Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (3/6/13): Who started the library?

I was driving through farmland; very rural, very open, very flat.  There were mile after mile of almond trees, walnuts trees, and pistachios.  Expecting nothing more than the occasional farm stand or packing shed, I was deeply surprised to find this giant stone monument on the side of the road.   

Naturally, I stopped on the gravelly roadside and leapt from my car to take this photo.  What’s the story with this?? 

Luckily, I have a friend who happens to live nearby.  She explained that this is a monument that a local farmer created to memorialize his life.  But at the time, there was a big controversy over putting it up.  

Apparently, part of the family wanted to use the money to build a public library in town and name it for him, rather than a useless, self-congratulatory giant granite obelisk in the middle of the farm. 

But the court thought that the will should be followed as specified, and so the monument was constructed as the former farmer had hoped. 

Later, the town ended up with a library after all, but it was a bit of a struggle for it to get started up.  Finally, the good citizens found a place in town to set up shop, and they accepted book donations to seed the initial collection.

Today’s question is this:
This monument is near the town that had to work hard to create a library after the battle of the will was lost.  In setting up their library shortly after the monument was erected, what two organizations pitched in to give the initial book collection to this nearby town library? 
 I know this seems like an odd question, but when I was doing my research into the history of the monument, I was very surprised by one of the organizations that contributed a book collection.  (I was going to ask what books they donated, but I figured that would be a bit too tricky. But if you feel inspired, let us know!) 

As usual, be sure to let us know the answer, how long it took you to find the answer, and your search path on the way.

Search on!


  1. Began with an image search. No luck since a lot of people put up obelisks as monuments.

    Searched for [ obelisk memorial farm library ] and found this article from 1988

    The article mentions [ Merced County Courthouse Museum ] so I searched for that next.

    Their web site didn't have anything.

    Next I searched for [ Fancher Monument "merced county" library ] to get a mention in a book

    From the words used there I searched for [ merced county free library ] to find a centennial exhibit on the history of the library.

    Part of the exhibit mentions the first librarian as Antoinette Humphreys.

    "She accepted gifts from Merced Book Club (Merced Ladies Library Club) and the W.T.C.U Reading Room."

    I wanted to find out what was the WTCU Reading Room so searched [ wtcu reading room merced ] Google wanted to correct me with WCTU reading room with mentions of "Womens Christian Temperance Union" I corrected Google with no I really want [ wtcu reading room merced ] with their "Search instead for wtcu reading room merced" link and saw that WTCU was possibly "Womens Temperance Christian Union"

    A link to a book caught my eye "Library journal, Volume 36"


    Here is link to the snippet about the creation of the library

    It appears that there were THREE organizations that first contributed to the formation of the library, Merced Book Club (Merced Ladies Library Club) the W.T.C.U Reading Room and 377 volumes were ordered to be transferred from the County Teachers Library.

  2. I did an image search and included the search term California and obelisk. I found the Merced obelisk.

    When I searched using those terms I found the following article from the LA times, which said that a local farmer, George Hick Fancher, was the person who left the money to build it.

    I searched on Merced Public Library history but didn’t find anything. All my hits related to a branch of the San Francisco library established around 1958.

    I tried various searches using Merced public library founding donations in several different combinations.

    So I went into advanced search for the phrase merced public library and struck pay dirt.

    Free Library of Merced accepted donations from the Merced Ladies Library Club

    Then I searched on Free Library of Merced and came to the main exhibit:

    The library was founded 1910-1911 and accepted donations from the Merced Ladies Library Club and the W.C.T.U. Reading Room. I know that W.C.T.U. stands for Women’s Christian Temperance Union because there is an old water fountain outside our local county courthouse that was erected by them.

    The Wikipedia entry that I found by searching W.C.T. U. Reading Room said that they established “temperance reading rooms” and there was a citation for Judy Barrett Litoff, Judith McDonnell.European Immigrant Women in the United States Taylor & Francis, (1994) 51.

    So I would presume that the collection included something on the evils of liquor, but I was not able to absolutely verify that.

    This took me about 45 minutes. A fun search!

