Building History

The town of Oakham was first settled in 1749 and was established as a precinct of Rutland in 1759. In 1761 the first metting house was built to be used both as a town hall and church, and in 1775 the Town of Oakham was incorporated. As the town grew, schools were established, and a "social library" was created in 1789. Subscribers to the library paid two dollars to be used for purchasing books, and were assessed twenty five cents per year for the priveledge of borrowing them. In 1842 the Massachusetts State Treasurer paid the Oakham selectmen fifteen dollars for each of the three school districts for the purchase of books. These school "libraries" typically consisted of from thirty to forty books and were kept in a small red bookcase in one of the homes in each district.

The Oakham Library Association was founded in 1848, bringing together many of the town's library resources. Mr. James Packard was the first Librarian, and kept the library in his home until 1852 when it was transferred to John Parker's tailor shop. The late 1800s saw the opening of the Ware River Railroad and the Central Massachusetts Railroad, increasing the population and town commerce. The town newspaper, the Oakham Herald, began publication in 1892. In the same year the Oakham Free Public Library was established by town vote. At that meeting the town accepted the Massachusetts library legislation of 1890 which provided $100 worth of books to the library. The Oakham Library Association also transferred its 250 volumes to the newly formed Free Public Library. Over the next few years the library received many large gifts of books from private citizens.

In 1907, the Fobes Memorial Library was built. The land was donated by Susan Fairbank and Maria Rugg and was graded and prepared by the town's farmers. Most of the funds for the building were donated by three members of the Fobes family: Charles A. Fobes (who bequetherd $4,000 for this purpose in his will), Celia E. Fobes ($3,000) and her daughter, Harriet Fobes Gifford ($3,000) in memory of P. Amos Fobes, Charles' father. The total cost of construction was $10,354.28. It was decided unanimously to construct the library of local fieldstone at the town meeting of March 23, 1907. The cornerstone, originally from the old Fobes farm, was laid on Wednesday, August 7 1907 along with a sealed box. Inside the box was a copy of the most recent town report, (including the report of the library committee); copies of the Boston and Worcester daily newspapers; the Oakham Herald; the Barre Gazette (including an account of the dedication of the town clock); maps of Oakham and Coldbrook with names of the occupants of many houses; letter-heads of all firms doing business in Oakham and Coldbrooke; names of the library trustees, building committee, architects and contractor; several 1907 coins, genealogy of the Fobes family; and photographs of Charles A., Hiram, and Hiram Nye Fobes.

The library was finished before the end of 1907, but the official dedication took place on August 27, 1908. The dedication program featured Dean Henry P. Wright of New Haven, Conn., Robert K. Shaw of the Worcester Public Library, Dr. Eva Tappan of Worcester, and the Rev. Francis N. Peloubet of Auburndale, Mass., along with musical offerings, and, of course, the dedication ceremony.