Historical Sketch


On February 16, 1813, the legislature created Lebanon County, as it now stands, from parts of Lancaster and Dauphin Counties. The choice of the name "Lebanon" stems from the deep religious nature of the early settlers of this valley, who name many of the towns and villages for Biblical places. These early settlers of this valley were German Agriculturalist attracted to the valley because of the fertile limestone solid, which reminded them of their homeland along the Rhine River in Germany. Their position here was made secure when the Scotch-Irish settlers migrated to the base of the Blue Mountains about 1720 and formed a buffer between the Indians and the peaceful German settlers.

As the county developed the Indian trails become roads. A waterworks was built in Schaefferstown in 1750, probably the first waterworks in the United States, and at the same time, the county seat and only city in the county of Lebanon was laid out by George Steitz, first known as Steitztown. It was later named Lebanon in 1758, incorporated into a borough in 1799, and granted a city charter in 1886.

Union Canal TunnelMuch of the progress in the early life of Lebanon County was due to the Union Canal and railroads. The canal was completed in 1827 and connected the Schuylkill river at Reading and the Susquehanna river at Harrisburg. At its halfway point one mile northwest of the city of Lebanon, a tunnel 729 feet long was hewn out of solid rock, a formidable undertaking with the tools of that day, and this tunnel was the first of its type in the United States. Use of the canal waned when the Lebanon Valley railroad was completed in 1857. Marking another important stage in the progress of Lebanon county. Among the many other first's of which the county is proud are the first High School commencements under Pennsylvania's free school system held in 1873. The first newspapers published weekly, one in German and started in 1807, and one in English which was first published in 1819; and the first daily newspaper founded in 1872.

Lebanon has always been a center of iron and steel manufacturing, reaching back to the Revolutionary War, when the busy Cornwall Furnace supplied much of the iron for the cannons and munitions used by Washington's Army.

Volunteer Firefighter StatueThe social life of the valley showed early signs of healthy activity in the voluntary fire companies, which were vital to the welfare of the community. The Cedar company, organized July 17, 1773, contributed most of its members to the Revolutionary War in 1776, and since then Lebanon County has sent many men into the service of our country.

Historical Sketch by Frederick S. Frantz
displayed on wall in main lobby of the
Lebanon County-City Municipal Building
Lebanon, Pennsylvania