The cornerstone, the community and the Carnegie

By: By Jane Tahti Special to The News Messenger
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I wasn't there when the cornerstone for the Carnegie was laid in place in 1909. My Great Aunt Elizabeth Fleming was there because Elizabeth, as a member of the Library Board, had written a letter to the Carnegie Foundation, requesting funding for a city library in Lincoln, California.

Imagine the joy and pride when the Carnegie funding was granted and the cornerstone was laid at the corner of 5th and F streets, in 1909! The Jansen family sold the lot to the city of Lincoln. Gladding, McBean supplied the golden yellow bricks that are so familiar to the century of citizens who have been enriched by the Carnegie.

My Dillian grandparents lived just across the alley, a few yards away. One would be assured that they were among those photographed at the laying of the cornerstone in 1909.

My grandmother, Jessie Jane, was a handsome beauty who loved to dress up for photographs. Surely, she must be hidden under one of those wide-brimmed hats.

My grandfather, Frank Dillian, kept a saloon at the corner of 6th and G Streets. He must have thrown his apron across the bar and walked the block from his saloon, to be there, with his wife and two daughters.

Living one block down the alley, my Fleming grandparents would surely have been there on that memorable day. My grandfather was the railroad agent; his wife, the telegraph operator. They had three children and the youngest was my father, a 2-year-old born in 1907.

My father might have been a child held high on his father’s shoulder so he could see the setting of the Carnegie cornerstone.

We know that later, as a youth dealing with the loss of his father, he was free to chart his own course, deciding between school and hunting, studying and reading. During the day, hunting won. At night, by lamplight, reading won. The Carnegie was there for him.

If we could only have been there so long ago, we would surely have recognized and greeted ancestors of those descendents that we are privileged to still greet to this very day, more than 100 years later. “Hello! “we would have said to the Jansens and Greys. To the Wyatts and Toffts. To the Culbertsons and Leavells.

We would have greeted the country folk, too -the Wiswells and Logans, the Fowlers, Naders and Aharts.

There are other 1909 families, of course. And those who have ‘just arrived’ are working their hearts out for our libraries.

But isn't it a small-town wonder that we are still privileged to greet members of those same families today, as they keep stepping forward in support of our community?

Yes, ever since the setting of the cornerstone, we've walked up those granite steps and the stalwart Carnegie has never let us down. So, it's fair to ask, have we let the Carnegie down? It's fair to ask, isn't it time to reopen our Carnegie Library?

Watch for and join the efforts of the Friends of the Lincoln Library in an effort to reopen the Carnegie Library.


At Twelve Bridges Library

Saturday, March  2 from 2 to 4 p.m.: Read Across America (Dr. Seuss’ birthday) with storytelling, crafts, fun for kids.

Saturday, March 16: Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for free family movie night.


This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.