HEBRON SECREST LIBRARY - 146 North 4th Street
1870-1880 – HEBRON LITERARY ASSOCIATION
In 1870, one year after the founding of Hebron, the Hebron Literary Association was formed at the home of E.M. Correll. The programs consisted of members sharing essays and poems written by members; book readings; and mock trials and debates on unique subjects. One such subject was the ever-disturbing question, “Is it right for Christians to dance?” The affirmative won that particular debate. The records showed a rapid growth in memberships and a keen interest in current events.
On April 14, 1879, the Library Association brought Susan B Anthony and Mrs. Elizabeth Cody Stanton to Hebron to lecture on the Woman Suffrage Association. In 1880, the Hebron Library Association was formed with E.M. Corell as president. The Library Association devoted meetings to literary culture, debates, essays, music, etc.
A circulating library was first started by the Presbyterian congregation in 1880. It was housed at various locations including the Opera House.
1882 – LEW SECREST MOVED TO HEBRON
Lewis Secrest moved to Hebron in 1882/1883, his wife and three children remained behind. He was a builder and finish carpenter by trade. One of his jobs included building and paneling the dinning room of the Central House, later know as Hotel Hebron, and he was involved with the planning and construction of the Masonic Lodge. He had acquired property in Oregon and Duel County Nebraska.
1884 – THE TRAGIC CONVENTION
In 1884, Lewis Secrest and J.J. Werner of Hebron, along with other local men, attended a Masonic convention at the Merchants Hotel in Omaha. At about 2:00 in the morning, Werner awoke, possibly from a nightmare, thought there was a burglar in the room, and subdued “a ferocious animal with wickedly glaring eyes” by throwing it out the window. The “ferocious animal turned out to be his roommate, Lewis Secrest. Mr. Secrest never recovered from his injuries, which were compounded by rheumatism.
John Hughes, brought Secrest home to Hebron where Secrest took charge of delivering the newspaper from his wheelchair. He also made and sold pens to visitors of the hotel. His earliest pens were made of walnut salvaged from the old banisters in the courthouse. Metal parts were made from expended rifle cartridges.
1917 – “BEE-STING” CURE
In early 1917 Secrest traveled to El Reno, Oklahoma to visit his siter-in law and to investigate a “bee-sting” cure for rheumatism. By this time, he was able to walk with a crutch and cane, but the rheumatism affected his knees. He took the “bee-sting” cure, but the injection resulted in an infection, in one of his legs, that proved to be fatal.
1917 – SECREST’S WILL
In his last will and testament, dated April 14, 1915, he left requests to his children; friends; $2,000 went to the masonic Lodge; and the remainder of his estate, about $15,000 was left for the purpose of establishing a public library in the city of Hebron.
His three children, who were his heirs at law, did not contest the will. However, on closing the estate, they appeared in court to insist that the provisions of the will had not been met and that they should inherit all of the estate.
After some delay in finding a qualified executer, Elmo B Roper was appointed as administrator, and Harvey Hess was one of the lawyers involved in this case. The district court held the provisions of the will to start the building within a year was not obligatory because the land near Chappel had not been sold to make the money available.
1918 - 1920 – ESTATE COURT RULING
On August 12, 1918, the City of Hebron, by ordinance, established a free public library, provided for tax support (3 mills) and created a library board. On December 10, 1918, the Hebron Public Library association bought the lot where the library stands from Mr. & Mrs. C.L. Richards for $800.00.
Over the next three years, Roper gathered the assets of the estate and paid out all specific bequests. On March 11, 1920, he sought an order to distribute the remainder of the estate to the library association. On March 19, 1920, the heirs filed an objection through their attorneys claiming that Hebron had not compiled with the time frame set out in Secrest’s will and therefore, the bequest was void and they were entitled to the remainder of the estate as heirs at law. After numerous objections and appeals on April 21, 1921, Judge Brown ruled in favor of the library board.
1921 – VALIDATING THE GIFT
Following the ruling of Judge Brown, the heirs appealed the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of the district court. The Court drove the matter home with the following statement: “It was the intention of the testator that the larger portion of his estate should be placed in trust for the purpose of establishing a public library for the benefit of the citizens of Hebron. Such an institution falls within the class of public charities, which are favorites of the court. To hold otherwise would defeat the beneficent intention and desire of the maker of the will. This we will not do unless compelled thereto by manifest defects in the will, or illegality in its execution.”
The gift to the library was valid.
Construction began on the library and was completed at cost of $9,708, leaving a substantial amount for equipment, books, materials, and operations. The PEO very generously donated their large fiction library of over 800 volumes to the library board. The library is an example of craftsman architecture style.
2004 – RENNOVATIONS TO THE LIBRARY
In 2004, the library underwent major renovations and added handicap accessibility for their patrons. Cracks in the plaster on the walls and ceiling were fixed; new carpet and paint; new upstairs handicap accessible restrooms; as well as the completion of the meeting room in the basement. A new addition was added on the south side, allowing for handicap accessibility to the facility including an elevator and an entry way with access to both levels. Bricks from the original chimney were used to frame the door and windows of the addition.
2012 – RESTORATION OF DONATED 1888 PAINTING
Josephine Wright painted a portrait of her niece Maude Wright in 1880. Maude Wright was a rural school teacher for District 19. Rural teachers often stayed with farm families and Maude stayed at the Lamm farm. Here, she met Harlan Lamm and later married him. They had no children. Harlan donated the painting to the library. It had been damaged in the 1953 tornado, so the library board unanimously decided to have the portrait restored. While Anton Rajer of the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City worked on the restoration of the portrait, his apprentice filled and sanded holes and cracks in the frames; sprayed the frame with gold paint and rubbed it with brown show polish.
The portrait of Maude Wright Lamm hangs on the west wall of the library.
2023 – THE LIBRARY TODAY
Following the ideals of the founding families, the library continues to provide a literary service to the Hebron community.