01 19, 2020

Major Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Middle Creek

By |2020-01-19T06:00:33-05:00January 19, 2020|

Our Civil War series continues with a spotlight on The Battle of Middle Creek, a lesser-known conflict with local importance because Mentor’s own James A. Garfield led the Union into the fray. Discover how what happened in Kentucky set Garfield on the path to the presidency.

Our Civil War series continues at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at our Main Branch. We’ll discuss the life of Abraham Lincoln. As always, the talk is free and open to all.

By the way, if you’re interested in Civil War history, several talks in our Civil War series can be viewed online in their entirety, including:

12 19, 2019

5 Facts about the Garfield Family & Mentor Public Library

By |2019-12-19T06:00:24-05:00December 19, 2019|

We’re fortunate to be neighbors with the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. They lead a monthly a Civil War series at our Main Branch and are a wonderful resource to have nearby.

Moreover, the Garfield family has a long history of supporting Mentor Public Library. As part of our 200th anniversary celebration, we invited Lucretia Garfield and James R. Garfield – the wife and son of President James A. Garfield, respectively – to the library to discuss that history.

Granted, both Lucretia and James are posthumous. So we did the next best thing and enlisted Debbie Weinmaker of WeMadeHistory to portray Lucretia and Alan Gephardt of Garfield National Historic Site to play her son on Saturday at our Main Branch.

We’ve filmed their talk in its entirety to share with you; but, if you’re somewhere that you can’t listen to audio, here are five of the most fascinating talks from their presentation:

1. The Mentor Library pre-existed the Garfield family’s involvement but its whole setup would be odd to us nowadays. In 1819, the Mentor Library Company formed, but its collection of 79 books was only available to shareholders who paid $2.50 per share.

The notion of a Mentor Library – free to use for Mentor Township and Mentor Village residents – was the dream of James R. Garfield. Garfield (the son, to be clear) was elected president of the library’s board in 1890, and he served in that role until 1927.

In the meantime, he was involved in state and national politics and served as Secretary of the Interior during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.

2. Before the library had its own building, it was housed in Mentor Village Hall.

The Garfield family wanted the library to have a home of its own – complete with a reading room. To raise money for the library, the Garfield family hosted “entertainments,” including:

The most lucrative entertainment was a melodrama starring Mary “Mollie” Garfield and entitled “The Sleeping Car.” It raised $107.15.

They raised another $11 by auctioning a cake. James R. Garfield had the winning bid, but he had to borrow $10 because he only had a dollar in his pocket at the time.

3. In May of 1895, the Mentor Village Council raised a half-mill levy to support the library. It provided the library with $160 a year, rendering the entertainments superfluous and paving the way for Mentor Library’s first building.

The architect was, naturally, another member of the Garfield clan. Abram Garfield, Lucretia’s son and James R. Garfield’s brother, designed the building in the New England style.

The land was purchased from a Dr. Lester Luse for $2,200. When both land and building were totaled, the new building cost $7,693. At the time, it stood at the corner of Mentor Avenue and Center Street.

This first library building still exists, by the way. However, we no longer own it and it serves a different purpose now.

4. In 1926, toward the end of his tenure as board president, the library was renamed in honor of James R. Garfield.

The rebranding only lasted 24 years and the Garfield Public Library was renamed again in 1950. (This time, it became Mentor Public Library and the name’s stuck thus far.) But we still commemorate James R. Garfield and his contribution to the library. One of the meeting rooms in our Main Branch is named in his honor.

5. The Garfield family was immensely literate. President James A. Garfield understood both Greek and Latin and was rumored to be able to write both simultaneously. He especially enjoyed poetry by Alfred Tennyson and William Wordsworth and, as a child, had a fondness for books about pirates.

He and Lucretia would read to the children around the parlor table from Lamb’s Shakespeare and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. They would often quiz their children’s spelling, using 7,000 Words Often Mispronounced in the English Language.

As for the son, James R. Garfield enjoyed the outdoors and spent what little free time he had fishing, hunting and playing tennis. But he still had a predilection for William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens novels as an adult.

Click here for more information on Mentor Public Library’s history and here for more on our year-long celebration of our 200th anniversary.

07 1, 2019

The Untold Stories of Mentor, Ohio, with Thomas Matowitz

By |2019-07-01T06:00:03-04:00July 1, 2019|

Thomas Matowitz, the author and local historian who literally wrote the book one Mentor, Ohio, returned to the library to share some of his best stories.

Matowitz is the perfect person to discuss prominent Mentor families like the Garfields, landmarks like the Wildwood Estate, and more. But he also has a mindful of spectacular Mentor stories that nearly nobody else knows, including:

  • Mentor’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • the most fatal day in Mentor’s history
  • the tale of the WWII pilot from Mentor who is buried in Normandy.

For more from Matowitz:

Speaking of history, you can also join us for our 200th anniversary party at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 12, on our Main Branch lawn. Help make a community mosaic of Mentor with Gail Christofferson of Animal House Glass.

Also, Tom Todd, the Amazing One Man Band, will perform from 6 to 7 pm. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets, sit back and enjoy  a little bit of Jimmy Buffett. We will also have cake and contests. All are welcome and no registration is required for our party.

 

05 19, 2018

James A. Garfield and the First Decoration Day

By |2018-05-19T06:00:55-04:00May 19, 2018|

Our nation will commemorate Memorial Day later this month, and our friends from James A. Garfield National Historic Site offer a timely reminder on the holiday’s origin.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a way to celebrate and commemorate soldiers  who perished during the Civil War.

And the keynote speaker during the first national Decoration Day ceremony was Congressman and Union veteran James A. Garfield.

Todd Arrington, site manager at Garfield National Historic Site, discusses the history of Decoration Day and Garfield’s still pertinent speech.

 

By the way, if you’re interested in Civil War history, some other previous talks in our Civil War series can be viewed online in their entirety:

01 18, 2018

MPL Talks: General Winfield Scott Hancock

By |2018-01-18T06:00:29-05:00January 18, 2018|

General Winfield Scott Hancock was a spectacular corps commander, perhaps the Union’s best.

But that’s not the only reason Todd Arrington (site commander of James A. Garfield National Historic Site) chose Hancock as the subject of his latest Civil War talk.

Learn about Hancock’s life, his accomplishments, his friendship with Confederate General Lewis Armistead, and why he’s especially pertinent to President Garfield.

Our Civil War series continues at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at our Main Branch. The topic will Civil War veterans who also served as president. The talk is free and open to all.

If you’re interested in Civil War history, some other previous talks in our Civil War series can be viewed online in their entirety:

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