  3. [obelisk in the farm california]
    [Merced county Free library]
    [many a page turned library ]

    The first donations accepted in the Merced County Free Library (founded in 1910-11) from its first librarian, Antoinette Humphreys, came from Merced Book Club (Ladies Library Club) - it had some 600 books - and WTCU Reading Room. The first was located in the balcony of Cody's Corner Drug Store (Msr. Cody was the librarian).

  4. I liked this question for a number or reasons.

    1) It is library oriented, and
    2) It involved several steps

    First thing I needed to find out was whereabouts you were driving. My hunch was California because that is where you work. To verify, or at least get me started, I made sure that pistachios, walnuts, and almonds are grown in California. They are, so that helped my search string, which was:
    [california farmer library obelisk]

    The first hit was an article called "Old Skinflint Left A Legacy Standing Tall in Peppers" ( This verified that George Fancer built the 68-foot obelisk in his honor after he passed away in the town of Tuttle. The article also talks about how Robert Gracey, a school teacher, tried to get the $25,000 to be spent building a public library.

    So, now that I'd verified the town, obelisk, and farmer, I next had to answer the question posed: what two organizations helped with the initial book collection?

    My first instinct was to search for [tuttle library] but when I came up with nothing (which makes sense for a town of approximately 100 people), I reread the question. The library is not IN the town of the obelisk but near it. I reread my article too, the proposed library was in Merced.


    And stuck. I performed tons of searches using regular Google, Google News, and Google Books. All gave me little useable information. I tried searches using every combination of merced, "robert gracey", history, library, etc. Finally, I stumbled across the official name of the library, Merced Free Public Library.

    Searching for this, I came across a page called 100 Years of Merced County Free Library hosted by the Merced Museum. There were some images/slides to peruse that gave a little history of the library, notably that the Merced Ladies Library Club and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Reading Room contributed gifts to the opening of the library.

    Furthermore, one of the slides gives a quote by librarian Antoinette Humphrey's in which she briefly describes the sort of books requested (alfalfa farming eucalyptus culture, and kindred subjects). The quote is from an article in Library Journal from July 1911.

    I did a search for the article in Google Books and came up with a hit (

    The article also mentions that the County Teachers' Library and State Library also helped.

    Curiously, no mention of Robert Gracey is mentioned.

    Hopefully this is the information you were looking for.

  5. perhaps you are referring to the donations by Merced Ladies Library Club & the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Reading Room.
    I do have to take issue with the way the question is formed and the characterization of George Hicks Fancher - he doesn't seem to be the ego driven scrooge you suggest; but rather a single guy who wanted to be remembered and task his heirs with erecting a suitable moument - which, by the way, he seems to have allocated ~ 2-5k for, with the remaining 20k going to a library building fund. Since he had bequeathed somewhere between 500-600k to his heirs, it is understandable that they might have gone a little overboard on the obelisk - in height, but it is rather modest in inscription. Holy Brinus DMR, does the 1% argument even have to bleed into SRS? Hate the rich guy... WTH?, the State of California will probably end up stealing the monument anyway when Fancher's Trust can no longer pay the property taxes... he incorrectly assumed $1,000 dollars would cover expenses well into the future.
    The Merced County Courthouse Museum would probably accept/direct donations... even from googlites.
    Fancher v Fancher
    Fancher ruling
    Fancher family history
    Fancher version more along your version
    Merced County Free Library

  6. The George Hicks Fancher Memorial Free Public Library was established in Merced, CA on August 21, 1905 with future donations from the Ladies Library Club & Merced County Law Library.

  7. Oh yeah... how'd I find it?

    1. I enlarged the photo to see the name listed on the front
    2. I did a general Google search for the fragments I could make out
    3. I took Google suggested correction and searched with that full name plus some additional information [george hicks fancher library merced opening donation]
    4. In these results was a book result in Google Books called "News notes of California libraries - Volume 4" from the California State Library in 1909. It contained the information you requested.

    Your quests are always fun, I often take a stab at them even if I don't enter.

  8. On the monument I can read: George Hicks Fancher.
    Searching on Google brought me to were I learned that the library in the question is the public library in Merced.

