Saturday, August 15, 2020

Minerva's Chosen Band Library

 The M.C. B. Library was a key community resource in Covington for many years. It was a private subscription library that was started in the early 1900's by a group of unmarried women which had worked together on a number of community interest projects.

 The M.C.B. stood for Minerva's Chosen Band, and they originally began in the late-1890's, were officially chartered in 1903, and proceeded to hold a number of social events that were a hit with townspeople.

The 1906 home of the M.C. B. Library

The M.C.B.'s main goal was to provide a circulating book library for the community, the first of its kind in the area, and it did so using various locations that were made available. 

In an editorial in a 1920 issue of the St. Tammany Farmer, this explanation told about the origins and aims of the M.C.B. organization:

By 1906, the group was trying to raise funds to secure a permanent home for the library to continue to make books available to the reading public. It was called the James M. Thompson Memorial Library. They raised $3000 in a short period of time, and in 1907 the group was hopeful that they could construct a brick building for use of Covington's own lending library.  The building would cost $5000.

Instead, the group acquired a structure at 131 N. New Hampshire which had been built in 1903 and used as the home of the Bogue Falaya Men's Club. 

In 1906, Miss Emma V. Whelpley was president of the M.C.B. group, Miss Alice Lafaye was vice president, Miss Bertha Doerr was secretary, and Miss Nina Cantrell was Librarian.

The library lasted many years, even as community support waned. That building location has also been used over the years as a community meeting hall, the Christ Episcopal Church parish house, and is currently the St. Cecilia House, where public meetings and adult education classes are held.

Here are some newspaper articles that tracked the fortunes of the M.C.B. and its library. Click on the images to make them larger and more readable.

April 27, 1901
May 2, 1906 
An M.C.B. Library Postcard 

The M.C. B. published a number of postcards






The M.C.B. Library continued to provide services until the late 1950's. This newspaper column published in 1988 gave an overview of the organization and its services to the community. 

The Maternity Ward Donation

A major landmark in the history of St. Tammany Parish Hospital was made possible by a donation from the M.C. B. Library. but with the establishment of the hospital’s first maternity ward.

A 1954 newspaper clipping shows members of the M.C.B. Club donating money to St. Tammany Parish Hospital leaders to finance the outfitting of its first nursery. Pictured, from left, are M.C.B. Club charter members Ruby Blossman and Mrs. E.E. Lyons, hospital Administrator Harold R. Pittman, hospital Board Chairman Oliver Hebert, and club member Mrs. Ruben Myers. (STHS archive)

The hospital recently published an article on its website about the M.C.B. Library. That article told how in 1907, the building was purchased from the Men’s Club by another civic organization, the M.C.B. Club, a group of community-minded young women united by their desire to establish a lending library in Covington.

Here is a portion of the hospital's account:

"For much of the first half of the 20th century, the library was a local fixture, funded by subscriptions but  also by various plays, vaudeville performances and other community events. But by the late 1940s – just as the campaign to establish a local hospital was building steam – the M.C.B. and its little library were waning. In 1947, the decision was made to disband the club and sell the building at 131 N. New Hampshire. But what to do with the money from that sale?

"As it turns out, although the campaign to build a hospital was going gangbusters, local officials had trouble finding an organization to run it. So, as it neared completion, the decision was made that they would run it themselves. The only problem: They would need to raise money to outfit the building – and fast.

"That prompted a call to community organizations to help finish the job. Among those to step up: the old M.C.B. Club, which, as one of its last official acts, donated the money from the sale of the library to buy the necessary equipment for the hospital’s first nursery. That included two incubators, eight basinets and furnishings for a private room.

"Within a week of the club’s gift, the hospital opened its doors. A day later, the first baby was born.

Since then "St. Tammany Health System’s New Family Center has given birth to 60,000 babies – thanks to the generosity of Minerva’s Chosen Band and their little library on North New Hampshire Street.   

