Bonne Terre is proud of the fact our library is one of the five oldest libraries in Missouri. Around 1867, J. Wyman Jones, president of the fledgling St. Joseph Lead Company, and Dr. Charles B. Parsons, the mining superintendent, brought civilization to Bonne Terre by contributing their books for a library and having boxes of books shipped from the other directors and stockholders of the company in New York. In the early 1880’s the collection, then called the St. Joe Reading Room, was moved to a building at Main and Young Streets.
Some years later the “Natatorium” (the old swimming pool) was built and the library was moved into that building. The room on the left of the entrance was used for the books while across the hall was a reading room. The library was open every day except Sunday.
When Mr. Jones died in October 1904, his son, Dwight A. Jones, succeeded him as president of the company. In his father’s memory, Dwight Jones contributed the funds to erect the now-historic library building. It was built of Bedford Limestone and placed in a park-like setting enclosed by a low stone wall. The fireplace mantel in the Reading Room is a massive piece of oak supported by oak columns, with a marble facing and a brick hearth. In 1907 Mrs. Dwight A. Jones presented a clock, made in England in the 1800’s to the library. The clock still stands in the entrance and keeps fairly accurate time. Mr. Wyman Jones’ picture hangs over the mantel in the reading room.
In January 5, 1905 the State of Missouri issued a charter to the Bonne Terre Memorial Library. On November 3, 1905 Mr. Dwight Jones formally presented to the library association the limestone building as a memorial to his father. On November 5 the doors opened for the first time.
The St. Joseph Lead Company supported the library until the mines closed. In 1976 operations were deeded to the city of Bonne Terre. The city funds the library through the general operating budget yearly, with no special tax imposed on city residents.
In December 1998 Howard and Joyce Wood donated over $500,000 to build an addition to the existing building housing the Bonne Terre Memorial Library. Friends of the library and others raised an additional $300,000 to complete construction and to furnish the addition. Included in the fundraising were two computer grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation valued at over $50,000, before the end of 2005.
The Library welcomes newcomers to take advantage of all offered services.