Library History

"From ancient times to our own day, a golden thread of respect for books and the wisdom they contain has remained unbroken.  Civilizations have perished, but books have somehow been preserved and libraries have continued to exist and be cherished."

A history of the original Milbank Carnegie Library (this building now houses the Grant County Historical Museum) reveals the uphill struggle experienced during its early years.  Milbank was laid out in August of 1880.  A wheat field and a sod house were all that marked the site of the present city.  In 1881, Mr. Jeremiah Milbank, railroad official for whom the town was named, offered to build a church.  In 1882, upon his return visit to Milbank, he was keenly disappointed  in the delay which had occurred in building the church.  The $15,000 church structure (now the Congregational Church) was erected during that year.  Mr. Milbank stated that, as the interest on the promised investment amounted to  around $1,000, his desire was to donate that sum to an independent enterprise for the benefit of   the town.                                                                                                                      (Congregational Church)

A public library and free reading room was agreed upon.  Permanent board officers were elected (known as the Milbank Library Association).  Members were: President, D.W. Diggs, cashier of the Bank of Milbank at the time;  Rev. J. K. Nutting - Vice-President;  C.M. Bassett - Secretary; W.M. Thomas - Treasurer;  In 1882 the library site was agreed upon...cost was $750.  A frame structure was erected and on November 12th, 1882, the free reading room was formally opened; a donation of 252 volumes of standard literature was sent for the opening by Jeremiah Milbank himself.          (Jeremiah Milbank 1818-1884)

The large room was brilliantly lighted and the white walls and the freshly-painted woodwork fairly glistened under the bright rays from the chandelier and side lamps!  The books Mr. Milbank had donated were displayed on one table, while on another table were the books contributed by citizens.  It was said this was the finest public library in the Territory of Dakota, outside of Yankton.

A few days later, Miss Rebeccah Oldham was appointed librarian.  Her parents homesteaded southeast of Milbank.  In January of 1883, at the first annual meeting of the Association, there were 400 volumes in stock; disbursements were $1,179; receipts were $1,000; stock sales were $250 and $2.80 in fines.  The balance on hand was $29.83!

Originally, the library was closed during the summer.  By January of 1884, the library was open on Saturdays from 2 - 9 o'clock, and 2 - 3 o'clock on Sundays.  Later that year, due to a continued increase in usage, it was decided to remain open every day.  Miss Oldham resigned her position and married Mr. J.W. Bell, an early Milbank attorney.

To protect the trees around the library building from damage by horse and wagon teams, a fence was built, June 3, 1884.

When Mr. Jeremiah Milbank died at his home in New York City in 1884, business places in Milbank closed and memorial services were held.

Financial difficulties developed in December of 1885 and the library real estate came into the possession of the city.  The books were taken to the store of Mr. Thomas Mittelstaedt and the library building itself was leased to church organizations and later leased for use as a public school.  Even though the library underwent several transformations and moved to different locations during this time period, it always remained evident that the citizens of Milbank wanted to retain their library in some format.

Interesting tidbit:  May 5th, 1898:  A list of the seven best-books for the year 1987 as selected by the N.Y.Library Association was published in the Grant County Review.
   1).  On the Face of the Waters by Mrs. F.A.Steel
   2).  St. Ives by Robert Louis Stevenson
   3).  The Gadfly by E.L. Voynick
   4).  School for Saints by John Oliver Hobbs                                         
   5).  Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
   6).  Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell
   7).  The Choir Invisible by James Lane Allen

May 1899 - Milbank's big fire which destroyed many business places.  It was noted that Dr. & Mrs. Ross served hot coffee & cookies to the fireman.

November 7, 1901 - The Milbank Free Reading Room was established over Wood Bros (later Drewelow's);  the library will be supported by a 1-mill tax levy, generating between $200-$300/yr.  Miss Nuna Shannon is librarian.

The provisions of the new curfew ordinance were modified to permit children to visit the reading room after 8 o'clock, provided they go straight home afterwards.

