Skip to main content

The History of Our Library

The Hartford Public Library was originally a home from the late 1800's.

Orson Olds

Mr. Olds was born in Connecticut in 1802. He moved to Niagara County, N.Y. around 1841 where he was married to Miss Renew Scoville. They moved to Hartford in 1843, settling on two hundred and seventy acres of farm land. The Olds’ had ten children , a few of whom stayed in the Hartford area.  Mr. Olds purchased the  land on Franklin Street on April 2, 1873 from  Edwin R. Olds   for Four hundred  dollars.  In 1883  he sold the property to George Merriman for sixteen hundred dollars. Mrs. Renew Olds passed away that same year, followed by her husband on March 30, 1884.

George W. and Jennie Merriman

George W. Merriman  was born in Savannah, N.Y. on February 4th, 1851 to Elijah and Maria (Winger )Merriman.   His early working years were as a teacher, principal, and banker. In 1872 he moved to Plainwell, Mi, for a position at the Exchange Bank.  In 1880, he attended University of Michigan’s law school, graduating in 1882. That same year, he was given the position of manager of the newly opened Exchange Bank in Hartford, MI.  George married  Miss Jennie Sherman  in 1882 and they  had one child, a son, Harry born July 25, 1883 in Hartford. Mrs. Merriman died in  1888, and is buried in Hartford.

On December 5th, 1894, George married again, this time to a wealthy Hartford widow, Mrs. Jennie Phelps. Jennie Phelps was born  on September 25th, 1849 in South Avon, N.Y.  To Mr. And Mrs. Mitchell Smiley who  settled in Arlington Township in 1851. Jennie was married to Henry P. Phelps in 1869. Mr. Phelps  died in 1887. 
Mr. Merriman was highly active in local and state politics, serving as a state senator from 1895 to 1899, as well as on the state’s prison board for several years, and Hartford’s board of education. 
Mrs. Merriman was a member of the Hartford Women’s Club, the Benevolence chapter O.E.S.,. As a member of the Women’s club, she was instrumental in the  beginning of the Ladies’  Library association.  Mrs. Merriman passed away on March 24, 1920 several days after being suddenly stricken  ill on her way home from a Benevolence meeting.
George Merriman passed away October 25, 1924 after a heart attack.

In her will, Jennie Merriman deeded the property next door to her home and $5,000 towards building a new library. Her husband, and later her step-son Harry offered to the Hartford Ladies’ Association an alternative: They take position of the residence on Franklin, in exchange for the land and cash. It was accepted , and decided to open the library as the Jennie Merriman Memorial Library.

The Hartford Ladies' Library

The Hartford Ladies’ Library began in 1895 after a remark made by a Methodist minister to his congregation  that it was a shame that Hartford had no library.  Mrs. Elenora Chamberlin, a member of the newly founded Hartford Women’s Club responded by proposing to it’s members that they start a library. Each  member donated one book and  Mrs. Crosby was elected president of the now formed Library board. George W. Merriman  offered  the library space in the back of the bank, which was it’s home until the bank needed  the space. For years after, the Library was moved around  to various locations, only “open” on Saturdays, sometimes lending out over a hundred books in an afternoon.  In 1920, Jennie Merriman, a founding member of the Hartford Ladies’ Association left in her will a plot of land on the corner of Main and Franklin and $5,oo0 to the library to build a new  and permanent  Library. After her husband, George Merriman passed away in 1924, his son offered to exchange the plot of land and money for the house on
left to the library for the residence on Franklin Street. Through subscription donations for the upkeep of the building it was made possible for the Hartford Ladies’ Association to accept the offer, and moved in to it’s new home in 1925. The Library became the Jennie Merriman Memorial Library, and a plaque  was installed on the front of the building.

On April 2, 1903 the Library became associated with Michigan State Library, it was not until 1939 that the library approached the state library board for state aid. In 1940, the library received aid from the City and Townships of Hartford, and first received state aid in 1941, allowing it to become a free library .  In 1965  the Library became a District Library under the name, Hartford Public Library.