Lanier Library’s women a force for good for Tryon

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lanier Library celebrates 125 years
By Gina Malone

As if planning and fundraising for a library were not enough to occupy its time, the Lanier Club, from its inception in 1890, was also involved in civic affairs, often to the consternation of the men in town. In the library’s earliest days, of course, women still did not have the vote, yet here were women writing letters, offering suggestions, and, in many cases, simply taking on tasks themselves. Minutes of meetings record many instances of committees being formed to tackle social issues and to pressure town officials or state representatives to get things done.

As one member expressed it, “…the women of the Club learned to give no hints and ask no favors but to do it themselves.” Her comment referred to the club’s forming a committee to prod some slow-moving gentlemen to proceed with the Tryon Cemetery project to which the Lanier Club had donated $42 four years earlier.

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Street clean-up campaigns necessitated a committee in 1912. The club encouraged, with annual flower shows, the planting of gardens and shrubberies in town, including around the train station. At one point, they cleaned the waiting room at the train depot, a deed, notes say, which “should be written in capital letters.”  Around 1914 they had a fountain, primarily as a drinking trough for animals, designed and erected near the railroad station. Southern Railway, it seems, had expressed willingness to cooperate with the ladies’ efforts to improve the depot and its grounds.

Among their many causes throughout the years were petitioning the state Railway Commission for safer railroad crossings in Tryon, organizing a public meeting on ways to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, urging the postmaster to clean up the post office and to provide cuspidors, and even lodging a written protest against polygamy when a Mormon congressman from Utah arrived in Washington.

During the World War I, the club signed a petition to put themselves on record as favoring peace though they were active in war relief efforts, serving as headquarters for the Red Cross and supporting two French orphans. Besides helping to roll bandages, the club also offered entertainment and meeting space for soldiers quartered close to Tryon. With a training camp at the foot of Hogback Mountain, the library was rented out for dances for young soldiers.

The Lanier Club, begun as a shelf of books, became a force in the town – an educational booster club before there was a PTA; a civic organization before the Rotary Club came to town; a theater venue before the days of Tryon Little Theater and the Tryon Fine Arts Center; a supper club before there were restaurants; a Ladies Exchange before there were boutiques and bakeries; a beautification committee before there was a Tryon Garden Club. The library’s books even shared shelf space for a time with the early Polk County Museum. There seems never to have been hesitation wherever the ladies saw a need.

“No wonder then,” state the 1929 notes of Mrs. George Morton, president of the club in the early 1900s, “the Lanier Club has received so many gifts and so much has been done for it. Each member [has done] the best to further the interests of the town and its people – in the library, the school, the cemetery, helping to beautify the town, preserve the flowers, entertain the guests, and all done skillfully and graciously. A Club like that was bound to live and flourish.”

Next week, read how the ladies focused on education, organizing Moonlight Schools and offering helping hands, sometimes unwelcome, at the local school.