Milton Social Library – 1822

By Muriel Bristol | January 2, 2018

Nine Milton men joined together as proprietors of the Milton Social Library in 1822. The following act of the New Hampshire legislature established them as a corporation, June 14, 1822.

The Milton Social Library was a private subscription library. Likely, its original books came from the personal collections of the proprietors. The act authorized them to set rules, choose officers, take subscriptions, receive donations (not to exceed $1,000), assess fines (not to exceed $4), and perform other necessary functions.

No hint is given here of the location of the Milton Social Library, other than it being somewhere in Milton. The proprietors came from all parts of Milton.

{State of New Hampshire}


[Approved June 14, 1822. Original Acts, vol. 27, p. 33; recorded Acts, vol. 22, p. 117]

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives General Court convened, That Gilman Jewett, Stephen Drew, David Wentworth, John Scates, Isaac Worster, Josiah Witham, Charles Ricker, Samuel Blaisdell, Hanson Hayes, and their associates, proprietors of said Library, and all who may hereafter become proprietors of the same be, and they hereby are incorporated into, and made a body politic and corporate, by the name and Style of the Milton Social Library with continuance and succession forever; and in that name may sue and be sued, prosecute and defend to final Judgment and execution, and are hereby vested with all powers and privileges of Corporations of a similar nature, and may enjoin penalties of disfranchisement or fine not exceeding four dollars for each offence, to be recovered by action of debt to their use in any court of competent Jurisdiction; and may purchase and receive subscriptions, grants and donations of personal property not exceeding the sum of one thousand dollars for the use of their association.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted that said proprietors be and hereby are authorized and empowered to meet at Milton aforesaid on the first Saturday of October annually, to choose all such officers as may be found necessary for the orderly conducting of the affairs of said association, who shall continue in office until others are chosen in their room. And the said corporation may convene as often as may be found necessary for the filling up of any vacancies may happen in said officers, and for transacting all other business for the benefit of said corporation except the raising of money, which shall be done at the annual meeting and at no other time, at which annual meeting they shall vote all such sums as shall be necessary to defray the annual expense of preserving said Library, and for enlarging the same; and may make and establish a constitution, rules and bye laws for the government of said corporation, provided the same be not repugnant to the constitution and laws of this State. 

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted that Gilman Jewett before named be, and he hereby is authorized and empowered to call the first meeting of said proprietors at such time and place as may be Judged proper in said town of Milton by posting up a notification of the same at the Meeting house in said town, and at some other public place therein, at least fifteen days before the time of holding said meeting, and the said Gilman Jewett may preside in said meeting until a Moderator be chosen; and the proprietors at said meeting shall have all the power and authority to establish such bye laws, and choose all such officers as they may or can do by virtue of this act at their annual meeting.

This act of incorporation designated Gilman Jewett (1777-1856) as moderator of the first library meeting, until someone might be chosen to fulfill that role. Gilman Jewett had been Milton’s first town clerk (1802-1806); he served on the executive committee designated to oversee construction of Milton’s first meeting-house.

Library proprietors Gilman Jewett, David Wentworth (1770-1832), John Scates (b. c1775), Josiah Witham (b. c1768), and Hanson Hayes had signed the Milton incorporation petition of twenty years before (May 28, 1802). (The other four library proprietors were either too young or resided elsewhere at the time).

Library proprietor Stephen Drew (1791-1872) was Milton’s first physician; he was a selectman in 1828. Isaac Worster (1772-1838) served as a Milton selectman in 1809-10 and 1814 (his son (1804-1870) and namesake was the ardent early supporter of abolitionism). Josiah Witham (b. 1768) served as a Milton selectman in 1812-13 and 1815-17.

Library proprietor Charles Ricker (1784-1836) served in Milton’s War of 1812 militia company. Hanson Hayes (1792-1851) served as lieutenant of that militia company; he served later as a Milton selectman in 1819-24.

Public libraries, as we know them, hardly existed at this time. (Maybe in a major city). Books were expensive. Only private subscription libraries could make them available for a subscribing clientele. Portsmouth’s private library, the Portsmouth Athenaeum, had been established just a few years earlier, in 1817.

Here follow some published notifications for similar Vermont libraries. They give some idea of the terms one might encounter at such private libraries: an initial subscription fee and signing of articles, followed by semi-annual fees or dues.

A LIBRARY. The utility, and benefit arising to every class of people, from Social Libraries, must be apparent to every intelligent mind. There is no member of society, who has not, at some Seasons, leisure to attend to the cultivation of his mind, and the increase of his knowledge, or to amusing himself by reading and perusing books of wit and humor. To effect this, a Subscription paper has been circulated, and a considerable number of subscribers obtained, who have had two meetings, formed and accepted a Constitution, and adjourned till Monday evening, the 21st inst. Any persons in this, or the neighboring towns, who are desirous of becoming Sharers in this Library are hereby requested to attend at the Academy, on that evening, at SIX o’clock (Green Mountain Patriot, January 11, 1799).

SOCIAL LIBRARY. THE Proprietors of the SOCIAL LIBRARY, in Rutland, are hereby informed, that the meeting of the said proprietors, is adjourned to the first Monday in April next, at two o’clock in the afternoon in the Library Room in Rutland. The Proprietors are requested to give a general attendance at that time, and to return all the books they shall then have taken out.

The Library, at present contains ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE VOLUMES, OF VALUABLE BOOKS, which will be increased, as fast as the monies arising from new subscriptions, shall enable the proprietors to purchase new books. Any person living in Rutland, in Clarenden, as far south as the Mill River, and east of the hills, next west of Otter Creek, in Pittsford, as far north as the Meeting-House, and east of Otter Creek, and in Medway, west of the west mountain, may become a proprietor on subscribing the articles of the Library, and (if a minor) giving security to observe them, and paying two dollars at the time of subscribing, and securing to the librarian, the payment of two dollars, at the end of 6 months, and two dollars more at the end of twelve months, from the time of subscribing.

Frederick Hill, Clerk. March 11th, 1794 (Farmer’s Library, March 11, 1794).


Find a Grave. (2013, July 29). Gilman Jewett. Retrieved from

John B. Clarke Co. (1921). Laws of New Hampshire: Second Constitutional Period, 1821-1828. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 13). Subscription Library. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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