The towns of Jericho and Underhill have been home to five libraries over the past three centuries. These libraries were housed in everything from a private home to a town hall and finally in to a new building which opened in 1998. Throughout the history of library services in these towns volunteers and residents played and continue to play a crucial supportive role.
The Deborah Rawson Memorial Library
In 1995 the residents of Jericho and Underhill approved a plan to create the Jericho-Underhill Library District (JULD), Vermont’s first library municipal district. The trustees who were appointed to JULD began to research and develop plans to replace the Waters Memorial Library, which since its dedication in 1933, had a long history of support by both communities. The trustees also acknowledged the other two libraries in the community; Delaporte Library housed in the Underhill Town Hall and the Jericho Town Library in Jericho Center. All three libraries were not handicapped accessible, had no public meeting space, and were low on space for their services and collections. In addition, the Waters Library, the only library among the three libraries that had financial support from both towns, had no room for expansion nor could it easily be made handicapped accessible. Because of these limitations and through the support of the residents of the two towns the trustees decided to develop plans to design and build a new library.
Waters Memorial Library
Black River Design, an architectural firm in Montpelier, designed the 5,000 square foot building. It is located on a two-schooled campus, near the town line separating Jericho and Underhill. During the planning period, the Waters Library Board received a generous donation from Dr. and Mrs. Rawson, whose family came from the Jericho/ Underhill area, and who were seeking a memorial for their daughter Deborah. This donation combined with fundraising efforts and support of a local bond provided the money needed to build the new library. The Deborah Rawson Memorial Library was dedicated on January 24, 1998. The Waters Memorial Library had merged with the Jericho-Underhill Library District in 1997 and the Delaporte Library merged with the new library district in 1998 when the new library opened. The Jericho Town Library remains open and is a cooperating library.
A History of Library Services in Jericho and Underhill
The first record of library services in the towns of Jericho and Underhill is the library association formed in Underhill Center in 1800. The Delaporte Memorial Library was established in 1903. The Delaporte family donated property and a building to the association in 1917, providing a home for library services in the Underhill Center area. This building was sold to the U.S. Postal Service. The Delaporte Memorial Library was then housed in a room in the Underhill Town Hall. The Delaporte Library merged with the new library district in 1998.
Delaporte Memorial Library
Library services were provided to residents of the town of Jericho through the efforts of the Brown’s River Study Club and of the Social Service Club in Jericho Center. The Jericho Library, located in the “village” section of the town, was supported by the Brown’s River Study Club. The Social Service Club supported the Jericho Town Library, located in the “center” section of the town.
“For many years, the Jericho Library consisted of a small number of books in a spare room of a private home whose owner was so inclined to recognize the need of available reading material” writes Elinor Merle in the History of Jericho, Vermont, Volume II. Elinor describes further how the Brown’s River Study Club was formed in 1937, and, in 1938, decided to sponsor the Jericho Library and “provide a home for the books.” Through the years, the library’s “home” moved from place to place but the women continued to staff and maintain the library. This library was in service until the late 1970s.
In the same volume, Pauline Dustin details the development of the Jericho Town Library, stating that, “Since 1915, the Town Library has been housed in the old Academy building, later called the Parish House at Jericho Center.” When Brown’s Trace was widened at the curve in Jericho Center in 1955, the building was moved to its present location on the Green. The Congregational Church owns the building and donated its use to the library. Originally, the Social Service Club provided financial support. Today, the library’s services are supported through taxes and the enthusiastic fundraising efforts of its many devoted patrons. The Jericho Town Library is a cooperating library with the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library. The two libraries support each other by offering joint programs and services.
Jericho Town Library
In 1924, the Mansfield Women’s Club started the Waters Memorial Library in Underhill Flats. Its first location was in the house that is now the home of Donald Langlois. In the History of Jericho Vermont, Volume II, Etta Woodward writes, “August Waters, a young clerk in a general store, saw the interest taken by the women to provide a Library. Even though circumstances intervened he kept this project in mind. Years later he contributed a substantial sum of money toward the erecting of this building.” The Waters Memorial Library was dedicated on August 9, 1933 and served residents of both Jericho and Underhill for 65 years. The Waters Memorial Library closed when the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library opened in 1998.
Deborah Rawson Memorial Library
Works Consulted and Cited:
Dwyer, Loraine S. The History of Underhill, Vermont: The Town Under the Mountain. Underhill Historical Society, 1976.
Merle, Elinor, ed.. History of Jericho Vermont, Volume II. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1963.
Library Services in Jericho and Underhill: Past, Present and Future. Compiled by Dee Dee Jameson. Spring 1997.