Library Roots (1893-1926)
People began settling in the McKinney area around 1845. As the town developed and more people were starting to settle in the area, the need for schooling and literacy grew. The members of the Owl Club would change the literacy resources offered in McKinney. The Owl Club was lead by Margaret (Maggie) Hurt.
Founding the Owl Club
Mrs. Ann S. Hurt brought her family to McKinney in 1846 from Abingdon, Virginia. Maggie, Ann's daughter, attended and excelled at the Muse Academy before studying at Wesleyan through a scholarship.
After completing her studies and marrying attorney M.H. Garnett, Maggie and some of her friends started a study group, which was a course by Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle of Chautauqua, NY, that provided books for a four-year course. Eventually several dozen women had joined the study. By 1893 the group, thirteen ladies hosted by Mrs. T.W. Wiley, had decided to re-organize and change its name to the Owl Club.
State Federation of Women's Clubs
The Owl Club and twenty other literary groups became the charter members of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs in Waco, Texas in 1897. The first priority of the State Federation was to obtain the money to develop public libraries in deserving towns. McKinney’s own Maggie Garnett and Julia Church were on the Executive Board who applied for and received $225,000Approximately $7,000,000 in 2023 dollars from Andrew Carnegie to build libraries in 1900. Unfortunately, none of this money went to McKinney. However, it did not stop the drive of Maggie and the other members of the Owl Club to create a library.
The Owl Club Creates the First Library
In 1896, the Owl Club members agreed to set side one dollar out of each membership fee and two dollars out of every initiation fee for a library. By 1900, the first library was established in the YMCA and later the Morrow Block with dues continuing to support it. The library was open only two years before it ran into financial issues. Maggie Garrett stored the 1500 volumes of books in her home. Several years later, due to continuing lack of necessary funding, the volumes were donated to J.H. Hill School.
Still working toward a library, the Owl Club established eight traveling libraries. A traveling library consisted of 50 books of different subjects that would loan to rural schools in the county for six months. This was successful at first, but demand quickly decreased. This project folded but that didn’t stop the Owl Club from working on getting a library. It would not be until 1927 that the library project had growth again.