    Another interesting article:,6231326

    Both articles mention the Merced County Courthouse Museum. On their website I found the following document:

    The two organizations are: The Merced Ladies Library Club and W.C.T.U. Reading Room (Woman's Christian Temperance Union).
    See also
    and 100 Years of Merced County Free Library (

    30 minutes searching and reading

  9. The donations came from The Merced Book Club and the W.T.C.U. Reading Room.
    2:43 PM where do walnuts grow in the us? - Google Search
    2:44 PM Growing & Harvesting the Pistachio Nut - Farming of Pistachios
    2:45 PM Mystery-monument.JPG (2407×2688)
    2:46 PM
    2:46 PM
    2:49 PM
    2:50 PM
    2:50 PM merced library history fancher - Google Search
    2:52 PM Library journal - Charles Ammi Cutter, Library Association
    2:54 PM
    2:54 PM Merced County, CA - Official Website
    2:55 PM
    2:55 PM Merced County, CA - Official Website - Friends Of The Library
    2:56 PM Merced County, CA - Official Website - About Your Library
    2:57 PM merced county library history - Google Search
    2:57 PM "merced county library" history - Google Search
    2:58 PM
    2:58 PM Library journal - Library Association - Google Books

  10. This search for me was very hard. Tried many queries and tools until I believe I have the answer.

    Zoom picture to find: George Hicks Fancher

    Image with: George Hicks Fancher monument

    To find: Robert Gracey and Merced County.

    Searched many queries and in none found Robert Gracey.

    [Merced free Library ~origin]

    [james gillis merced library]

    Question:what two organizations pitched in to give the initial book collection to this nearby town library?
    A: Merced Book Club (Merced Ladies Library Club) and Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) Reading Room

    Nelson Lowell Adams Cody and his wife started a social library known as "Cody´s Corner Drug store"in 1901.

    The merced Country Library was the vision of James Gillis. Antoinette Humpreys was first
    librarian. she accepted gifts from the mentioned sources. People requested books on "Eucalyptus culture" and "alfalfa farming"

    James Gillis was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2012.

  11. WHAT DO I KNOW (deleted to keep brief)
    Image of farmer's monument may have clues
    Run image thru Goggles and Exif
    Zoom in on name looks like George Ricks Fancher
    Query [ george fancher monument]
    George Hicks Fancher monument Death Mar. 30, 1900 Tuttle Merced County California, USA
    Query [google news tuttle ca george fancher]
    Query [merced county library]
    Result --
    100 Years of Merced County Free Library. Found images such as
    Merced Book Club (Merced Ladies Library Club) and W.T.C.U. Reading Room donated books
    Query [ W.T.C.U. Merced library]
    Result --
    Merced, Merced co. Merced Free Reading Room. Mrs L. H. Wolfsen, President W. C. T. U., in charge. Established by W. C. T. U. June 18, 1908.
    Result Library Archives America- George Hicks . Fancher Memorial Free [Public] Library. J. W. Knox, President Library Trustees. Established August 21, 1905. Annual income of library $1600, received from taxation. No books as yet. $4056 on hand. Tax levy brings in about $1600 annually. Library trustees are awaiting the de- cision of the Supreme Court in $25,000 bequest. The Supreme Court had a rehearing of the Fancher library case in Sacramento. Nov. 10. It may be several months be- fore the matter is finally determined. — Merced Stin, Nov. 11.
    Query [google.scholar. legal documents Fancher]
    No result
    Query [google.books. w.c.t.u. books]

    Reference was made in another book " Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873-1933
    By Alison Marie Parker  Page 72 " that A Paradise Girl (sic) would be stocked in reading rooms and any other books could be added but must be reviewed by three W.C.T.U. workers before being placed on the shelf.
    Result -- A Paradise Valley Girl by Susanna M.D. Fry
    What did I learn along the way..
    Verify your results - In this search my first reference was the W.T.C.U should be W.C.T.U. but google helped me.
    The book was improperly named and I had to search for it as well.
    The first part of the search took a couple minutes, the rest took a couple hours because I couldn't find any mention of what books were put on the shelves. I had to find a book within a book.
    The W.C.T.U. was an interesting organization back in those days in particular.

