History of the City

Lebanon History
Lebanon is a City rich in history and heritage. Its civic pride is evident in its cleanliness, warmth, and fervent desire to include everyone in the community.


Settled by early pioneers after the American Revolution, Lebanon saw its first cabins in the 1790s. In 1802, a surveyor laid out the community with Broadway and Main Streets intersecting at the center of town. Broadway was to be six-poles wide to ensure that a six-horse stage could turn completely around in front of the tavern. The town was then divided into 100 lots of 50 rods each, with the four center lots to remain reserved for public lands.

Courthouse, Jail & Newspaper
Lebanon flourished as stagecoaches rumbled through the streets bearing travelers and settlers from the East. In 1805, the first courthouse and jail were built by public subscription, and in 1807, John McLean began publishing Ohio's oldest weekly newspaper, The Western Star.

The Shakers
One of the earliest influences of the Lebanon area came from a religious sect known as the Shakers. Although their community, Union Village, was sold more than half a century ago, local interest still exists in their culture and buildings, which form the nucleus of the present-day Otterbein Retirement Community.

The history of Lebanon is rich in the philanthropy and foresight of its founders and their followers.

Southwestern Normal School
In 1855, with the arrival in Lebanon of Alfred Holbrook, came the Southwestern Normal School. Its maverick methods and texts were nationally-admired and copied. By 1917, the university that grew out of the school boasted 80,000 graduates.

Mary Haven Home for Children
Upon her death in 1867, Mary Ann Klingling left $40,000 to establish a home for orphaned children. The bequest required a community match, and it was not until 1886 that the county commissioners built the Mary Haven Home for Children.

Private Benefactors
In the 1900s, Lebanon received its strongest private benefactors - William Harmon and a mysterious Jedediah Tingle. William Harmon and Jedediah Tingle were later discovered by The New York Times to be one and the same person. Apparently, William Harmon used the name of his maternal great-grandfather for much of his charity correspondence. He provided much-needed funding and encouragement to a variety of community projects.

Harmon Civic Trust
In 1915, Harmon organized and endowed the Harmon Civic Trust for ongoing community-improvement projects. This trust still exists today.