of selected literature, the valuable, imported, hand-carved case which now adorns the reading room, bric-a-brac and pictures, - all of which had been accumulated at the family home in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
The original charter of 1887 had conferred upon the corporation the right to hold real and personal estate only to the value of fifteen thousand dollars. A later enactment, however (1895), raised this amount to fifty thousand dollars.
Following the death of the donor, Hon. H.P. Rolfe of Concord, was chosen president of the corporation. The same year (1894), Col. Edwin C. Lewis, of Laconia, and Samuel G. Davis, Esq., of Boston, were selected as a special committee to make a contract for the erection of an appropriate building and to supervise the work of construction.
At a later meeting, (1895), twelve more persons were elected as members of the corporate body. Most of these were from New Hampton. Among them were: Edward A. Upton, Atwood B. Meservey, Moses H. Merrow, Kenrick W. Smith, and Frank P. Morrill, all of whom have valuable service both in labors and in counsel.
Col. Lewis, of the construction committee, however, deserves especial gratitude and praise, for he gave to the project, unstintingly, the very best exercise of his disciplined mind, and practical, sound judgment. Yet, in an address given before the corporators in 1896, Col. Lewis said: Aside from its generous donor, who supplied the funds, and our architect, who gave definite form to our somewhat hazy schemes, New Hampton is indebted to no one for this beautiful building more than to Moses H. Merrow. He also gave much deserved credit to other corporators, especially to Dr. A. B. Meservey, upon whom he relied greatly for counsel at every step of progress.
But there are others to whom such credit is also due.
From the organization of the library to the present time, (1911), the funds of the corporation have been in charge of a personal friend and trusted advisor of Judge Nash, as treasurer, Smauel G. Davis, Esq., of Boston. With great wisdom, Mr. Davis has invested and cared for the monetary interests intrusted to him, as carefully as though they were his own, so handling them that the income from invested funds has constantly increased, although at no time has he jeopardized the principal.
The name of Mary Upton Nash should go down in memory side by side with that of her illustrious husband; for, at every point where sacrifice, encouragement, or generous acquiescence in proposed plans, upon her part, were needed, she granted such, willingly, with enthusiasm, promptly, and with wifely devotion.
Since 1896, Rev. Lewis P. Bickford has been the efficient librarian, ably assisted by his daughter, Miss Ina A. Bickford. Mr. Bickford has maintained order and decorum. The public has been courteously and faithfully served. Ideals of library management have been successfully conserved, and more and more is Gordon-Nash Library coming to fulfill its high mission both to town and school.
In 1896, the books of the three literary societies of the Institution, the Literary Adelphi, the Social Fraternity, and the German Dilectae Scientiae, were placed for safe keeping in the foremost alcoves of the library. These books do not lose their identities as the property of the societies, for they are distinctly marked and, in the card catalogue, are designated by separate colors.
Every year valuable additions of new books have been made. In 1903, about $1,400 worth were purchased. For the past ten years, these have been chiefly selected by Mr. Henry W. Brown of the executive committee. Today, the total number of books available in the library is upwards of 15,000, besides numerous magazine files, pamphlets, books of reference, etc. Mr. Moses H. Merrow has acted as local treasurer since 1895.