405 East Sixth Street
Blue Earth, MN 56013
507-526-5421
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from
10 to 12 and 1 to 3 or by special appointment.

Etta C. Ross Memorial Library Museum

100 3684The Faribault County Historical Society received the Etta C. Ross building from the city of Blue Earth in November, 1989. This beautiful Museum has much to offer each visitor and one is tempted to just meander throughout the building, peeking back into the history of Faribault County and those brave souls who found their way here in those early days.

Etta (Marietta Mary) Chadbourn was born to Nathaniel & Susan Chadbourn in 1854 and moved with her family to Blue Earth City in November of 1869. She was 15 years old.  They had left Maine, a very civilized community with established farms and cities, in 1867 to go to Columbus, Wisconsin.  They then traveled by train to Albert Lea, Minnesota, as far west as the railroad had been built.  Knowing that it would continue to be built westward, they saw an opportunity here in Blue Earth, a village of only a few hundred people, that had already been designated the County Seat of Faribault County.  Etta completed her common school education in 1870 then attended Wisconsin Female College at Fox Lake, Wisconsin, graduating in 1875.  Upon returning to Blue Earth, she became a teacher as teaching was the only occupation for unmarried girls at that time.  She taught at the Blue Earth School and was one of the leading advocates of reading and literature in the community.

Nathaniel Chadbourn, Etta's father, settled into the community, had built a house at 229 West Sixth Street and founded the City Bank, the Chadbourn family bank.  One young bank employee, William E. C. Ross, became smitten with Etta's charms, pursued her and eventually won her heart.  William and Etta were married on April 9, 1879.  The following year a son, Guy Whittier Chadbourn Ross, was born to them.  In time, they built their home at 425 East Fourth Street where Etta homeschooled Guy until 1890. He then began attending the Blue Earth school and graduated. He then attended Carleton College, the University of Chicago and  Harvard Law School becoming a practicing attorney in Duluth then professor of political science and department chair at St. Thomas College, St. Paul.

Etta was one of the founders of the Blue Earth Chautauqua Society and for many years served as its President.  Etta C. Ross died unexpectedly of pneumonia on March 21, 1903, while wintering at Pasadena, California, at the age of 48 years old.  She is buried in Riverside Cemetery at Blue Earth.

Following her death, William proposed and built a library to perpetuate the memory of his beloved wife.  The Etta C. Ross Memorial Library was dedicated and presented to Blue Earth on November 15, 1904.  In his dedication speech, W. E. C. Ross said, "We have here - I think - a fine building.  But a library is surely more than brick and stone, more than a beautiful building.  My definition of a library would be that it is an assembly hall, a drawing room, free to all people, where at any time they are at liberty to go and there become acquainted with and receive edification and instruction from celebrated poets, wits, novelists, travelers, biographers, historians and in fact, many of the learned and cultivated of all ages in all departments of knowledge."  This majestic building was used as a library until 1985.

When the building was deemed too small to meet the needs of the community in the 1980's, the Public Library relocated downtown.  The Etta C. Ross building along with $15,000 for restoration and maintenance was donated by the city to the Faribault County Historical Society to be used as a museum.

The Etta C. Ross Memorial Library Museum had its grand opening in 1989 and now contains historical records, books, pictures, military items and artifacts that assist us all in recalling and appreciating the history of Faribault County.

In 1883, Etta began a journal expressing her thoughts and concerns as a young Blue Earth housewife and mother.  This journal later was the basis for a book written about her life by her granddaughter, Janet Ross.  The book, published in 1993 by St. Thomas Press, St. Paul, MN, was entitled, "The City That She Loved, a Reflection from the Journal of Etta Chadbourn Ross, 1883-1903".