by Katherine Higgins Bamber
In 1799 the legislature of the State of New Jersey passed an act calling for the incorporation of “library companies.” Among several hundreds of these companies, the Flemington Library Company was listed. Each member of the organization, which met once a year, could buy shares at $1.00 each. The size of the book determined the number of days that the book might be kept. Only on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00, could books be borrowed. There were 75 titles listed in 1802.
Sometime around 1834, the Flemington Library Company was dissolved, and for the next 64 years, books were circulated through private libraries and Sunday School libraries.
Just before the turn of the century, the Flemington Woman’s Club became vitally interested in starting a public library, and in 1901 the Flemington Library Association was founded with Mr. Hiram E. Deats as president. The first librarian, Miss Elizabeth Van Liew, earned $1.00 per week as her salary. Help came from numerous corners, not only from the Woman’s Club, but from the Hunterdon County Historical Society’s exhibits and from a popular store owner, Mr. Elias Vosseller. He had a large selection of books in his stationery store which he later sold to the Library Association for $500, with a return of $100 to the cause.
The problem of a suitable home for the growing library was solved by two benefactors, Dr. William H. Bartles who left $10,000 for a building, and Mr. Hiram E. Deats who offered a corner lot as a building site. Finally, in March 1911, the Flemington Free Public Library building was dedicated.
In 1938, a new wing providing a reference and non-fiction department on the first floor was added, with a thoroughly modern children’s room on the second floor. Story hours on Saturday mornings and increased attendance by grammar school classes drew more and more children to the library.
Through another substantial bequest, still another addition has been made to the original building. In April of 1968, ground was broken for the Nedwill Sutphin wing, given by Mrs. Sutphin in memory of her husband, a former treasurer of the Board of Trustees.