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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

South Lebanon Is The Oldest Town In Warren County

Dallas Bogan on 26 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 140
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

South Lebanon has the distinction of being the oldest town in Warren County. Originally named Deerfield, the town was, in all probability, laid out in the autumn of 1795, although no date of the survey is available.
One of the first men to explore the lands on the Little Miami was Major Benjamin Stites of Essex County, N.J. In 1786 or 1787, he descended the Ohio River with a flat boatload of flour and other articles to Limestone (Maysville), Ky. While in Limestone a band of Indians stole some horses and other merchandise from Stites.
Consequently, arrangements were made to assemble a party of frontiersmen to pursue the culprits to their camp. They followed the trail down the Ohio and up the Little Miami to a point a few miles north of Xenia. His stolen property was not retrieved, but on the return trip down the valley of the Little Miami, Stites and his party carefully observed the beauty and fertility of the countryside.
Sometime later, he met Judge John Cleves Symmes of New Jersey, and sparked an interest in the judge concerning a possible speculation of purchasing all the lands between the two Miamis. (Symmes did purchase all the lands from the Ohio River to an east/west point paralleling the Monroe Road in Lebanon, between the Miamis.)
The name Stites did not turn up as one of the parties in the purchase of the lands, however, he became the owner of 10,000 acres near the mouth of the Little Miami. On this land he founded the first town between the Miamis, Columbia. He also purchased about 10,000 acres in Warren County, and became the owner of all the land on which the eastern part of Lebanon now stands. This purchase also included lands in which Deerfield (South Lebanon) was laid out.
Major Stites thought that a town situated on the large tract he purchased could be an asset and would add value to all the lands in his acquisition. Major Benjamin Stites, Benjamin Stites, Jr., and John Stites Gano laid out the town of Deerfield on a top-notch portion of land on the north side of the river. Its location was thirty miles above the Ohio, and was the first town laid out on the Little Miami above Columbia.
The new village was platted with 144 lots of one-half acre each; a total of 100 acres must have been used. Four of the lots were donated to the public, and there was little doubt that these lots would possibly be used at a future time for county buildings, should the town become the county seat.
A custom generally used in the Northwest Territory was that the proprietor of a new town would offer a lot as a gift to any settler who would make a clearing and build a cabin upon it. Deerfield, as well as Columbia and Cincinnati, followed this plan. The town plat was not recorded until April 23, 1802, and a total of twenty-nine lots were given to the first settlers.
The Centinel of the Northwest Territory, a Cincinnati newspaper published from 1793 to 1796, says in its concern regarding the establishing of Deerfield:
"That the number of lots in the town of Deerfield which was to be given for building a house or cabin is now complete, there being twenty- five houses or cabins finished and thirty-five lots taken that we first proposed as an encouragement to form the settlement. We hereby forbid all persons whatever from entering upon, cutting down timber on any lot or lots in said town except they purchase. - John S. Gano, & Co. Cincinnati, Jan 25, 1796."
Deerfield, at the turn of the last century, was the most important place on the Little Miami above Columbia. It was a stopping and gathering place for many of the early settlers of the Miami Valley. Many family heads often left their families at the newly found town while they traveled on and made improvements on their recently purchased lands.
The earliest execution of deeds in Deerfield was initiated by John Stites Gano, and was dated April 14, 1797. They were assigned to: John Kreker, two lots; Peter Keever, two lots; Elnathan Cory, two lots; and Thomas Cory, two lots. The money consideration for these properties was $2.00 per person. Gano executed deeds the same day to Isaac Lindley, two lots and one outlot of four acres, consideration, $10; Martin Keever, two lots and two outlots, consideration, $10. James Cory received a deed for three lots on June 20, 1797, consideration, $5.00.
Deerfield hosted the first sermon in Warren County by a regularly ordained Methodist preacher, Rev. John Kobler, on August 9, 1798. (Francis McCormick, a local preacher from the area of Milford, may have preached within the limits of the County before this occasion.) Rev. Kobler kept a journal of an account of his first visit to Deerfield and the difficulties he encountered in obtaining a place to preach. His journal is dated August 8, 1798. He writes:
"In the afternoon rode some miles up the Miami River to a small village called Deerfield, where I suppose there might reside ten or fifteen families.
"On arrival there I was invited into a house to see a sick man, whom I found to be a Quaker. Asked if I should pray with him and his family. He said 'No.'
"Reasoned with him on the necessity and propriety of prayer, and enforced the words of St. James - 'Is any afflicted, let him pray;' but he would hear no reason, said he was raised among the Friends and that I should not pray.
"Had with me a letter of introduction to a man who resided in the place who was supposed would receive the Gospel in his house. When this was presented to him, he treated both the message and messenger with utter contempt, saying his house was no place for preaching. Here I went from house to house making inquiry; at last heard that the man above mentioned had a son living in the place, and that his wife was actually a Methodist - hastened on to the son's house, but found that the old man had been there before me, and given them their charge, by using his utmost influence to bolt and bar every door and heart against me.
"Indeed this son had sent word, I afterward understood, that if any of our preachers came through these borders, he wished them to be sent to his house.
"Finally I heard of a Baptist in the place to whom I applied, who received me cordially - his name was Sutton. Lord grant that he and his family may find mercy at that day for when I was a stranger he took me in hungry and he fed me, I was thirsty and he gave me drink. Next day, at an early hour, his house was filled with attentive bearers to whom I shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God."
Gen. David Sutton was one of Deerfield's first settlers, and for years one of its best-known individuals. He was a native of Hunterdon County, N.J.; the date of his arrival in Warren County is unknown. He was known to have kept a tavern in Deerfield. At this house, elections for Deerfield Township were held under the territorial and early state governments.
Warren County was organized in March 1803, and Gen. Sutton was appointed its first Clerk of Courts, a position he held for twelve years, from 1803 to 1815. He was a representative to the State Legislature in 1816, 1818 and 1823. He left his political post of Clerk of Court at the beginning of the War of 1812, raised a company and was given the rank of captain in the first army that was raised in Ohio. He was sometime later elected colonel at Urbana and was for many years a general in the Militia. His political stature was originally associated with the Anti-Federalists or Jeffersonian Democrats. However, with the formation of new parties in 1828, he became a member of the Jacksonian Democratic party.
At the time of his death, September 15, 1834, in his sixty-eighth year, he was the democratic candidate for State Senator from Warren County.

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