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Library History

Old library building image from 1954
This is the first library building, which was located on the south side of State Street near the river.

About the Messenger Public Library of North Aurora

Like many towns and villages along the Fox River, North Aurora began in 1834 as a mill built by immigrants who saw opportunity. Public services slowly expanded as the village population grew. Thanks to the Works Progress Administration federal initiative, the North Aurora Public Library opened on May 8, 1937. Emeline Schneider Messenger was a sustaining force in the establishment and success of the public library. In recognition of nearly 50 years of her service, the public library was renamed Messenger Public Library of North Aurora in 1985. Today, the library serves over 7,600 residential cardholders, along with consortium members, reciprocal borrowers, and the general public.

Birth of the Village of North Aurora

Portrait of John Peter Schneider
Undated portrait of John Peter Schneider.

John Peter Schneider (1801-1883) was a native of Frankfurt-on-the-Rhine, Germany. He and his brother, John Nicholas, immigrated to America in 1824 and worked as millwrights, among other things, in Philadelphia. There John Peter met Christina Wohrer, whose family was also from Germany. They married in 1826, and John Frederick, the first of five children, was born in 1828. The family moved west and settled on the banks of what is now North Aurora in 1834. John Peter built a cabin for his family and a dam to power a sawmill on the Fox River. Resident mail was delivered here and addressed to Schneider’s Mill or Schneider’s Crossing. Between 1860 and 1862, John Peter and John Frederick built a gristmill on the west bank of the river. A post office was established in 1868 and officially named North Aurora. The Village of North Aurora was incorporated in 1905.

Village and Library History Intertwined

Comparison of current library building at 113 Oak to older building at 14 E. State.
MPL buildings: 14 E. State and 113 Oak.

As the population of this farming community grew, a school was created on land donated by John Peter Schneider to serve children on both sides of the Fox River. The first church services were held in the same building as the school room. Individuals sold groceries out of their homes. In 1868, a covered bridge was purchased from Aurora and became the first bridge to span the river. Businesses, including a creamery, foundry, and woodworking company, began to thrive, assisted by the establishment and growth of railroad lines. Soon, a village government, police department, and volunteer fire brigade were formed.

The Schneider family grew along with the population. John Frederick married Charlotte Denham in 1858, and they had nine children. Their first child, George Schneider, was born in 1859, just before work on the gristmill began. George built his home in North Aurora and married Grace Hotz. Their daughter, Emeline Catherine Schneider, was born in 1902. The Schneider family was well-established at this point, and Emeline grew up with a large extended family nearby, many of whom were involved in education. Emeline attended Aurora West High School  and Rockford College, where she majored in French and music. Emeline married Howard Messenger, and they had two children, Barbara and Deborah.

Group of children posed around a North Aurora Public Library banner with a giant bookworm.
To celebrate 150 years of North Aurora, the village threw a summerlong parade. North Aurora Public Library staff marched in the parade as a large bookworm.

Mrs. Emeline Schneider Messenger, as the great granddaughter of John Peter Schneider, became involved with the North Aurora Public Library in 1937 during its infancy as a WPA project when all library staff were volunteers. The library opened with 1,000 books donated by the Aurora Public Library, Aurora College, the Extension Division of the Illinois State Library, and private collectors. The books were housed in an old building that was previously used as a post office and was shared with the community’s meeting and polling space.  The entire expenditure to open the library was $23.11.

Mrs. Messenger was key to the fledglining library’s growth. When WPA support for the library was withdrawn in the early 1940s, Mrs. Messenger led the dedicated volunteers to keep the library running. In 1952, a new building was built on the east side of the Fox River for use as a Village Hall and Fire Department. The library moved into the new building and once again shared space with the Village Board.  In 1962, a referendum was passed to support the library through local tax dollars, and volunteers could finally be paid for their work. Mrs. Messenger continued to grow the library. After a series of renovations and expansions within the 14 E. State Street building, the library completed purchase of the building and renamed it Messenger Public Library of North Aurora in 1985. Mrs. Messenger retired shortly after that. MPL eventually moved from State Street to its current location on Oak Street in 2003. VIEW LIBRARY/VILLAGE TIMELINE

Further Reading

Craig, R. (2023, 2 August). North Aurora 101 [PowerPoint slides]. Adult Services Department, Messenger Public Library.

Edwards, J., & Edwards , W. (2006). North Aurora, 1834-1940. Arcadia Pub.

Wiedeman, D., ed. (1984). Schneider’s Mill North Aurora 1834-1984.

Library’s Historical Repository

The Messenger Public Library of North Aurora is the repository for a small collection of historical materials that document North Aurora and its people, government, institutions, economy, housing, religion, clubs, entertainment, culture, and family life. This collection is still actively being organized, and historical materials are not publicly accessible at this time. Watch this page for updates!

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Messenger Public Library of North Aurora

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