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     The Clapp Memorial Library was made possible chiefly by a bequest of Belchertown native 
John  Francis Clapp.  John Francisís father, James Harvey Clapp, moved to Belchertown from 
Northampton in 1812, almost 200 years after Captain Roger Clapp, the American family patriarch, 
sailed from  England into Boston Bay.  James Harvey married Marilla D. Francis, daughter of the 
Reverend John Francis of Pittsfield, in 1815, and they had five sons and three daughters.  The elder 
Clapp was prominent in public affairs for over sixty years, serving as a selectman, County commissioner, 
and three-term representative to the legislature.  He was also one of the proprietors of the old Boston 
and Albany stage line and the owner of a Belchertown hotel.
     John Francis Clapp, the eldest child of James and Marilla, was born in Belchertown in 1818.  A 
studious youth more interested in books than in games, he is known to have said in later years that he 
never had enough to read as a boy.  He left the hill town for New York City when he was sixteen years 
old, and there he continued his studious habits, teaching himself both Spanish and French-languages 
that proved helpful to him in business. He lived in New York for about sixty years, becoming a partner 
in the firm of Simpson, Clapp, and Company.  Everett, Dwight, and Edward Lyman Clapp followed their 
older brother to New York and, like him, became merchants.  They continued to maintain residences 
on South Main Street near the library, returning with their families during the summer months. 
     Toward the end of his life, John Francis Clapp resolved to bestow the gift of a library on his native town. 
He wanted to have a handsome building with ample grounds, so that additions could be erected in the 
future.  He particularly wanted enough space for lectures, concerts, and other entertainment.  After 
discussing the details with his brothers, he made provisions in his will for a bequest of $40,000.00 to 
be set aside for the construction of the library and for the purchase of its contents.  John Francis Clapp 
died in 1882.  His bequest, held in trust by his brothers and sensibly invested, grew to $46,000.00 by 
1887, the date by which the building, according to the will, had to be completed.  That sum paid for 
the construction and for the accession of many original volumes.
 
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