Caledon Public Library

History of Library Service in Caledon

The following is an excerpt from A History of Peel Country, published under the authority and instruction of The Corporation of the County of Peel, November 1967. 

Chapter Five - Libraries a Notable Asset: Covering Over a Century by Hazel McCallion

The legislature of the Province of Canada passed the first general library legislation in 1851, providing annual grants for the Mechanics' Institutes. One of the aims and objectives of the Mechanics' Institute was the "Formation of a Circulating Library and Reading Room". Dr. Egerton Ryerson, Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada included in his comprehensive plans for education, provisions for the establishment of school and township libraries. Legislation was passed in 1850 and 1855 and the County Councils were authorized to set up school libraries and general public lending libraries. In 1858 the government grants to the Institutes were discontinued as they were found, upon investigation, to be in unsatisfactory condition. This set a precedent for making financial aid conditional on the meeting of standards. In 1853 a central book depository was established in the Education Office, through which the libraries were supplied with books at wholesale prices, and government grants were added to match the local expenditures for books. There was strong opposition especially from book sellers, to this policy and so in 1881 the depository’s operations were discontinued, although the libraries continued to receive matching grants for their book purchases until 1888. During the 25 years of its existence the depository had supplied to the libraries about three hundred thousand books. After Confederation in 1867, the newly formed Province of Ontario resumed the provision of grants to the Mechanics’ Institutes and in 1872 te government assumed a supervisory role by providing for school inspectors to visit the Institutes periodically.

Herewith unfolds the glorious history of the establishment of Libraries in the “Banner County” of Peel:


The library in Caledon Village (formerly called Charleston), now known as “J. T. Thomas Memorial Library” was first established in 1883 under the Mechanic’s Institute. The official documents were registered in Brampton and the first president was Rev. Alex McFaul. The books were originally kept in the station, and Chas. Campbell, station agent, acted as librarian. In March of 1886 the Institute library was moved to the courthouse, that is the town hall building. Frank Birdsall was appointed librarian as a salary of $12.00 a year. The minister’s report of 1886 listed Caledon as having a reading room, one newspaper, 559 vols. And 1075 books issued from May, 1885 to May, 1886. The library was to be opened on Saturday afternoons. In 1892 Wm. Rutledge became the secretary-librarian. When this institute was formed Wm. Rutledge and James Bell collected the sum of $236.35 from 97 people to help finance the project. Later, concerts and lectures not only helped to supplement membership fees in financing the library, but provided education and entertainment for the community.


The hamlet of Claude has enjoyed the services of a library since 1878 when a Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Institutes was organized at the Claude Hall, with a C. D. Spalding as the first president. Members paid an annual fee of one dollar, readers had the use of the library room for 15c a month; a fine of one cent per day was levied on overdue books. Money was raised through entertainments, lectures and debates. Library open every Saturday evening from 7-9 o’clock, and only one book was issued to each members. Dr. May’s report of 1880 stated that Claude had an excellent selection of books, in glass cases, kept in the offices of Dr. Robinson, who gave his accommodation free. The first librarian was Mr. Wm. Algie. There was a catalogue of some 600 books and in 1892 the book stock was valued $1100. The library room, in the residence of Dr. Emmerson, and later Dr. Burns continued to be used until 1924 when the [resent building was erected at a cost of $300-labor was donated. Mr. Ed. Smith made a gift of the land. The Claude Library became a member of the Peel County Library Association in 1948. Owing to the widening of the highway, in 1964 it was necessary to re-locate the library, and the building was moved to its present location on a lot purchased from Mr. Elmer Campbell. In 1966, the library ceased to function as an association, and became a part of the Township Library Unit. At this time there were 43 member families and a circulation of 4454 books.


Belfountain Mechanics’ Institute was established about 1887. Peter McTaggart was the librarian and the books were kept in his store. Later the library was moved to the hall. The end of the hall was made into shelves. Doors were put on and were kept locked. In 1887-88 there were 65 members and $37.00 was collected in membership fees, and there were 140 volumes in the library. Concerts to raise money were held in the hall.


The Mono Mills Mechanic’s Institute was organized in March, 1894. In May, 1895 at the annual meeting, R.S. McBride was elected as president. A committee was formed to solicit members and boom the organization generally. A good selecting committee bought almost three hundred books, all choice, instructive and interesting. The books were first kept in the home of Mrs. Ryan, who acted as the librarian. About the end of 1894, the books were moved to an empty store owned by Miss J. E. Lewis. Mr. Lewis who lived beside the library kept the key and his son, C.W. Lewis recalls, as a schoolboy, letting people in and out to get books. Subscription fees were supplemented by government grants and grants from Albion and Caledon Councils.


