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Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877


Holmes’ headstone in Odd Fellows Memorial Park, Tumwater

Frederick S. Holmes, 1875-1877

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

He was born May 8, 1849 in Chicago and spent his early years in Kenosha, Wis. Holmes arrived in Olympia Nov. 9, 1853 with his parents, Samuel and Mary. Only 25 years of age, he was the first Territorial Librarian to be appointed directly by the Governor. According to Maryan Reynolds in The Dynamics of Change,

When Yantis vacated the position of librarian in 1875, members of the bar campaigned for Governor Elisha P. Ferry to reappoint Mossman to the post. Ferry, however, nominated Josiah H. Munson. The Legislative Council rejected Ferry’s candidate– a singular occurrence in Washington’s history. Ferry then nominated Frederick S. Holmes, who was approved by the council and served until 1877. When Holmes resigned, he cited the pressure of personal business, but wrote, ‘I have arranged with my successor to take charge after tomorrow.

Apparently some deal had been made with House Speaker Elwood Evans or the post was filled by some unknown acting-Librarian, as Reynolds adds,

In 1875, the legislature passed a joint resolution instructing Holmes to move the library from Tacoma Hall in downtown Olympia to its old quarters in the capitol building. Holmes apparently ignored the order, for the 1877 session again required the librarian to move the library back to the capitol within five days. Because Holmes was no longer librarian at the time of this order, Elwood Evans, the Speaker of the House who had signed the order, took over the post and obeyed what he had instructed himself to do.

Holmes worked as a bookkeeper and printer for the Washington Standard and later the Olympia Transcript. He tried his hand at the hardware and grocery businesses and eventually ran a fruit farm just northeast of Olympia. He died in April 1916.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

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