The century of service began in the autumn of 1893 with a small subscription library of three books promoted by a Chicago firm. Several earlier subscription libraries in Danville had failed but this one lasted, in large part due to a handful of devoted and determined women and men. If the thumb is the most important digit, then Mrs. Charles H. (Mary Davis) Rodes was the thumb in this handful. Elected to the library's executive committee in 1895, she gave significant time and effort to the local library for more than four decades. In 1920 the Danville Library achieved some stability with the purchase of the old red brick Downton House from Captain A.B. Massey "and others" for $6500. The purchase required that a mortgage be obtained from a local bank and a Library Association was incorporated for this purpose. This librarian was more than a time-server, however. She is credited with two innovations, one successful, the other less so. With the approval of the Library Association, Elizabeth Tunis established the Paul Dunbar Library for Colored People in 1919. The branch library operated from a room on South Second Street with Mrs. Lee (Martha Pearl Rowe) Patton as librarian. As many as fifty members supported the branch with their annual dues until it closed for unrecorded reasons in 1922.