Rev. Henry L. Edwards, Donor of Edwards Library

Excerpt from Essay written by Dorothy F. Howland (11/3/1975)

Henry uther Edwards
Henry Luther Edwards

Rev. Henry L. Edwards, donor of Edwards Library, was born in Southampton in 1815 and died Feb. 25, 1903 in Northampton at age 82.

In his will he left $5000 for a library to be built in this town with the stipulation that the town should “give a lot for it.”  “The land on which is stands was purchased with $1000, bequeathed by Mrs. Phoebe Sheldon,” according to history.

Edwards’ will was signed in 1897, and in it he also left $75 for an enlarged photograph of himself “at age 50 or 60″ to be put in the Southampton library.  He wrote,” I am not sure this is not or hardly can be from any feeling of vanity.” 

The will itself was an interesting document and was the subject of newspaper notices. It was contested because of the many stipulations regarding bequests to his son, Halley Winslow, who later became Judge  Winslow Edwards of Easthampton, and the numerous codicils.  According the newspaper reports of that year, the will was broken, but the money for the library was given, and the building erected in 1903 and dedicated in 1904.

Rev. Edwards’ Portrait 

Taken from an article by Penny Humphrey from Union -News (April 5, 1988) 

With Edwards’ bequest, the library was built.  But no pictures of the benefactor hung on the walls.

[Dorothy] Frary, who became library director in the mid-1970s, was cleaning in a storage area shortly after she was named director when she found two photographs.  

“There were two portraits in this little hideyhole,” she said describing a storage area under the stairway that leads to the children’s library in the basement of the building.  The area has since been enclosed.  

“We had these two men.  One, a very fierce looking man, and this one.  They were both the same size and both pretty fancy photographs.  But we had no idea who they were.  There no names-nothing.” she said.

Frary mentioned the photographs to Dorothy Howland, a woman then in her late 70s who was a Southampton native and formerly a reporter for the former Springfield Morning Union.

Howland who is now dead, decided to bring her cousin Helen Coleman, also of Southampton to the library. Coleman, who also is now dead, was in her 80s.

“They were this man’s (the benefactor’s) nieces,” Frary said.  “So they came over together.  Well, Helen says ‘That’s Uncle Henry,’ pointing to this one,” Frary said pointing to the  picture now hung on the library’s wall.

“And Doroty says, ‘No. That’s Uncle Henry,’ pointing to the fierce looking one.  We laughed a lot about it. “And then Helen said, ‘I am the oldest and I remember him the best.’ So that became Uncle Henry,”  Frary said looking at the portrait on the wall that was framed and hung in honor the the library’s benefactor.

Frary said she does not know what became of the other photograph, but said it’s probably in the library somewhere. 

This might be the wrong picture,” Frary said.  “But we took the best word we could for it.


Return to the Edwards Public Library website.