Appanoose County History
January 15, 1903: Hundreds of people arrived in town for the dedication of Drake Public Library. From Des Moines, two special trains traveled the Wabash and Central train tracks. One carried Iowa’s governor, Albert Baird Cummins and 300 state officials. The other brought 500 Drake University students, including their band and glee clubs. Guests were served food at the Armory Opera House, at the Presbyterian Church and at another building given by Drake to the town, the Central Church of Christ on Drake Avenue. One thousand bronze medals were sold at 25 cents each. On the steps of the library, Governor Cummins gave a speech. Ex-governor Drake lifted a key. He unlocked the door and handed the key to Mayor Callen. People cheered. Unknown then, the opening of the Drake Public Library would be Drake’s last public event. Enfys McMurry Appanoose County History published in Daily Iowegian.
….”And yet another revelation greeted Drake. The Daily Citizen reported it thusly: “When Governor Drake entered the library with Governor Cummins and his party, he was greeted with another surprise, for there in a conspicuous place was a life sized portrait of himself handsomely mounted and framed in gold leaf….” Incidentally, this portrait still hangs in the library.
Drake visited the library in early March of 1903 and decided more furnishings were needed and told the Library Board “he would pay for it.” He gave them $700 with the understanding if still added funds were required, he would cover the cost.
“Let us remember this library is not alone for our generation, but for generations yet to come. Men die but institutions live on. Let us then, fellow citizens, appreciate our gift by considering what it means for the present and future.” Remarks delivered January 15, 1903 by Reverend George W. Adams at the dedication dinner honoring the Library donor General F.M. Drake—excerpted from The Drake Free Public Library: The Story about its gift and dedication in January 1903 by Robert K. Beck
Drake University was established in Des Moines, Iowa in 1877. The Drake gift proposal was formalized by an April 9, 1901 letter to “The Honorable Mayor and the City Council of Centerville, Iowa.” Therefore Centerville did not choose a library over a university. This is a myth that has circulated for years!