Beaufort County Library Records Finding Aid


Since Amanda Forbes came on staff in late June 2017, she has concentrated on organizing the archives portion of the Beaufort District Collection. She  finished an inventory begun by Ashley Sylva and has begun compiling Finding Aids to our holdings. We will place the Finding Aids in this blog on an irregular schedule as time allows. Our goal is to integrate all BDC Finding Aids into the SCLENDS catalog in the future. In the meantime, we are posting our Finding Aids here to provide researchers with the information they need to determine if our materials can help further their projects. 

In honor of National Library Week 2018, we publish the Finding Aid to our own institution’s records first.

Posted: 9 April 2018; Latest update: 11 February 2019

Beaufort County Library Records, 1862-2018 Accession #: 2017.023

Volume:  12 linear feet; Processed by: Amanda Forbes, 2017-2018;  Provenance: Records created by the Beaufort County Library system were and continue to be transferred to the Beaufort District Collection. Addition(s): October 25, 2017

Citation Form:  Beaufort County Library Records, Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library, SC

Copyright: Beaufort County Library

Historical Note:

In 1802 the Beaufort Library Society was formed and over the course of a few decades grew to about 3,000 books. Upon the arrival of Union troops to Beaufort the library, which was housed at Beaufort College, was seized and taken to New York to be sold at auction. The auction was stopped by the Secretary Treasurer Salmon P. Chase and the books were moved to the Smithsonian Institution for safekeeping until the conclusion of the war. On January 24, 1865 a fire broke out and destroyed the entire collection.

Beaufort was without a public library until 1902 when the Clover Club, a women’s literary and musical club, began a small subscription lending library. The library was moved to various buildings around town. The Clover Club collection survived the “Red Saturday” January 19, 1907 fire because of the actions of bystanders. The Clover Club steadily added to the collection until 1915.

Starting in 1911 the Clover Club began fund raising projects in order to fund the building of a permanent library structure. In 1915 State Senator Niels Christensen procured $7,500 from the Carnegie Foundation of New York to build a public library on property donated by the city to house the 2,000 books that had been collected thus far. Carnegie believed that “the community which is not willing to maintain a Library had better not possess it” and thus required a local contribution. The Carnegie fund along with the levy placed on property within the library district and donations was able to fund the building that still stands on the corner of Carteret Street and Craven Street. Members of the Clover Club would serve as Librarians. The building’s cornerstone was installed by the Harmony Masonic Lodge on June 7, 1917. The Beaufort Township Library officially opened to the public on March 25, 1918.

In 1931 the former Berean Presbyterian Church building at 602 Carteret Street was purchased by the Township Library Board of Trustees to be used as the library for black residents of Beaufort. The Colored Library facility opened in 1932. It was named the J.I. Washington Library in 1938 after the death of the local black lawyer who advocated strongly for a library facility that the majority African American population could use. The Washington Library merged into the Beaufort County Library officially in 1962 though the building remained open for several more years. J.I. Washington Library for Colored People closed its doors in 1965.

Between 1930 and 1950 Mabel Runnette, Head Librarian of the Township Library, was in contact with the Library of Congress in regards to the confiscated books that were burned in the Smithsonian Institution fire in 1865. Runnette and many of the Board members felt that the government should replace the books or give the Beaufort Township Library adequate compensation for the loss incurred by the community during the Civil War. Eventually in 1950, the library received duplicates and discards from the Library of Congress that were sold off recouping approximately $5000 for the confiscated and burned books.

In 1964, the library moved into the new building at 711 Craven Street under its new name, Beaufort County Library. The Beaufort County Library was fully integrated, serving both white and black residents of the area. The Library provided bookmobile service to the many rural areas of the county from 1963 to 1993. The Laura Towne Library at Penn Center on St. Helena Island became the first branch of the county library system in 1962.

The Laura Towne Library of Penn Community Center had the first bookmobile in the county starting in 1958, brought it into the Beaufort County Library in 1962, and ran it until 1966. In 1963, the Beaufort County Library purchased a 1952 bookmobile from Barnwell County Library. In 1966, the two old bookmobiles were traded in to get a newer bookmobile for the Beaufort County Library.

