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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

First Town Lot Sales In Lebanon were Made More Than Two Years After the Town Was Platted

Dallas Bogan on 28 September 2004
The following is 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

Town Laid Out in the woods--Its Site Covered With Lofty Trees and Thick-Growing Bushes--Long Delay in the
Sale of Lots, Start Taken in 1805 and Many
Sold at Good Prices--Buildings.

December 2, 1909

A striking fact in the early history of the town of Lebanon is made apparent by even a cursory examination of the new indexes to the land transfers in the office of the county recorder. This is that not a single town lot in Lebanon was sold for more than two years after the town was projected, surveyed and platted but afterward the sale of lots went on rapidly and at good prices.
When the centennial of Lebanon was to be celebrated it became necessary to fix on a date for the celebration. Those who had charge of the anniversary determined to have a three days celebration on September 25, 26 and 27, 1902. The only authority in an official document for the date of the beginning of Lebanon is found in a certificate prefixed to the recorded plat of the town, signed by Ichabod B. Halsey, who certifies that he made the survey and plat, and that the town was "laid out in September, Anno Domini One Thousand Eight Hundred and Two." As the surveying and platting could not be completed in one day, the celebration could be held in any part of the month, and it was determined to hold it on the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of September of 1902.
While no mistake was made in the time fixed upon for the centennial celebration, it may be of interest to put together several dates in the early history of the town.
The first settlement at Lebanon was made by Ichabod Corwin in March, 1796.
The town was projected, surveyed and platted in September, 1802.
The county of Warren was created March 24, 1803, and a log tavern in the town was fixed upon as the place of holding courts in the county until a permanent seat of justice was established.
The plat of the town was acknowledged by the original proprietors before a justice of the peace on October 18, 1803, and soon after recorded.
Lebanon was made the permanent seat of justice February 11, 1805.
Lebanon was incorporated as a village on January 9, 1810.
Our land records show that from the laying out of the town in the autumn of 1802 no one of the original proprietors executed a single deed for a town lot until early in the year 1805. This long delay in the sale of lots is explained by the uncertainty of the location of the seat of justice for the county of Warren which was not finally settled until two years after the organization of the county. Lebanon was the fourth town laid out in what is now Warren county. All four towns were laid out while Ohio was a part of the Northwest Territory. When Ohio became a state and Warren a county, Deerfield, Franklin and Waynesville were all older and more important towns than Lebanon and all four contested for the seat of justice, but Deerfield, the oldest, and Lebanon, the most centrally located, were the principal contestants, and the strife between them was an animated one.
Lebanon gained an advantage over its rivals in the act establishing Warren county, which provided that until a permanent seat of justice in the county was fixed, courts in the county of Warren should be held at "the house of Ephriam Hathaway on Turtlecreek." This house was a hewed log tavern which stood a little north of the site of the new Lebanon National Bank building. As this was near the center of the town laid out about six months be- fore the passage of the act, the question arises why were not the words "in the town of Lebanon" used instead of "on Turtlecreek." A good answer is found in the fact that, altho the town had been surveyed, as yet it had no legal existence. Its plat was not placed on record at Cincinnati, the county seat of Hamilton county, and until the plat was recorded its streets and alleys and public square were not dedicated to the public, and the legislature could not properly recognize the place as a town.
Michael H. Johnson was the first recorder of Warren county and the recording of deeds does not seem to have been commenced at Lebanon until the autumn of 1803. The dates of filing the earliest instruments for record was not noted, but it seems to have been in October 1803. The plat of Lebanon was the seventh instrument recorded in our land records. After this, the town had a legal existence which could be recognized by courts and the legislature, but it was only a town in the woods, and more than a year past before the first deed for a town lot was executed.
The struggle for the seat of justice went on. The legislature at its first session had appointed three commissioners to locate the seat of justice in Warren county. Not one of them was a resident of this county. They were required to "examine and select the most proper place as the seat of justice, as near the center of the county as possible, paying regard to the situation, extent of population and quality of the land, together with the general convenience and interest of the inhabitants." They were required to make a report to the court of common pleas, but their report is not found in our court records. I have never been able to ascertain whether they agreed upon a report. The contest was not settled until February 11, 1805, when the legislature passed an act fixing the seat of justice for the county of Warren at Lebanon. The house of representatives was equally divided on the passage of this act, and the bill was carried by the casting vote of the speaker.
