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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon Once Battled Morrow In Bid For Warren County Seat

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 22 July 2004
Source:
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland:Heritage Press, 1979) page 19
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Warren County was once a part of the huge County of Hamilton. Deerfield, being a large township of Hamilton County, comprised all of the present county of Warren except 44 sections about Franklin. This area also included a portion of Clinton County. In 1799 residents of Deerfield Township asked the Territorial Legislature for a division of the County of Hamilton and asked that Deerfield be made the seat of justice of the new county.
On April 22, 1801, a meeting of the leading citizens of the township of Deerfield was held at the town of Deerfield (South Lebanon), which embraced the idea of a new county. This meeting was held with the territorial Governor, Arthur St. Clair, for the sole purpose of making Deerfield the county seat. The committee was comprised of the leading citizens of the township. They were: Rev. William Wood, Robert Benham, Jeremiah Morrow, Nathan Kelley, Ignatius Brown, Ephriam Kibbey and John T. Hall.
After the formation of the County, March 24, 1803, the first State Legislature of Ohio contested Deerfield contested for the new position of county seat by Lebanon, Waynesville and Franklin. Deerfield, with its earlier establishment as a town, and Lebanon with a more centralized location, and with its designation as the temporary place of holding courts, encountered a struggle for two years for this prestigious vacancy.
The final decision was concreted by a special act of the Legislature February 11, 1805. At the time of the passage of this act, William C. Schenck and John Bigger represented the County in the House of Representatives by Matthias Corwin and Peter Burr, and in the Senate.
The House of Representatives was nearly equally divided on the passage of this act, and a motion to reject the bill was lost by the casting vote of the Speaker. Lebanon had won by a very narrow margin. Deerfield's last hope of becoming a county seat had been lost.

Morrow's Bid for the County Seat

In March 1879, the County Commissioners submitted the proposal of building a new courthouse, with the approval of the electors. The Commissioners issued a public notice to this account, and within one week Morrow held a public meeting in which a proposal was discussed toward the building of a new courthouse in Morrow. Morrow's argument was that a new tax should not be established for the purpose of building a new courthouse; that those concerned should furnish the money and eliminate tax monies.
A written form read: "The friends of Morrow tender to the people of Warren County, the proposition to furnish the grounds and build the new courthouse by private donations free to the taxpayers, and we fully recognize the right of any and all other towns in Warren County to make similar propositions, leaving it to the people to say where their convenience and best interests require to its location."
At the April election, the electors defeated the tax. The tax proposal was again voted on in the October election of 1879, and again was rejected. After the second defeat, the citizens of Morrow circulated a petition authorizing a vote on the question of the removal of the seat of justice at Lebanon. The petition stated the advantages of the county seat being located in Morrow, one of which comprised the juncture of two railroads.
A statement was issued saying: "Lebanon being off the railroad can afford neither markets nor manufacturing facilities and has failed to develop the ordinary advantages of a county town."
The citizens of Lebanon at first took the Morrow proposal in stride, however, after several months, the issue became a bitter struggle. With Lebanon's tax hopes proven nil for the building of a new courthouse, the community requested the County Commissioners repair the existing building.
The argument for the citizenry of Lebanon stated in effect that Lebanon was on February 11, 1805, commissioned by the General Assembly of Ohio to be permanently established as the County seat. The Morrow petition and the Lebanon rejection were presented to the Legislature. Months of this quarreling had virtually brought the entire County into the battle.
Signatures of the Morrow petition numbered 2,148, those who rejected the petition, 3,750. With the vote in, the Morrow petition was brought before the Senate. This committee, upon hearing arguments from both perspectives, on February 12, 1880, agreed unanimously against the bill. The contest for the removal of Lebanon as a county seat was over.


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