Lily Dale librarian addresses the Dunkirk Rotary Club

Mandi Shepp, Librarian at Marion H. Skidmore Library in Lily Dale, recently shared with the Dunkirk Rotary Club the history of Lily Dale and the changes that she has spearheaded at the Library to make it more accessible to the public in the two years she has been there.

Lily Dale was founded in 1879. Jeremiah Carter and Willard Alden were two important members interested in Spiritualism. Alden owned land on the border of Lily Dale where picnics were held and Spiritualist could gather. A tradition of an annual one-day meeting in the summer was begun which was open to all. A meeting with Carter resulted in the “camp session” lasting one week in the summer.

In 1879 the Spiritualist group formed a corporate body for the purpose of purchasing the land from the Alden family after Willard Alden’s death. Men and women worked together to clear trees and brush from the forest which now makes up the town of Lily Dale. The group decided that lots would never be purchased, but leased by the Assembly with a 99-year lease.

In 1880, the first speaker was Elizabeth Lowe Watson. The first cottage on the grounds was built on the present site of the Library on Cottage Row. By 1893, there were 215 cottages and 40 families living there. In 1886, the Library was initiated. In 1888, the Lily Dale post office was established and Library Hall was built to hold Marion H. Skidmore’s growing collection of books.