A Brief History of the Perry Memorial Library
(This portion excerpted from Zeb's Black Baby written by Samuel Thomas Peace)
Henry Leslie Perry was the only child of Colonel Henry Perry and his wife Janie Hall Perry. He was born January 21, 1887. He was educated at the Horner Military School at Oxford and at the State University at Chapel Hill. In February 1910, he obtained license to practice law.
The young lawyer opened his office in Henderson, served on the Board of City Aldermen and soon thereafter for two consecutive terms was elected Mayor of the City. In 1920 he married Miss Flora McKinnon of Laurinburg, North Carolina. He gave promise of a long and useful life. However, he soon suffered from a rheumatic condition, which for the last year of his life proved to be very painful. He died on June 4, 1923, leaving no children.
A few months after his death, Colonel Henry Perry, Mrs. Janie Hall Perry, and Mrs. Flora McKinnon Perry, wishing to establish a suitable memorial, applied for, and on May 19, 1924, received from the state, a charter of incorporation for the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library. And on September 1, 1924, the doors of the library were thrown open to the public for its use and enjoyment; a gift that has become one of the chief assets of this section of the state.
This gift was valued at $40,000, consisting of $25,000 in cash for the building, $5,000 in cash for books, and $10,000 in value of the building site. At the time of this gift by the Perry’s, the gift was the only one of its kind in the state with the exceptions of the Olivia Raney Public Library in Raleigh, given by R. B. Raney in memory of his wife (Raney, by the way, was born and reared in Vance County) and by one other memorial library in Rocky Mount.
Miss Bertie H. Craig, a graduate of N.C.C.W. and of a New York City library school was elected first librarian with Miss Eleanor Perry as assistant. The time for the opening of the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library was set for eight o’clock Monday night, September 1, 1924. Monday night was chosen so as not to interfere with the Ham-Ramsey revival meeting.
The first gift of a book to the Perry Library was made by Miss Mishew Crudup, eight-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Crudup of Kittrell. It was a volume of Mother Goose Melodies. Little Miss Crudup had won the book in a contest with the first, second, and third grades in her school when she was only six years old by reciting “The Three Bears.”
The first book taken out of the library was by Stephen West. The book was Peter Parley’s Universal History, written in 1878. The newspaper in giving an account of the incident published it as Peter Polly’s History of the United States.”
In 1926, the Dunbar Branch was established in the Negro Graded School, with a teacher serving as part-time librarian. At that time service to county schools began with package book collections mailed to the schools. During the 1930-1940 period, branches at the South Henderson Community House and Saint John’s Parish House in North Henderson were opened.
In June, 1946, a fire forced the Dunbar Branch to move to temporary quarters on Breckenridge Street, where it remained for several years. The Dunbar Branch later was replaced by the Chestnut Street Branch.
In 1986, the library packed up its belongings and moved to the Rose Avenue location. By then, circulation stood at 88,392. Before its move, the library underwent many alterations.
In 2006, the library moved again to its present location at 205 Breckenridge Street. The library continues its growth and proudly serves the public of Vance County.
(This portion is taken directly from an unknown newspaper, January 2, 1896.)
“A practical outcome of the Women’s Literary Club, of interest to the general public, is the establishment of a Circulating Library. Thanks to the enterprise of the ladies this is an assured fact. A room has been engaged and furnished, and a choice collection of books already grace its shelves. The Library is located in the Burwell Building over the Citizens Bank, in the room adjoining Mr. T.M. Pittman’s law office. The ladies having the matter in charge held a reception on Wednesday afternoon when the library was formally opened. For one dollar tickets will be issued which will entitle the holder to the privileges for one year. Tickets will also be issued for a shorter time when desired. The Library will be open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon when books, catalogues and tickets may be had. We commend this enterprise with great pleasure and urge for such support as will ensure its permanence. The committee in charge are Mrs. Henry Perry, Mrs. W.S. Parker, Mrs. E.G. Davis, Mrs. F.R. Harris, and Mrs. T.M. Pittman.