Hugh Embry was born in 1879 in Kentucky, the child of tobacco farmers. He was nineteen when his family moved from Kentucky to Dade City in 1897. Tobacco could be grown in central Florida then. He and his six brothers and one sister made themselves at home in Pasco County.
In 1904, when 25-year old Hugh was recuperating from an illness, there was no public library in Dade City. Restless and eager to read, he began a drive to secure for his fellow citizens the means to broaden their minds through books.
He began soliciting subscriptions of one dollar from each household, and his zeal inspired enthusiasm for a library. A few dozen books were purchased and were lent to subscribers from a library operated out of the Embry home, located on the site of the present US Post Office on Church Avenue. In December of 1905 the Pasco County Library Association was chartered and incorporated. It operated out of the back room of the Bank of Pasco County on the northeast corner of 7th Street and Meridian. That library flourished for several years.
Tuberculosis was a ruthless disease in those early years, and it claimed the life of Hugh Embry at the age of 28. Without Hugh’s missionary zeal, the library faltered.The Dade City Woman’s Club stored the collection and made occasional loans.
Mrs. Emily Clark took charge and kept the library open for one day each week until 1925 when the Pasco County Library Association went out of existence. In 1927, the Hugh Embry Memorial Free Library opened in the George B. Massey Building. It boasted “some 800 volumes” with Ellen Richardson as librarian. Borrowers paid a fee of two cents for new books until they were paid for.
In 1930, the Woman’s Club gave the books to a new association, The Hugh Embry Memorial Free Public Library Association. Mrs. F. G. Stockbridge served as librarian from the early 1930’s until 1951. When the present city hall on Meridian was built through the WPA, the library moved into the west side first floor section. Money from the WPA was the first provided to pay the librarian. Later, the city, county, and school board contributed small amounts. Mrs. Dorothy Lock requested $12.50 from each.
In 1953, the library became the property of the city. A Friends of the Library group was formed. The Friends asked for and were granted a site for a library building. Over the next ten years, the Friends raised $25,000 through donations for a building. In 1963, a new building was dedicated for the Hugh Embry Municipal Library. In 1981, the Hugh Embry Library became part of the Pasco County Library System. In 1986, citizens approved a bond referendum for ten million dollars to provide for countywide library system improvements, seven million for capital improvements, and three million for collection development. A renovated branch building reopened in 1991, doubled in size to 7,200 square feet. That is the building you now see on Meridian and Fourth Street.
In 2004, the Hugh Embry Branch of the Pasco County Library System celebrated 100 years of service to the community, exemplifying the city motto.