The Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery is receiving a much needed face-lift by the City of Lebanon Public Works Department. The restoration project is a two-phase process:
- Phase One: Monument Straightening
- Phase Two: Monument Cleaning
Check out progress photos from phase one of the restoration!
History of The Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery
Authored by John J. Zimkus, Historian/Education Director of the Warren County Historical Society
The Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and West Street, six blocks west of the town square in Lebanon, Ohio. It occupies an entire block and is actually two old church graveyards. No fence, or barrier of any kind, is known to have separated the two cemeteries.
On the north side is the Old Baptist Graveyard. In 1811 the Baptists moved their church from a site east of Lebanon to what is now the northwest corner of the Pioneer Cemetery. In 1882, this house of worship was described as “a substantial brick meeting-house.” It would remain a Baptist church until the church across from the cemetery entrance was built in 1860. The site of the original Baptist Church is the only part of the Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery that has no burials.
Among those buried in the Baptist Churchyard are Ichabod Corwin, one of Lebanon’s four town founders; Francis Dunlavy, the first teacher in the entire Miami Valley and a principle writer of Ohio’s first constitution; Daniel Clark, the town’s first Baptist minister and, as his marker proclaims, “the first pastor ordained in the limits of Ohio;” Matthias and Patience Corwin, the parents of Gov. Thomas Corwin; and John and Mary Lincoln, the great-uncle and great-aunt to President Abraham Lincoln.
The southern part of the Pioneer Cemetery is the Methodist Cemetery. Unlike their cemetery neighbors the Baptists, this was not the churchyard for the Methodist. No Methodist burials are believed to have taken place here prior to 1820. At that time, the Methodist Episcopal Church was located near where the United Methodist Church is today on Silver Street, some seven blocks east and two blocks to the north.
Among those buried in the Old Methodist Graveyard are German-born Mary Klingling in, at her request, an unmarked grave. She requested that her estate fund an establishment; the three-story Orphans’ Asylum and Children’s Home, known in its later years as Mary Haven. It was built a mile or so west of Lebanon in 1874. The old orphanage was torn down in 2012.
Also interred in the Methodist Cemetery are the four Harner sisters. On May 30, 1844, these four adult sisters were in their home, about a mile to the west, when lightning struck the house. It killed them all instantly. The circumstances of their bizarre deaths are said to have once appeared in a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” newspaper column.
On June 20, 1850, the Lebanon Cemetery Association was formed. The stockholders had purchased 8 ½ acres to establish a village cemetery without any church affiliation. Their first burial took place on August 29 of that year. As the Lebanon Cemetery grew in popularity and in size, the use of the much smaller church cemeteries dwindled rapidly. By the late 1880s, the two old church graveyards were neglected and overgrown.
Today, the City of Lebanon maintains the Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery, as the two small cemeteries are now jointly known. Every year, hundreds of people visit the old church graveyards as part of historic tours or for genealogical research. The Pioneer Cemetery continues to play a crucial role in telling the story and preserving the rich history of Lebanon, Ohio.