This cabinet, a simple, homely closet of pine, was the nursery of Norwood’s first public library. It measures 6′ 1/2” high, 3’ 5” wide, and 7 1/2” deep. It held a collection of 95 volumes–mostly classics. Today, it can be seen at the F Holland Day House where it stands a little over six feet tall with Its sky blue paint marked and pitted by over two hundred years of time.
Originally, it was owned by the Rev. Thomas Balch, minister of the First Congregational Church of Norwood. In 1769, on the land which is now 230 Lenox st., a second church was built by the Congregational Society. Reverend Jabez Chickering, successor and son-in-law to the Reverend Balch, became the minister of what was called the South Dedham Parish and gave his personal library to the church in 1790. Reverend Balch had placed this cabinet in his study when he assumed his church responsibilities in 1736. Inside its doors, faintly written in lead pencil in old-fashioned hand-writing is the word “Library”. The word was probably written by Rev. Chlckerlng in 1790. In doing so, he took a radical step in mixing worldly culture with theology. For the purpose of gaining information and self Improvement, Rev. Chickering had established a library for the twenty-seven members of his parish.
The collection was so limited that members drew lots to see which books they could read, and the books were checked out alphabetically. One record, dated 1792, reads, “21y That the first Wednesdays of Jany April, July & Ocr. shall be the times of taking out books – and that books be returned the day before drawing one hour after sunset allowed for taking out as before..”
It was called “The Social Circulating Library”. Twenty- seven members of the parish, which represented almost every family in town, organized the library for “the purpose of gaining information and self-improvement” and books were distributed every Sabbath. When he cataloged the books on a slip of paper and posted it inside the door of the cabinet, he could never have known that he was establishing himself as the grandsire of what is now the Morrill Memorial Library.