January 2, 1902 - Miss Nuna Shannon leaves for North Dakota to teach school. 
Her place as librarian is taken by her sister, Miss Minnie. 

April 1905 - the board of the lady managers of the Milbank Free Reading Room apply to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for an appropriation to erect a library building. 

May 1905 - In the annual report of Mayor Bouck, he states, " beginning from a few books, and small appropriations from the city, the board of library managers have accomplished much.  The library is now one of the best in the state....through the efforts of (many), Andrew Carnegie has kindly consented to donate $700.  We can scarcely appreciate how much this means for Milbank."

May 10th, 1906 - A formal opening of the Milbank Carnegie Library took place and Miss Minnie Shannon was appointed librarian.  Miss Shannon served the library faithfully over 30 years.  Many children of this community learned to love good books through her interest and untiring efforts.

Other librarians throughout the years were Lucille Austin, Cornelia Kaercher, Nadia Tomek Kruger, LaDonna Pufahl (assistants in absence of librarian),  Marge Tauber (1952), Mrs. Donald Becker, Minnie Vandament.  We are grateful to all of them for the heritage they have given us!

History of Grant County Public Library

In the mid 1960s, Mrs. Tauber noted that the Carnegie building was structurally deteriorating and also that there simply was not enough space both for materials and a reading room.  Due to the large number of patrons from outside the city, a state-funded Bookmobile was purchased in 1969 to provide service for rural readers.  In 1973 the Bookmobile became the property of the city.  Matt and Margaret Salzle were the original drivers and several years later, Karl and Ruth Loeschke took over the position.

Lucille Sackreiter, who became the librarian in 1968, was instrumental in promoting a county-wide library to serve all the residents of Grant County.  At the general election in November of 1976, the citizens of Grant County authorized a change from a city to a county library system.  Groundbreaking for the new library was in 1977; the building was completed in 1979.  Dedication was November 18, 1979.  Sadly, Mrs. Sackreiter did not live to see the completion of the new library...she passed away from cancer earlier that summer.

    Grant County Public Library - 1979

Doris Johnson served as acting librarian until a new director could be found.  Mr. Michael duCharme filled the position in October of 1979.  Other library directors since that time have been Shirley Apley, Naomi Haller, and current director, Robin Schrupp (1991 - ).

The Bookmobile was discontinued in July of 1981 as it was not cost effective, and also not very reliable in winter months when traveling to the various sites around the county was impossible due to snowstorms and poor road conditions in the hills.  It was then that the idea of establishing Branch Libraries began.  Big Stone City was the first to have a branch library in April of 1982; the second was started in November of that same year in Revillo.  Nine years later, another branch was established at Stockholm (1991), followed by a fourth library located in Strandburg (1999).  Each branch library has between 3,000 - 5,000 materials at one time, and the branch managers continually rotate their holdings.

    The South Dakota Room - 2001


In 2001 (due in part to a generous donation by Grant County philanthropist Leo Flynn)
the South Dakota Room was created. This beautiful room houses a vast collection of historical information...books and files that document the rich history of the state of South Dakota and of Grant County itself.  Studying the past can help us to appreciate where we came from and how we got where we are today.  Our heritage is rich and full; at times disturbing, but always inspiring and interesting.

The South Dakota Room also contains actual artifacts from our history which are displayed in a curio cabinet and throughout the shelving areas.  These treasures are on loan from the Grant County Historical Society and Museum on a rotating basis.


A dedication of the South Dakota Room was held October 27th.  Representatives from the State Library in Pierre were on hand for the dedication, as well as guests from the office of Sen. John Thune, the Grant County Commission, the Library Board and the Grant County Historical Society.  As part of the celebration the
Good Eagle Dance Troupe
from Flandreau demonstrated Native American dances for the audience, including the women's traditional, fancy shawl, and jingle dress. An Open House coffee was held following the presentation.

See full size image


   Grant County Museum, 2008
(formerly the Milbank Carnegie Library)