Alton Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1883, and Wm. Algie was made the first president. Membership fees were supplemented by grants and proceeds of lectures, plays and dances. The books were first kept in a small frame building on the present site. It was soon replaced by the current brick building. In 1884 there were 35 members and 254 volumes which grew in four years to 52 members and 948 volumes.


Inglewood Mechanics’ Institute was organized in 1891 and W.C. Thompson was the first president. Originally the books were kept in a corner of the Public Hall, were moved to a room above the store of S.C. Walker, now the Spratt & Son’s Hardware store. Later, David Graham built a room on the church, the library was moved there and became known as the Inglewood Public Library. In 1891 the Institute had 178 volumes and 104 members. In 1936 the Inglewood Women’s Institute bought a former bake shop and ice cream parlor, and made a library in one of the rooms in this building. They paid the librarian and helped with the financing of the library. Mrs. J. Dodd has been the librarian for the past 18 years, and plans soon to retire. There are round 4000 books on the shelves now, with a yearly circulation of over 5000.

In 1961, Inglewood was one of three libraries consisting of Caledon, Alton and Inglewood, taken over and now known as the Caledon Township Public Library.


This Institute drew up its charter in 1885 and the first president was Wm. Hanna. Mr. Clark, station agent, was the first librarian and the books were kept in the station. They were soon moved to the upper haul in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Caesar. Mrs. Caesar was the librarian for several years. In 1885 the Institute had 73 members and 187 volumes. Money was raised through the payment of a membership fee of fifty cents per person. The government and municipal grants supplemented the funds available for books.


The Albion Subscription Library at Bolton’s Mills was founded in 1840 by Charles and James Bolton. There were 24 members and 150 books, chiefly history, biography, travel, science and very few fiction. This library was closed 1860 and the books on hand divided among the new members. In 1868 the Mechanics Institute was begun, and a good supply of the books bought. Captain Booth was the librarian and the first telegraph operator when the T.G. & B. line went through Bolton. The books were originally kept in a bookcase in the telegraph office and were covered with papers. In 1884 the library was reorganized with Dr. David Bonnar, M.D. as president. In 1894 the name was changed to Bolton Public Library and was moved to the residence of Mr. Jas. Stork, the local apothecary, whose daughter Nancy was appointed librarian. Two rooms of the house on Queen St. S., were used, the front room was a reading room, open every week day, and containing daily and weekly papers, and some magazines. Behind this was the library which was open every Wednesday and Saturday. Miss Stork resigned her post in 1914 and from then on the library waned, being closed down several times and moved around to different locations. For the past twenty years it operated in a small room in the Town Hall, as an Association Library with funds coming from fees and small grants. In February 1964, the Association Library Board asked the Bolton Council to pass a by-law setting up a Public Library. This brief was consequently granted, and an agreement was signed with the Township of Albion that they would jointly build a new modern library building, as a Centennial project. The people of the community look forward to the opening of their new Public Library, with a trained librarian, Mrs. J.C. Malcomson in charge and an enthusiastic Library Board.


The Cheltenham Farmers and Mechanics’ Institute began about 1883.

In the opinion of older residents of Cheltenham, the books were first kept in the home of Matthew Wilkinson who was undertaker and cabinet maker. His house, now torn down, was on the north side of the old hotel. The books were kept at the front, and Mr. Wilkinson’s daughter, Maggie, was the librarian.

The Minister’s Report of 1884 states it is “a new Institute” and that “the library is in a room behind the store”. It was kept in the store in succeeding years.

The 1884 Report lists Cheltenham as having 103 volumes, 51 members, and 206 volumes issued. By 1888 there were 850 volumes.

Evening classes in drawing were held in 1885. There were 21 students. The subjects taught were Freehand, Geometrical, Perspective, Model, Memory ad Blackboard Drawing. Those successful in the examinations were Miss Mary C. Campbell and James Haines in Model Drawing, and Albert Shipley in Geometry. Drawings were sent to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held in London, for which each Institute that exhibited was awarded a Diploma and Medal.

In 1886 there were 17 evening class commercial students. The subjects taught were Book-keeping, Arithmetic and Writing.

Membership fees (1887) were $1 for 12 months or 50c for 6 months. In March, 1885, Rev. Dr. Moffat of Walkerton gave a lecture in the Presbyterian Church in connection with the Institute, and in 1888 a Christmas Concert was arranged.

The minutes of this Institute have not yet been preserved. Rev. Mr. Gilchrist helped in the selection of the books. The names of others most active in the early years of the Institute have unfortunately been forgotten.


You can find the full book in CPL's collection.