    PS I receive emails for Wednesday Challenge Thursday 2:30 am. It would be nice to get earlier if possible.

  12. Tried getting the photo location for its EXIF data. No Luck. No luck on an image search either. My break came when I zoomed in on the photo and found the memorial was George Fancher. Google search led me to Merced as the nearby town. Finding the two organisations was a bit trickier.

    Googled "merced county library donated fancher" which gave me a link to Merced County, California - Biographies - 1925, where I found information on the cody family. Mrs cody along with two other ladies made a donation of books. Search for all three surnames (cody, baker and Brouse) which led me to Merced Ladies Library club as the first organisation

    Find the 2nd organisation was a bit easier now, by searching for " merced ladies library club and donated". This gave a link to 100 Years of Merced County Free Library on the merced musuem website where i found the 2nd was WTCU.

    All in all 30 minutes

  13. After Fancher's death, a local schoolteacher, Robert Gracey, filed suit to stop erection of the monument and calling for using the $25,000 instead to build a public library in Merced. The teacher saw a library as a more fitting tribute to the pioneer.

    mio - Photo of George Hicks Fancher, 1828 - 1900 8, 2010 – What it is the final resting place of local rancher George Hicks Fancher, 1828 - 1900. His tombstone was the subject of a lawsuit that whent to ...
    Legacy: .By .Charles Hillinger . in the side of the obelisk are two decorative scrolls and the inscription: george Hicks Fancher. Born New York State February 9, 1828 Died In California ...
    Well very interesting enough.
    Every day is a new day with so much fun and knowledge.!!
    All in All 25 minutes

  14. If anyone else has tried to find the court records I found this citation used for unrelated case (it's all I could copy and nothing else on the page helped).

    " Fancher v. Fancher (igog) 156 Calif. 13103. Fancher v. Fancher,"' a testator declared that $25,000 should be set aside for the erection of a suitable monument to his memory and directed that he should be buried on his ranch"

    Keep in mind that there was a second hearing in Sacramento which is likely the above citation.

    Let me know if you find it.

  15. That was tough! It took me just under 30 minutes. The answers are:
    1) the Merced Ladies Library club
    2) the women's Christian temperance union (this took the longest, and I imagine its what you were interested in)

    Since I didn't have a location, I tried to do an image search, but I discovered it was impossible on my iPhone. So I typed in a few of the facts of the story of the farmer into google, hoping to find a news story. Finding one, I got the name of Merced County (in California's Central Valley, which is of course where a googler would find a farm!). Then I found the Merced Museum's exhibition on the Library. I didn't immediately find the right passage, and so I googled around a bit more, but when I eventually came back to the exhibit (why, oh why, was it text on images?!), I found the correct info.

  16. Posting our answer late. Did this yesterday but never posted our answer-
    We also got the same answer:
    Merced Ladies Library Club and the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

    This search took longer than we (working with colleague Anne again)anticipated. Started with an image search with no results. Then Anne suggested zooming in on the picture which yielded the name George Hicks Fancher. Doing a search with his name in quotes with monument and california brought us to the same article many people got So we knew that this was right monument and we now needed to find out about the library. This took a lot of time. After trying several search queries (we found that we had to have Merced county and that it was the free library and NOT the public library) we hit a result We found the answers on this page. We continued trying to find what the titles of some of the books were but after a while we had to stop as we were getting busy in our library.
    Loved that this was a search that involved libraries!

  17. I have been inquiring about the George Hicks Fancher monument for a long time. He is my great grand uncle and my great grandfather was one of the will executors and heirs. (The lawsuit was, to my knowledge, entirely between three surviving brothers of George: appellant Jonathan W. Fancher Jr., and executors Lee R. and Charles W. Fancher.) The executors attempted to build a smaller monument and use the rest of the $25,000 from the will for a memorial free library. They first won at the lower court but lost on appeal, with all the memorial funds going toward the larger monument. I am still looking for a copy of the will, as well as the current monument property owner and maintenance trust manager. I would also like to hear from any descendant's of Jonathan W. Fancher, Jr.