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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Taking A Peek At Lebanon In The 19th Century

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 323
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon has long been an historic town dating back to September 1802, when Ichabod Corwin, Silas Hurin, Ephriam Hathaway and Samuel Manning laid out the town into 100 lots. It has always been fixed into the hearts of those who were born here, or to the ones who have been fortunate enough to have the privilege of close association with it.
Over the years Lebanon has been cast into the national limelight through many of its famous citizens; it has also been highlighted as the site of the making of two recent movies, "Harper Valley PTA," and "Milk Money."
Let us now travel back to another time when the City of Cedars was a place of residence for the pioneers who have since passed on their inheritance and culture to the community of today. One in that time would experience the old wooden stoops, which stretched far out onto the sidewalks. These little structures were nothing but wooden platforms, two or three times as wide as the doorways, and flanked on either side with benches, sometimes with backs and sometimes not. These configurations were not fitted with roofs. They faced only the open skies and the houses opposite, the latter possibly exhibiting their own opposing stoops. They were charming locations and were considered the gathering place for the older folks. Here they would spend the afternoon, or early evening hours, reveal the days' events, or possibly spin a yarn of the old days in the old country, or perhaps early Lebanon. Sitting far out onto the sidewalk gave one a sense of closeness which in turn made the whole neighborhood seem more friendly.
One could possibly envision the residents relaxing on the homemade chairs, or the self-fashioned benches, chatting and greeting the passersby in the open air. And, of course, a good cigar or a rather large plug of tobacco would be in accord with the gentlemen. This good old Dutch custom made the town residents feel eminently close. When the old folks left the old town, they always expressed delightedness about returning to the scene of the ever-present stoops.
Many of the early citizens of Lebanon built their houses up to the sidewalks. Front yards were often not thought of because the remainder of their land was devoted to gardens. This practice of house building brought about a custom, among those who did not have stoops, of placing chairs and other sitting arrangements on the sidewalk, and making a spot for family members and visitors. One resident remembers passing up Mulberry Street and seeing the familiar figure of Jimmie Hayes as he sat in his chair on the sidewalk in front of his residence, his cane in his palsied hand shaking violently. He also recalls that farther down on Broadway there was an old Dutch stoop, and an all too familiar sight was the figure of Mr. King sitting on one of the multi-fashioned benches.
The Lebanon House had an old wooden shed that extended over the pavement in front. Located at the curb were wooden pillars of a rather odd architectural design that supported the roof structure. The arrival of Dickens found the framework filled to capacity with the prestigious and the curious alike.
Ira Watts, a one-legged man, whose home was at the tavern in the days of the shed, spun yarns and sometimes truths of the old times which intrigued the many who gathered to hear. With his cane in hand and his crutch stretched across his remaining knee, he enjoyed telling the inquisitive his favorite story of how a calf once bit his leg off.
Another distinction of the town of Lebanon was the memory of the old town pumps. They provided fire protection, watered the great stock herds, and the just plain thirsty. The woodland springs brought forth a flavor in which no sweeter taste of water could be found. The long-armed handles of the pumps were kept constantly in motion as the passersby quenched their thirst, drinking from home fashioned tins or iron dippers. As modern water-works crept in, the last of the old pumps were replaced, not to the liking of the older residents. A feeling of sorrow was experienced at the removal of the ever-so- present wooden spouts. They had hung for years so gingerly over the horse-troughs, which had been for so long a part of everyday life.
Land bordering Silver Street, east of Broadway was a swamp in early times. Children of that day had quite a time amongst the reeds and wet mosses on that plot of land. Although wells were not sunk in this portion because of poor drinking qualities, accounts of good times were recounted on the low-lying wet plains.
Tanyards were plentiful in the early days of Lebanon. A youth often found himself ingrained in the somewhat aromatic fragrance of the fresh-ground tanbark before it was put into the vats, which were placed all about. Tanning of the different animal hides was probably first created in Egyptian times, at least 5,000 years ago. Paintings of that time have been depicted showing tanners at work with their tubs and mixing vats.
Prehistoric people used the hides of animals to clothe themselves. Untreated hides would have been too stiff and crack easily; also, decomposition would ultimately set in. The American Indian used animal brains to soften the hides and make it more water resistant. Smoking, soaking in urine, and rubbing with plant or animal oil, were procedures that the pioneer first used when treating the hides.
Bark-mills were used in the olden times to chip the oak bark into small chips. The small chips were then placed into the vat along with a mixture of rainwater, in which tannic acid was derived. The skins were then soaked until the tanning process was finished.
Tanyards were commonplace in each community. One such enterprise was located in Lebanon on Main Street, near Cherry. Another was located on Mechanic, and still another at the corner of Silver and Broadway.
The boys and girls would go and watch the blind horse in the bark-mill make his rounds, and quite often would ride the broad beam that went around with the horse, the first version of the merry-go-round in Lebanon. This was just another attraction that caused the Lebanon youth to reminisce and meditate upon their reflections regarding the old town.
Early sidewalks of the town were constructed of creek-stone, gravel, or tanbark. Lighting was supplied by the light of the lantern which was punched full of holes. James Turner supplied the tallow candles by which the early folks read and found their way to bed. Church, prayer meetings, and public entertainment always began at early candle- lighting. The era of camphene, coal oil and gas for lighting have since passed and the period of electric lights is now upon us.
In the days of the early church, musical instruments were not allowed; the choir director acquired his pitch by means of a tuning fork, and the preacher always "lined" off the hymns. From the melodeon to the pipe organ, advancements in church services have progressed, and our puritanism has disappeared.
A recall by the children of the early days details with enthusiasm the games about the old market-house on South Broadway. This house stood for years until the market- house located on Silver Street replaced it. The latter was eventually torn down and Washington Hall was built.
Lebanon still has many of its early homes still standing. The interiors with their high mantelshelves, the broad fire places, and the impressive chimneys still stand as a reminder to the past.
The wood fires in the great hearths were a symbol of pioneer life as the flames so romantically pranced their way up the ever-so-present chimney. Cooking over these great fires was not only a way of life, but also a treat to those, family and visitor alike, who recollects that community life, was centered around the great hearth in a way that cannot be forgotten. The smell of freshly roasted apples, the scent of fresh-baked cornbread spreading its aroma throughout the home, an everlasting taste of home-made breads that will linger on for a lifetime, all beckoning to the tired and hungry to sit, relax and enjoy these delicacies in the comfort of his or her own home.
The old ways, the old streets, houses, creeks and creek banks, the many games, all held a certain place in the hearts of the Lebanon pioneer.
If the past could only speak, volumes would be filled which would impress the visitor as to why Lebanon is so renowned.

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This page created 23 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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