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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Presidents In Lebanon

Dallas Bogan on 19 September 2004
The following was taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Visits of Six Men Afterward Chosen to the Presidency and Two Ex-Presidents.

All the Ohio Line of Presidents Visit Lebanon--Most of Them Deliver Addresses--Cordial Reception of John Quincy Adams--Gov. Corwin's Address of Welcome--
Occasions of Visits.

February 24, 1910

I purpose here to give an account of the visits to Lebanon by men who have held the office of president of the United States. The town has never been honored with a presidential visit. No one of the presidents has even been in the town while holding the office, but several men afterward chosen to the office and two ex-presidents have been among our visitors.
About 1825 the road thru Lebanon became an important route for stages from Cincinnati to Columbus, Sandusky and Cleveland, and also to Washington and other eastern cities, and a number of distinguished men passed thru the village in stage coaches, some of them stopping in the place for dinner or overnight. It is possible that some men afterward elected to the presidency and whose names are not included in the following list may have been among these travelers.
The list includes all the Ohio line of presidents and Benjamin Harrison, born in Ohio, but elected from Indiana. General Grant, a native of Ohio, may in his boy- hood have visited the town. His early life was spent in Georgetown, Brown county, and in his autobiography he says that in his boyhood he was the best traveled boy in Georgetown except the sons of one man who gone to Texas and returned. As a boy Grant had traveled as far east as Wheeling, as far north as the Western Reserve, as far west as Louisville, and as far south as Bourbon county, Ky., besides, having driven or ridden pretty much over the whole country within fifty miles of his home. But he does not mention Lebanon as one of the places he visited.

William Henry Harrison.

The ninth president of the United States had his home at North Bend in the county adjoining Warren and he was the first of the men to that high office who ever delivered an address in Lebanon. He may have visited the place or rode thru it on many occasions of which we have no record.
In 1840 when Harrison was a candidate for president he consented to speak in public for the first time at a celebration on the site of Fort Meigs, held on June 11. On his way to the celebration he passed thru Lebanon on June 4. His first political speech in the campaign was made at Greenville, and on his way homeward he spoke at Germantown, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton. He addressed a political meeting at Lebanon on September 12, the meeting being held in a grove at or near where the fair ground now is.

Martin Van Buren.

In 1842, the year after his retirement from the white house, Van Buren, who had served but half the presidential term of honor, was still a candidate for the nomination for the presidency. Accompanied by James K. Paulding he made a trip thru the south and west, visiting Jackson at the hermitage and Clay at Ashland. It was announced that the ex-president on his way from Cincinnati to Dayton would arrive in Lebanon on June 4, 1842. The citizens of the town, altho most of them had voted against him in the last presidential election, determined to receive him with the respect due an ex-president. He was met outside the village with a brass band and escorted to his hotel where a number of persons were assembled and Thomas Corwin, the governor of the state, on behalf of the citizens delivered a brief address of welcome. Mr. Van Buren replied briefly, speaking in so low a tone that his remarks were heard only by those nearest him.
It is related of one of our Whig citizens who disproved of any public demonstration in honor of a Democratic politician, that he continued to work vigorously with his hoe in his potato patch by the roadside as the band and ex-president passed by, studiously keeping his back turned to the road.

John Quincy Adams.