In 1969 Hilton Head opened a small, temporary branch in a modular trailer. It was the branch library until 1976 when the first permanent library building opened at   539 William Hilton Parkway. The third and current branch at 11 Beach City Road was built in 1998 on land donated by the Town of Hilton Head.

A volunteer group opened the Bluffton Community Library in 1983 at 48 Boundary Street. In order to comply with South Carolina State law, it became the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Library within a few months. Rapid growth in the Bluffton area led to groundbreaking for a new Bluffton Branch Library on June 8, 2001. The library opened in Bluffton Village at 120 Palmetto Way in November 2002.

Population growth and demographic changes in the 1970s proved the inadequacy of the 1964 Library facility in Beaufort.  The Scott Street library facility took eight years to plan and approximately 20 months to build at a cost of $2.9 million. The first floor containing 21,738 sq. ft. of space was physically linked to the 1964 Craven Street Library which became the children’s department.  In 1997, the Friends of the Beaufort County Library provide much of the funding necessary to finish the second floor interior of the headquarters building.

In 1991 the Beaufort County Public Library and the Beaufort County School District embark on a joint use experiment at James J. Davis Elementary School at 364 Keans Neck Road. When school is in session, it is an elementary school media center; in the afternoons and evenings, the facility is operated as a branch library serving adults and children.  In 1998 it was determined that there was a need for a larger facility in that part of the county. In 2002 Beaufort County leased the former Lobeco School auditorium from the Beaufort County School District. In 2003 all County Library staff, services and materials relocated from James J. Davis Elementary School to the Lobeco Branch Library at 1862 Trask Parkway in Lobeco.  

In 2011 the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the newly announced St. Helena Branch Library, which was built on land donated by the Penn Center. The library opened in October of 2012 and since then the library has won multiple design awards such as the AIA SC Interior Design Honor Award in 2015 and two IIDA awards for government institutions and best in show in 2014.

The Beaufort County Library reinstituted a Bookmobile service to rural areas of the County, nursing homes, and childcare facilities in June 2017.

A history of the Library was posted to the Beaufort County Library’s website on 10 April 2018.

Scope and Content Note:

The 12 linear feet of materials found within this collection cover the history, administrative details, statistics, correspondence, meeting minutes, finances, photographs, and ephemera that have been produced over the lifetime of the Beaufort County Library system. The collection covers the time period of 1914 up to the present day and the collection continues to grow as more materials are created.

The collection is comprised of 6 series: 1-Meeting Minutes;  2-Accession, Borrower, & Circulation Records; 3-Photographs;  4-Administrative records, clippings, and statistics; 5- Ephemera; and, 6-Hilton Head Island Branch Library Records. All material in folders have been placed in chronological order and any undated material is located at the back of each folder.

Subject Headings:  Beaufort County Library; Bookmobiles; Public services (Libraries);     Libraries–History–20th century; Library statistics; Library records; Photographs

Preservation Activities Performed:

While processing the collection, Amanda Forbes (AMF) removed rusted paperclips and staples and replaced them with vinyl coated paperclips, copied newspaper clippings to acid-free paper and destroyed the original newspaper clippings, and rehoused materials to acid-free folders and disposed of the original, acidic ones.

AMF destroyed the Lander College Correspondence 1984-85 folder as the records contained did not pertain to the Beaufort County Library system nor were they relevant to any other collection housed in the Beaufort District Collection. The Lander College Correspondence materials pertained to rejoining a membership and receiving a directory.

AMF merged three “Library History” folders into one since the materials belonged in one folder together and would be more helpful to researchers looking for this information.

AMF merged “Beaufort-Library” folder into the Replacement of Books folder, because this correspondence filled in the missing correspondence from 1940-1950. 