Current Day Photos

 Valiant MCB Club Curtails Activities 
In City After 62 Years Of Pioneer Service

On July 17, 1959, the St. Tammany Farmer ran the following article on the community contributions made by the M.C. B. Library over the years. 

"The service-star-studded M.C. B. has called it quits on civic ventures after last Friday night's meeting, but agreed to hold together as a social organization, to meet periodically upon call.

"The oldest service group in Covington, formed July 10, 1898, started its 62nd year Friday with six of the original 11 charter members still living, still residents of Covington, and still active in the club.

"These are Mrs. Elmer E. Lyon and Mrs. W. A. Hood the organizers; Mrs. Lenora Alexius, Mrs. J.E. J. Frederick, Mrs. F. B. Martindale and Mrs. W. E.. Blossman.

"The M.C.B.'ers were organized when Emma and Josie Whelpley, two young sisters, decided Covington needed civic and cultural progress. They called in a group of girls to discuss the matter and forthwith they chartered the M.C.B.'s.The meeting was at the home of the late Sam Whelpley, father of the girls, now known as Mrs. Elmer Lyon (Emma) and Mrs. W. A. Hood. (Josie).

"The other charter members. now deceased, were Miss Carrie B. Frederick, Miss Edna L. Richard, Mrs. Amanda Lancaster, Miss Katie T. Kentzel and Miss Bertha Doerr.

Joseph B. Lancaster, a notary public, drew up the original charter.

"This new social and literary club's first act was to establish a circulating library, quite a venture in those days. Mr. Whelpley allowed his home to be used as the first library. Later the club members gave parties and dances to raise money for their own library building and finally the M.C.B.'s obtained a place from a young men's organization known as the Bogue Falaya Club.

"It was on Nov. 11, 1903, that a new and bona fide charter was drawn under state law by the late Gordon Goodbee, Sr., then St. Tammany district attorney. The club accumulated 2,500 books, had catalogs printed and took turns keeping the library open on designated afternoons. The library was also rented to organizations a a fee for meetings and parties.

"Among the "tenants" were the early Covington Rotarians, who met at their weekly luncheons with the M.C.B.'s preparing the meals. and serving the food.

"During World War H the club received a citation for their work in selling war bonds. When the police jury established a public library system in the parish, the M.C.B.'s felt they had completed their service in this field. So, in another splendid gestures they turned over all their books and their piano to La Garde Hospital in New Orleans and their building was loaned to the Red Cross for use as war headquarters.

Focuses on Local Hospital

"In 1947, the building was sold to Christ Episcopal Church for use as a parish house, and the M.C.B.'s, undaunted, centered attention on a local hospital, should one ever be built here.

"In 1954, the St. Tammany Parish Hospital was dedicated, with the faithful M.C.B. Club among its staunchest supporters. A check was presented from' the club to outfit the nursery with two incubators and eight basinettes and furnishings for a de luxe private room. 

"Later the club gave a steam table, for keeping meals hot to the hospital. They also gave a literal donation toward an iron lung.

"Now, as the faithful group detaches itself at last from the civic scene, there was one final gesture. Each member was made a life member of the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Guild at a cost of $425 for the present 17 active members.

"M.C.B. What does it stand for. All these years it has been kept secret — and in a woman's club, keeping a secret 62 years is quite an accomplishment.

"The present membership is Mrs. Elmer E. Lyons, Mrs. W. A. Hood, Mrs. Lenora Alexius, Mrs. Kane Martindale, Mrs. Ruble Blossman, Mrs. C. R. Schultz, Mrs. S. L. Guynn, Mrs. C. J. Schoen, Sr., Mrs. Mildred Dutsch, Mrs. Ruben Meyers, Mrs. Elms Frederick, Miss Josie Frederick, Mrs. Marie Louise Stevenson, Mrs. Monroe Simmons, Mrs. Henrietta Daul, Mrs. Bill Hutchinson and Mrs. W. F. McGlothlin."

End of St. Tammany Farmer article seen below

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