History of the Sevier County Public Library

Fred P. Rawlings was a man with a dream. In 1922, from the War Services Department of the American Library Service in New York, he obtained on indefinite loan, 200 books to begin a library in Sevier County. He donated books from his personal collection and persuaded citizens of the county to pledge up to $10.00 toward funding a library. Fifty-four people pledged a total of $233.50 for the project.

Members of the local Masonic Temple furnished space in their building on Main Street and the library was housed there until it moved into the present building on Court Ave. It was open two afternoons a week for two hours and was manned by ladies who volunteered their time. Notable among the volunteers was Mrs. Stanley McMahan ("Miss Annie") who served in this capacity for over 30 years.

The library Science Department at the University of Tennessee agreed to catalog the books. Mr. Rawlings loaded them into a hearse and took them to Knoxville. The Republican reported, "Tuesday, May 26, 1927 the books were returned to the shelves from U.T., catalogued in the most modern manner."

At their September 1930 meeting, the Manthano Club (Sevierville's Women's Club) voted to sponsor the library. Over the years the Manthano Club sponsored silver teas to raise money for the library. The first tea, in February 1931, "netted a handsome sum ($22.53)". Throughout the 1930s book showers, puppet shows, and fund-raising drives were held, and individuals continued to donate books, magazines, and money.

When more space was needed, the Masons gave the west end of their building for the library, and in 1935 the library was given a monetary value of $1,000.00.

During the 1940s, library hours were 1-4 on Fridays and "Miss Annie" supplied geography books and maps for individuals to see where their boys were stationed.

In 1947, Sevier County Public Library became a member of the Nolichucky Regional Library System, which continues to provide aid in the form of books and services. The library was originally funded by Sevier County, Sevierville & Pigeon Forge (Pigeon Forge no longer supports the County system).

In the 1960s, sisters Willie Delozier (1961) and Elizabeth Denton (1966) were hired as the first paid employees, but the library was still only open on a part time basis. Lack of space, expanded use, and disastrous flooding which necessitated the moving of the books led the Board of Trustees to announce a plan to raise $100,000.00 to build a new county library. Matching Federal funds brought the project to $183,000.


Mrs. Gene G. Hickey, wife of physician John M. Hickey believed Federal funds could be obtained and kept trying to obtain services of a public relations firm to put the program together for public approval. S.H. (Bo) Roberts, a newspaper man here in Sevierville, and an assistant to Gov. Buford Ellington, succumbed to Mrs. Mize's plea and became executive director of the Sevier County Library Foundation. "All at once we had an organization. Meeting after meeting followed. Many people became involved. "We worked together, never believing it couldn't be done, and this weekend we can show patrons and backers their dream come true."

A.J. King, made the first lead gift of $1,000.00 in the library's campaign in 1966. Sevier County Court and Judge Ray L. Reagan, "found" $25,000. Sevierville and the Mayor Roy C. Newman, $75,000 more. The Library Services and Construction Act provided $83,000 and the Appalachian Commission's $26510 grant came just in time. Every dollar was vital - even from such firms as Cherokee Textile Mills, Lambert Bros., and the Sevier County Electric System.

John Temple made a site available. Hubert Bebb of James Hugh Ogle Associates drew the plans, with Carlton Rochelle as library consultant. Egli & Spradlen, Gatlinburg contractor, built the beautiful glass and brick structure.

Other names involved are legend already, such as Atchley, Burchfiel, Cutshaw, King, Ownby, Paine, Robertson, Waters, Hickey, Hailey, Jarvis, Morrell, Newman, Ogle, etc.

Just about everybody got into the act to move the one-room library from its 28-year-old home in Masonic Temple to a $166,00 modernistic facility of some 6000 square feet on Court St. Fifteen firms or individuals gave $1000 or more each and some 25 otheres gave less. Uncle Sam served up some $100,000 and TVA, while constructing its flood project here, hauled earth for the library site.

The present building has served the community for over 40 years. As with everything, age has taken its toll and it is time to retire this faithful old friend. Plans are already underway to build a large new library for the county. Fundraising for the library began earlier this spring with very good results. The estimated amount of money needed for the new library is $10 million but as our ancestors have already proven, "Dreams do come true".