Collection Inventory

Box 1:

            Series 1: Meeting Minutes, 1926-1994

                            Binder 1: 1926-1967

                            Binder 2: 1962-1970

Binder 3: 1970-1976

Binder 4: 1976-1979

Binder 5: 1980-1987

Binder 6: 1987-1991

Binder 7: 1991-1994

Box 2:

            Series 2: Accession, Borrower, & Circulation Records 1914-1964, (39 ledgers)

                        Clover Club/Beaufort Township Library Accessions,                                        1914-1963 (19 ledgers)

                        J.I. Washington Branch Library Accessions, 1932-1962 (4 ledgers) 

                        Borrower Records, 1927-1964 (10 ledgers) 

                        Circulation Records, 1957-1963 (6 ledgers)

Box 3:

            Series 3: Photographs, 1864-2005

  1. 6 boxes of photo slides: 1 contains duplicates of duplicates of the Reed collection. 3 are of the Prologue to Freedom play.  1 has duplicate images of Beaufort forts. 1 has duplicates of Bay Street painting.
  2. 17 packages of photographic prints:contains images of all the library branches in the county(2001, 2005, parades and library floats(1999, 2001), volunteer parties, staff development day(2005), snake program(2002), puppet show, library openings/groundbreakings (2003), 2nd floor Beaufort construction(1996).
  3. Folder 1: Library Photos, undated: Images of exterior and interior of Beaufort Township Library

Box 4:

            Series 4: Administrative & Marketing Materials, 1862-1989  Includes reports and statistics, newspaper clippings, memos, correspondence, flyers, brochures                      


  1. Replacement of stolen books, 1862-1950:Correspondence between Mable Runnette, Beaufort Librarian, and various parties regarding the replacement of the confiscated books taken in 1862.
  2. Library History, 1862-2005
  3. Library Site History, 1889-1992
  4. Library related publications, 1922-1936
  5. Reports/Statistics, 1930-1957: For both the Beaufort Township Library and the J.I. Washington Library regarding attendance, circulation, additions to the libraries, finances
  6. Library Improvements, 1953-1987Specifications for library and building project history
  7. Gifts & Donations, 1954-2001: Jonathan Daniels collection, Susan Wales journal, and microfilm reader
  8. Book of the Month Club Award, 1963 (with photographs) Included a grant for $5,000 for the purchase of books
  9. Publicity, 1974-1989:Contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets, event flyers relating to the library branches.
  10. Strom Thurmond letter and attachments, 1982: Senator Strom Thurmond sent a letter to the Beaufort County Library with a copy of the Congressional Record for September 10, 1982 in which he discusses the historical significance of Beaufort, SC.
  11. South Carolina Library Network, 1989: Memos and correspondence regarding a news conference to be held on November 27, 1989 announcing Beaufort Library’s participation in the South Carolina Library Network, which provided access to the State Library database.

Box 5:

            Series 4: Administrative & Marketing Materials, 1990-2018  Includes reports and statistics, newspaper clippings, memos, correspondence, flyers, brochures


  1. 1990-2009: Articles, correspondence, event information
  2. Publicity, 1990: Contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets, event flyers relating to the library branches
  3. Publicity, 1991: Contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets, event flyers relating to the library branches
  4. Joel Patrick Catalog, 1993: Inventory of part of the Hayes collection of rare books and materials that were purchased for the Beaufort District Collection before 2004
  5. Dedications: Lobeco, Bluffton, Beaufort, 1993-2003 containing articles, event information, invitations, flyers
  6. Groundbreaking Hilton Head library, 1995: Event information and memos regarding the ceremony
  7. Transfers to museums, libraries, 1995: Deed of Gifts regarding research files sent to the South Carolina Historical Society and one notation regarding items transferred to the Beaufort Museum.
  8. BCL Capital Improvements Plan, 1998
  9. Y2K Plan, 1999
  10. Lobeco Library, 2001-2003: Materials regarding the renovation and opening of the library
  11. Preserving Church History, 2002: Program held in 2002 to help churches learn how to preserve their history; includes flyers, event information, evaluations of program, and transparent slides of images of Beaufort County churches.
  12. Preserving Church History, 2002: Contains registration forms from the churches participating and photo prints of images of churches
  13. One County One Book, 2003: The Water is Wide was the chosen book that year. County Proclamation and flyer.
  14. Beaufort County Library History, 2004: A paper written by Hillary S. Barnwell called “Bringing It All Together: The Founding of the Beaufort County Public Library”
  15. Beaufort District Collection, 2010-2016: Brochures, program information, relocation information, signs
  16. 2010-2017: Articles, correspondence, event information
  17. St. Helena Library: Promotional  materials about the new library.
  18. One Country Reads the Civil War, 2013: For the 150th anniversary of the war the library hosted numerous programs, exhibits, tours, and discussions for 3 weeks. Includes resources, webpage print-outs, photographs, event information, flyers
  19. Beaufort County Library Strategic Plans, Event Newsletters, Reports, 2003-2018
  20. “From the Beacon” Newspaper column, 2011 – 2014

