While the Edgerton Branch opened in 1971, its beginnings go all the way back to an article from the January 1921 Midwest Review titled, “Midwest Traveling Libraries.”
In December of 1920, seven traveling libraries set out on their first journey through the seven camps of the Salt Creek Oilfield Community: Salt Creek Home Camp, Salt Creek Gas Plant, Teapot Station, Big Muddy, Osage, Elk Basin, and Grass Creek. Each library had a collection of about 50 books in various genres including fiction, biographies, history, travel, geology, the petroleum industry, and children’s books. The cases carrying the books were made by the Midwest Oil Company’s field construction department. The chief clerks of the seven camps were in charge of the libraries, and after two months, the boxes were sent to the next camp so that everyone would have a chance to check out the different volumes.
Here is an interesting historical tidbit that we stumbled upon during our research. In December of 1921, a notice in the Review called attention to several books lost from Traveling Library Number 4 while at Salt Creek Home Camp. It listed the number and title of each book, and a request for their return: “Please let us know if you find Number 28, The Lost Road by Richard Harding Davis; Number 19, The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson; or Number 213, Practical Oil Geology by Dorsey Hager.” It turns out that even back then, due dates could slip people’s minds and they would forget to return their books to the library.
Following the Midwest Traveling Libraries, in 1929, community member Henry H. Patterson circulated a petition asking for a permanent library. The community’s request was answered by the opening of a library on the second floor of the Midwest Refining Company Club House in Midwest in 1930, at which time the traveling libraries were recalled.
The hours were Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m. Ella Chandler served as the first librarian. The library, which opened with about 1,500 books, also carried 29 magazine subscriptions and was a benefit for all people in the community. In May of 1930, right after the library opened, the records showed an average of 120 checkouts per day and a total of 3,504 books in the first month of operation.
In 1969 a Natrona County Bond Election provided the funds for a new building in Casper, a bookmobile to reach outlying communities, and a new Natrona County Library branch to serve the towns of Midwest and Edgerton and surrounding residents of the Salt Creek Community. Located approximately 45 miles Northeast of Casper, the facility was built at the same time as the new Main Library in Downtown, Casper. Both projects were spearheaded by former Natrona County Library Director Kenneth Dowlin. Herb Blake of Edgerton’s Blake Construction won the bid to build at just under $24,000, and the Branch opened at the end of 1971. In 1978 the Edgerton Branch Library was renamed in honor of the late Mark J. Davis, a former Natrona County Library Board Member.
Currently, the Edgerton Branch is open Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 to 7 p.m. Stop by and see us if you are in our neck of the sagebrush!
Michele Butler is the Branch Manager and Sonja Brow is the Circulation Specialist at the Natrona County Library’s Edgerton Branch.