An 1883 graduate
of Tulane University’s medical school, after a residency at New Orleans’ Charity
Hospital he left his home town and moved to Texas
to begin a partnership with a doctor in Lockhart.
The older doctor soon hung up his stethoscope and handed all of his practice over
to the 21-year-old Dr. Clark.
For the next 13 years, the doctor from Louisiana
tended to the people of Caldwell County, fixing or curing what he could, delivering
their babies and standing at the bedside of those whose lives were ending. Not
surprisingly, Dr. Clark earned immense respect in the community. In turn, the
doctor really liked the folks who lived in Lockhart
and made many good friends.
Deciding to specialize in the ear, nose and
throat, in 1896 Dr. Clark left Lockhart
to study in Europe. A year later, he came back to Texas
and began practicing in San Antonio.
While in San Antonio, Dr. Clark
became seriously ill and traveled to New York for surgery. On his way, he stopped
in Lockhart to visit some of his
friends for what turned out to be the last time.
In New York he learned
his medical situation was terminal and he returned to his native New Orleans to
live out his final days.
his death bed, Dr. Clark dictated a will leaving $10,000 to Lockhart
for a public library and lyceum. In his bequest, he earmarked $6,000 to cover
construction of the library and $1,000 for the purchase of books to line its shelves.
The remaining $3,000 was to go into a trust for the library’s maintenance and
Its design inspired by the Villa Rotunda in Vicenza, Italy,
the library opened in 1899 and has been serving the residents of Lockhart
ever since. In fact, it’s the longest continuously used library in the state.
Until 1956, the library had a stage and auditorium style seating for public
lectures, and for years, as Dr. Clark had envisioned, it served as the community’s
cultural center. President William Howard Taft spoke there along with numerous
lesser-known politicians and lecturers offering insight and opinion from religion
to temperance. Opera singer, actress and self-help speaker Dorothy Sarnoff once
performed there, at one point telling her audience, "If you are bored with my
performance tonight, you can just reach over and grab a good book to read."
of the first books in its collection was “How to Win,” an inspirational book for
girls by Frances E. Willard. Published by Funk and Wagnalls Co., the slim 125-page
volume went on sale in 1894. Either someone forgot to return the book to the Lockhart
library or at some point the library discarded it without marking it as such.
years ago at an estate sale, the book has a pre-Dewey Decimal classification number
of 1183 and bears the library’s stamp in several places. It still contains an
old-style pull-out card for the borrower’s name and the book’s due date. The card
is dated Nov. 3 with no year given. The last person to check the book out was
listed as a Mrs. J. Fortune.
Still pasted inside the front cover of the
book are the library’s rules. Basically, a patron had one week to read a book
and only one book could be checked out at a time. Keeping the book for that period
of time cost five cents, plus a refundable $1 deposit. Back then, that was enough
money to cover the replacement cost of the book.
“At the close of the
first week the loan may be renewed for another week at the same cost,” the rules
note. “If the book is not returned at the end of the first week, and loan renewed
a charge of 10 cents will be made for the second week, and if then retained 20
cents will be charged for the third week.”
the book was not returned by the end of the third week, the rules continued, the
procrastinating patron would be sent a post card reminder with the cost of that
card added to the amount due. If that didn’t work, the rules went on, “a messenger
will be sent for the book with an additional charge of 25 cents.”
to respond to that netted the library user version of the death penalty: “Any
borrower refusing to pay the charge will thereafter be debarred the privilege
of the Library.” In other words, no more books from the library. On top of that,
the offender lost his $1 deposit.
On the upside, the 1899 rules allowed
a book to be read for free inside the library, a privilege that still stands.
© Mike Cox
- December 6, 2012 column
| Texas Towns | Texas