John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - Lebanon Borough

The following is reproduced from the 1875 Atlas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

Lebanon was originally called Steitztown, and was laid out by a Mr. Steitz, about the year 1850. From the first, it became plain that Steitztown was destined to be a place of considerable importance, and time has demonstrated that, in making it the County Seat, with the name of Lebanon, the citizens of the new county showed a judgment and foresight which does credit to their memories. In 1821, the town had advanced to a point which made an incorporation necessary, and it became a borough, with the name of Lebanon. Since then, the growth of the place has been steady, both in wealth, population and commercial importance, until it ranks in proportion to its population among the first manufacturing towns, not only of the State, but of the whole country, and had a population in 1870 of 6727. True, as have all other towns, it has had its eras of panic, financial distress and general stagnation of all enterprise and improvement; but in the following years of prosperity it has always made up for its enforced losses of the past. Its business men are shrewd, cautious, and far-seeing, and its industries rest mostly on too broad a basis to be shaken by the first breath of adversity. The town is regularly laid out, and occupies a beautiful and healthy situation near the source of the Quittapahilla. It originally occupied the rising ground to the south of that stream, but gradually, as mills began to be erected, and the water powers utilized, (tradition says there was water and to spare in the Quittapahilla then) the town grew down toward that stream; and when the Union Canal was built, a little town began to be built up along its line, which was called North Lebanon. Both towns prospered and grew, and naturally, the older became, or rather continued the centre of trade, while the new, situated as it was, along the Canal, and thus possessed of excellent transportation, turned its attention more to manufactures and the heavier branches of trade. Naturally, a friendly rivalry grew up between the places. Of the two, the younger one, perhaps, gained the most rapidly, for in Rapp's history of Berks and Lebanon counties, published in 1844, by G. Hills, we find this sentence: "The Union Canal passes contiguous to the Borough, affording great facilities to business, where the bustling, neat village of North Lebanon is growing up rapidly and beautifully. It will outgrow Lebanon proper." But a new agency was to come into play, which was destined to combine the interests of the two, and bind them together in bonds never to be broken. In 1856-7, the Lebanon Valley Railroad was completed, and the whistle of the locomotive was heard for the first time in the Lebanon Valley. The line of the road was located between the two towns, and a depot erected on the eonnecting road. Improvements were made, and soon a large and beautiful hotel was built at the depot; large machine works were established in its near vicinity. Then at other points along the line, and the intervening open space came into demand, and was cut up into streets and building lots, and now contains, perhaps, as many dwellings as did Lebanon proper in 1844, many of them among the finest in the town; here and there is also a store, but mostly confined to a local trade, as the old town is still the business centre, and probably always will be, although this section is, perhaps, as valuable for building lots as any portion, the immediate business section excluded. In this manner the two towns have grown together, and their interests become so interlinked that in 1869 the two became consolidated, the old borough becoming the 1st, 2d, 3d and 4th wards, and the new, the 5th and sixth. It is proper here to state that the writer, in referring to the railroad passing between the towns, referred to the business centres, and not to corporation lines, as the railroad passed through the limits of the old borough, which at that time was not built up. Thus, Lebanon became consolidated, and with the Union Canal for heavy transportation; the Lebanon Valley Railroad furnishing ready and rapid communication to the east and west; the Lebanon & Tremont connect ing it on the north, with the coal fields of Schuylkill county, and the prospect of a connection in the near future, on the south, with roads in Lancaster co., and on the north with the South Mountain railroad; and her great industries becoming more and more important each day, cannot fail to become one of the most populous and important inland cities of the commonwealth. True, at the present juncture, its prospects and growth are somewhat retarded by the great wave of financial disaster which has for several years paralyzed the industry of the nation; but in the future, as in the past, success will follow failure, and victory, defeat; and as in 1857, the panic of 1873-4-5 will only add to the true prosperity of Lebanon by ridding it of those "excrescences of mushroom growth," which gather in every town from time to time, and need the pruning knife of adversity to lop off and leave the solid trunk remaining. The writer regrets that he has been unable to obtain much of the early history of Lebanon and vicinity, but he has failed to obtain the information desired. There can be no doubt that the immediate vicinity was settled long before the laying out of Steitztown, and that a church was built there as early as 1740 by the Moravians, and also by the Mennonites. One of these was not long ago used as a barn. The location of these settlers was probably around where Hebron now stands; and many of the settlers were Palatines. We find records as early as 1723, of families of the name of Noacre and Spyker. Among the names of those in 1730 are many still common in the county, and whose descendants are among the most numerous families in the county. It does not seem that the Indians actually penetrated to Lebanon during the trying years between 1750 and 1760, but that Lebanon was a place of refuge for those who were driven from their homes by their depredations. As many as 60 families took refuge at one time in the house of a Mr. John Light, and several other houses were also used as places of security. In the Hebron grave-yard is buried the body of one Spittler, who was shot by the Indians in Bethel while putting up a pair of bars; this occurred in May, 1757. There is, however, no record, so far the writer can ascertain, of any murders in the immediate vicinity of Lebanon, and it is fair to presume that the frontier settlements, acting as a barrier against their incursions, the people of Lebanon suffered no loss of life at their hands. In 1772, Lebanon had upwards of 200 houses; and in the war for independence, had many of her citizens in the Continental Army. As late as 1840, there were 4 revolutionary pensioners still living in town. Quite a number of Hessians were confined in the Lutheran church in town, and the Moravian near town. Many of the citizens of Lebanon were at the battles of Trenton, and more at, Germantown. Many old buildings are in town, but so many contradictory dates are assigned, that the writer decides to give none, certain of being regarded as incorrect by some one. Among the hotels, he will say that the American Hotel was built in 1771, as, through the kindness of Dr. Ross, he was shown the original inscription over the door. It read as follows "God bless this house, and all that goin and out of it. Caspar and Sarvina Schnaberly, 1771." But this is not, by any means, the oldest house in town. The Court House, when built, was looked upon as a model of elegance and beauty, and people came from all parts of the county to see it. (They had no U. B. A. building then.) Dr. Ross' house on Cumberland st. is said to have been the first three-story house in town. It is to be hoped that some citizen of Lebanon will make a history of the town ere the recollections of the past are entirely obliterated. Lebanon has good schools and fine church facilities; excellent streets and side-walks over most of the town. The accompanying maps explain the lay-out of the town. It is supplied with good water, and with gas, and is fully up to the times. The population in 1870 was 6727.