The next year after Van Buren was in the town his venerable predecessor; John Quincy Adams accepted an invitation to deliver an address at the laying of the corner stone of the Cincinnati observatory. Mr. Adams at this time was in his seventy-seventh year and was serving as an ex-president his seventh consecutive term as a representative to Congress. He made the long journey from his home at Quincy by easy stages, and it was announced would arrive in Lebanon on November 7th, 1843. This was learned with much satisfaction, and the citizens of the town made extensive preparations for the reception of the honored statesman. Ex-Governor Corwin was made chairman of the reception committee and selected to deliver the address of welcome. Mr. Adams reached Lebanon on the day announced for his arrival and was met a short distance from the town by citizens in carriages and on horseback. The public reception took place at the Baptist church. Mr. Corwin's address to the ex-president was truly beautiful. His remarks have fortunately been preserved and are found in the published collection of his speeches. Mr. Adams was much touched by the address and the welcome of the people. In his response he referred to the flattering manner in which he had been received in Ohio from the time he had entered the borders of the state at Cleveland a week before. In every city and village through which he had passed he had been surrounded by the people and the uniform expression to him had been "Welcome to Ohio." Referring to the address of Mr. Corwin he said there ought to be a blush of shame upon his cheek after the unmerited panegyric bestowed upon him by his eloquent friend.
"I must confess," continued Mr. Adams, "that my friend's address has deeply affected me. To that gentleman's voice in the halls of the national legislature in past years I was accustomed ever to listen with pleasure, and had been constrained to love and admire him not less for the qualities of his heart than for the strength and vigor of his mind; and when he was called from his seat in congress to the chief magistracy of this great state, I could hardly determine which feeling was most prominent in my bosom, joy at his elevation or regret for the loss of his eloquence in debate and wisdom in counsel in our national assembly."

R.B. Hayes.

In June 1867 the Republicans of Ohio nominated General Hayes for the first time for the governorship. The Democratic candidate was Judge Allen G. Thurman. It was arranged that the rival candidates should open the campaign with written speeches, both to be delivered on the same night, August 5, 1867, Judge Thurman speaking at Waverly, General Hayes at Lebanon. Both speeches were in type before their delivery and distributed to the press of the state for publication the next morning.
Hayes spoke at Washington Hall. He was a good off- hand speaker, but on this occasion he read most of his speech from proof slips. This, I think, was the only speech delivered by the nineteenth president in Lebanon and the occasion of its delivery the only visit he made to the town.
It is not easy to determine which of the two parties at the election in that year had the greater triumph. The Republicans by a small majority elected Hayes to the Governorship in which he served four years. The Democrats carried the legislature which sent Thurman to the United States senate for six years, in which he served twelve years.
James A. Garfield.
General Garfield was a born orator and a fine debater. For nearly twenty years the House of Representatives was the theater of his lasting game and in all this time he was much in demand as a campaign speaker. He spoke at Republican meetings at our fair grounds more than once. One night I heard him deliver a most forcible and impressive address in Washington Hall to an audience by no means crowding the hall which had a seating capacity of four of five hundred. On one of his visits to Lebanon he remained over Sunday and was the guest of Hon. Dr. James Scott.

Benjamin Harrison.

Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president, was regarded as one of the ablest speakers on great public questions in our country. In the presidential canvasses of 1868 and 1872 he traveled thru Indiana and addressed large audiences. He never made a political speech in Lebanon but on August 7, 1883 he spoke at a reunion of the 35th and 79th Ohio regiments held at our fair ground. At this time he was a United States senator from Indiana. A peculiarity of his, very noticeable while he was on the platform, was his wearing kid gloves during the whole of his speeches, and when a candidate for office in Indiana he was sometimes called by his opponents "the kid glove candidate." In Lebanon he was the guest of Major William W. Wilson.

William McKinley.

The twenty-fifth president made two political speeches in the Lebanon opera house after he became a national character and the leader of his party in Ohio. On the night of October 24, 1893 he and Governor Russell A. Alger, of Michigan, afterward secretary of war in McKinley's cabinet, addressed a large audience in our opera house. This was in the campaign which resulted in his re-election as governor of Ohio by about 81,000 plurality, a victory which made him a natural and leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1896.
While McKinley was not accounted a great orator in the accepted use of the term I thought he was one of the most pleasing and effective campaign speakers of his day. He was calm and argumentative, and did not tell good stories which his audience could remember while forgetting the argument. He was not declamatory or noisy, but he could command the attention of a large audience thru a long speech better than the more vehement orators.

William H. Taft.

The only visit within my knowledge made to Lebanon by the present president was to attend the funeral of his intimate friend Judge George R. Sage. The funeral services were at the East Baptist church Nov. 22, 1898. At this time Taft was United States circuit court of appeals of the sixth circuit. Judge Taft was one of the honorary pall-bearers among whom were several men of distinction.

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This page created 19 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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