The passage of this act was looked upon as the settlement of a vexed question and the making of Lebanon. Town lots in the new county seat, tho covered with forest trees and a thick undergrowth of spice bushes, at once became more valuable than in the older towns on the two Miamis. There was a good demand for the lots and probably more town lots in Lebanon were sold within a few years after the settlement of the county seat question than in all the three older towns. Deeds for 34 lots in Lebanon were executed in 1805, and for 15 in 1806 at prices varying from $12 to $100.
The original town plat contained only one hundred lots, all of which lay north and east of the two branches of Turtlecreek. Many lots lying near these streams were low lands and not very valuable for building sites. At first the lots on Main and Broadway streets were most in demand and brought the best prices. It seems to have been thought by the projectors of the town that these would be the principal business streets and they were the only streets the names of which appear on the original plat. Sycamore, Mechanic, Cherry, South, Mulberry and Silver streets were marked on the original plat but without names.
The first deed executed for a town lot in Lebanon was for lot No. 98 on Broadway and lying immediately north of the northeast lot of the public square. On January 25, 1805, Ephriam Hathaway conveyed this entire lot, containing fifty square perches, to Samuel McCray, in consideration of $100. The purchaser of this lot was a prominent citizen of the new town and about 1806 he erected on this lot what is believed to have been the first brick residence in Lebanon. It is still standing and known as the Keyte residence. On March 28, 1816, this lot was sold to Thomas Freeman, a Lebanon lawyer, for $1957.
William Ferguson purchased from Ephriam Hathaway on March 23, 1805, the half lot lying east of the first court house, consideration of $40.50. On this lot was built a frame tavern called the "Indian Chief," which became famous in the early history of Lebanon. At this tavern Henry Clay with his family stopped in 1825 and here his daughter Eliza lay sick and died. William Ferguson was a prominent merchant in Lebanon and after 1822 moved into the Indian Chief tavern and kept it until his death in 1831. Mr. Ferguson was the purchaser of several different lots in Lebanon in the early history of the town.
While the original proprietors of the town received good prices for unimproved lots, they were compelled to make donations to the county commissioners for the erection of county buildings. In order to secure the seat of justice they had agreed to donate the proceeds of the sale of each alternate lot on the original plat to aid in the erection of a court house and jail, and the act fixing the seat of justice at Lebanon authorized the county commissioners to receive from any persons voluntary contributions of money or property for the completion of the county buildings. On March 16, 1805, the original proprietors of the town appeared before the commissioners and delivered into their hands, for the use of the county, notes and money aggregating as follows: Ichabod Corwin, $425.75; Silas Hurin, $292.55; Ephriam Hathaway, $457.00; five lots donated and sold afterward for $66.50l; total $1,244.80.
The contract for building the first court house was let to Samuel McCray on April 27, 1805, at $1,450. The building stood where the western part of the Lebanon Opera House now stands, and was completed January 3, 1806.
Before the erection of the court house a temporary jail had been built on the public lot south of the Lebanon House. This was the first public building in the county and cost $275.00. The walls and the floor were both constructed of logs hewed one foot square and notched so as to lie close together. In 1807 a stone jail was built on the lot on which the Public Library now stands at a cost of $990.00
The sale of lots in the original town plat was such that additions to the town were soon made. The earliest additions to the town were made by Peter Yauger and Ephriam Hathaway in 1806; by Samuel Manning in 1807; by Levi Estell in 1808; by Ichabod Corwin in 1809, and by Matthias Ross in 1814. Samuel Manning, who owned the land on the east side of the original plat, had refused to allow any considerable portion of his land divided up into lots, but the sale of lots in his addition proved profitable to him.
A good class of pioneers had settled about the site of the town, some of whom because prominent public men. Lebanon was early noted for the intelligence and high character of its citizens. In 1806 the first printing press was brought to the town. In 1811 the Lebanon Library society was chartered and soon the young town had a small but valuable collection of books.
Francis Dunlevy, of Lebanon, was the first president judge of the circuit embracing the western third of Ohio. John McLean, of Lebanon, was the first Ohio lawyer to reach the bench of the supreme court of the United States.
The first description of the town by a traveler that has been found was given by Morris Birkbeck, an Englishman of wealth and culture, who while traveling westward on horseback, stopped over night in the little village. Under the date of June 22, 1817, he wrote:
"As we approached the Little Miami river, the country becomes more broken and much more fertile, and better settled. After crossing the clear and rapid stream we had a pleasant ride to Lebanon, which is not a mountain of cedars but a valley so beautiful and fertile that it seemed on its opening to our view, as a region of fancy rather than a real backwoods scene. Lebanon is itself one of those wonders which are the natural outgrowth of these backwoods. In fourteen years, from two or three cabins of half-savage hunters, it has grown to be the residence of a thousand persons, with habits and looks no way differing from their brethren of the east. Before we entered the town we heard the supper bells of the taverns and arrived just in time to take our seats at the table among just such a set as I would have expected to meet at the ordinary in Richmond--travelers like ourselves, with a number of storekeepers, lawyers and doctors, men who board at the taverns and make up a standing company for the daily table."

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