By Holly Lynn
Now that Ritter is celebrating its centennial, I think about the persistence and dedication of our ancestors. They made plans for the future, hoping their hard work and sacrifice would pay off for the next generation. Nothing was easy for them. They often worked hard, physically demanding jobs; yet, they found time to read and write. They wrote letters to each other on a regular basis. Many read books and made time for social clubs to discuss them.
In 1918, Vermilion’s library became official and the new board received state funds. The community donated books and magazines to start the collection. The first official library building was built during the Great Depression, in 1935, after many years of cutting corners and saving. That building is now the Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast.
Fundraising for a library building during the Great Depression would be difficult indeed. Most people were lucky to make ends meet. An early champion of the library was Bessie Roscoe, Rich Tarrant’s grandmother, and co-owner of the Vermilion News. She often reminded the successful lawyer George Ritter of the financial need at the library. Needless to say, her persistence paid off…eventually.
George Ritter began sharing his wealth in the 1950s. The original Ritter Public Library was built in 1958. Residents moved the 16,000 books from the original library to the new library in cardboard boxes on a snowy day in December. No doubt, they took pride in their new library building with pink marble pillars.
Unfortunately, Bessie Roscoe didn’t live to see the new pink marble library. She planted the seed, though. George Ritter listened and the rest is library history. I invite you to join us as we celebrate 100 years of community service. Our oral history partnership with the Vermilion Area Archival Society and the Vermilion History Museum will allow us to archive valuable Vermilion stories on our library website. I want to thank Rich Tarrant for his dedication to the project. No doubt Bessie would approve!
The background information for this article is from the booklet “Ritter Public Library 100 Year Anniversary: from 1918-2018” written by Patty Kishman and researched by Patty Kishman, Linda Ernschwender, Candy Fischer and Rich Tarrant, and which is available at the Ritter Public Library.