|The Wm. H. & Edgar J. Magness Community House and Library or "Magness Library"
Opening day picture 1932
Col. Gentry Moffitt contributed the money to expand the library, the new section now houses the
Children's Department and on the second floor the Fiction Room.
Mr. Magness beside the cornerstone doing construction.
The Magness Library had it origin in a very unlikely event in 1913. The “McMinnville Women’s Civic League” was looking for that seminal civic
project that would perpetuate the young organization. To these civic minded women who spent time in downtown McMinnville there was an
obvious societal need seeking a solution. When most rural families came to town it was an all day excursion and most trying on women,
particularly those with small children. When the woman finished her shopping there was no place to rest and wait for her husband to finish
whatever the business that brought them to town. Thus on July 18, 1913 “The Women’s Civic League” opened a Women’s Rest Room in the
Walling Flats building on the south side of Court Square. Mrs. Mary Cunningham, a charter member of the civic league, and her family lived in the
building and she agreed to establish, operate and maintain the facility. Sufficient supplies and materials to open were received as donation and
the county and city agreed to pay the $10 per month rent and maybe contribute $5 per month for expenses.
From the beginning Mrs. Cunningham considered her role as a clarion call to Christian service that she unfailingly pursued every day until her
death in 1954.
The library experience began the day after the restrooms opened. Mrs. Cunningham looked out the front door and saw a young boy, about 10
years old, sitting on the dark curb throwing rocks at anything that moved. As a distraction Mrs. Cunningham offered the boy a magazine with
pictures which he declined saying he liked books. Mrs. Cunningham returned to her apartment and selected one of her sons books and took it
back to the boy. He sat quietly on the curb and read the entire book before his father returned to pick him up. He returned the book and thanked
Mrs. Cunningham, whereupon she offered him another book, told him he could take it home and return it the next time his father brought to
town. The McMinnville Free Lending Library was born.
Mrs. Cunningham related her experience to other members of the Civic League and immediately, the Women’s Rest Room became a
repository for lots of good reading material. Patrons who took materials home were asked to return the books in a reasonable time but they
could keep the magazines. It was several months before a loaned book was not returned.
by: Charles "Shot" Nunley