Box 6:

            Series 5: Ephemera, 1991-2013

  1. 16 VHS Tapes: Volunteer party, interviews for news stations regarding library openings, lectures. 1 Betacam of Summer Reading program 1996.
  2. 11 CDs: Volunteer party, book reading, Clemson design presentations, news interviews, photographs
  3. New Harmonies T-Shirt
  4. Library buttons
  5. Best Public Improvement Award, 1995

Box 7:

            Series 6: Hilton Head Island Branch Records, 1971-1998


  1. Library history, notes for news bulletin, 1971-1985
  2. Furniture, floor plans, 1971-1983
  3. Building Program, 1973: Plan for the 1976 Hilton Head branch library
  4. Plans and Correspondence, 1973-1976: Primarily between Tom Wamsley and McGinty and Dye Architects about the 1976 Hilton Head branch.
  5. Miscellaneous Records about branch opening, 1974-1978: Building program, letters, history of library.
  6. New Library, 1991-1998: Design drawings, financial information, catalogs for library equipment and furniture
  7. Photographs, undated: Prints of the Hilton Head library branches (the 1969 mobile unit, the facility at 539 William Hilton Parkway, and the facility at 11 Beach City Road)
  8. Blueprints & Placard for groundbreaking

Box 8 (Oversize):

            Series 6: Hilton Head Island Branch Scrapbooks, 1969-2000 Scrapbooks– all contain black and white copies of newspaper articles and photographs: Scrapbook #1: 1969-1977; Scrapbook #2: 1978-1981; Scrapbook #3: 1981-1995; Scrapbook #4: 1995; Scrapbook #5: 1995-1996; Scrapbook #6: 1994-2000

 Binder 1: Series 4: Lobeco Branch Library clippings and photos, 1996-2003: Contains photographs of the building before renovation as well as newspaper clippings regarding the purchase, renovation, and creation of the Lobeco Branch.

Binder 2: Series 6: Hilton Head Island photo contest, 2008: Middle and High School photo contest to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the town of Hilton Head

Binder 3: Series 4: Press & media clippings, 2004-2012:  Newspaper clippings, event flyers, and press releases for all branches including the Beaufort District Collection.

Researchers may review these materials in the Beaufort District Collection Research Room during our regular hours of operation.

3 thoughts on “Beaufort County Library Records Finding Aid

  1. Is there anyone there that could do some research for me on early Purrysburg? My ancestor, Abraham Bininger, settled there in early 1730, and I believe died there by 1842. His son, also Abraham Bininger, moved to Savannah by 1842 and joined the Moravians.
    I would be happy to pay for the research time and any copies.
    Thank you.
    Gloria Lamm

    1. Dear Ms. Lamm, Beaufort is a “burned county” which makes research more difficult when the ancestors lived before 1865 and for this reason, the BDC is designed to host researchers who undertake their own work.

      BDC staff guide researchers through our materials. We share access to genealogical databases. We provide basic instruction in how to use the databases and resources we have in our Research Room. We provide general advice on how to approach genealogical research. We keep vertical files on particular families resident here for two or more generations when former researchers give us copies of their work. (Unfortunately we do not have one for the “Bininger Family.”) Regretfully, we do not have the staff necessary to perform in depth genealogical research for customers, whether in-house or those who telephone, e-mail, or send questions by mail. In other words, we provide materials and guidance that facilitate the work of family historians.

      There’s a list of some of the materials we have about the Purrysburg settlement posted in this blog at Which ones of these have you used thus far to track your ancestors?

      There are also two posts in the Connections blog I write about colonial South Carolina records
      and that you might find helpful. If you follow those links, you might get lucky.

      If the dates you provided are correct, Abraham Bininger would have been an incredibly old man for the time because 1730 to 1842 is 112 years apart. Do you have any evidence of his approximate age when he arrived in Purrysburg or his approximate age at death? – Grace Cordial

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