The Bridgewater Library Association was established in l904, but it wasn’t until l909, when a room for library purposes was established at the recently built town hall, that the first public library in Bridgewater was born. Mabelle Sanford, a member of a prominent Bridgewater family, was a driving force behind this effort. She sent out subscriptions to many people who were associated with the town. Among them was Captain William Dixon Burnham.
Captain Burnham, who was born in Litchfield in l847, had lived in Bridgewater and in Sharon as a boy and all his life he retained fond memories of these towns. When he was fourteen years old, he went to sea and ultimately became a shipmaster. Burnham made many voyages around the world and, after the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in l898, was instrumental in establishing the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company. As the fortunes of this company prospered, so did those of Burnham, who was the general manager.