TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 062:071, Town of Lebanon
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Bruce P. Stark.
Copyright © 2007 by the Connecticut State Library
The Town of Lebanon was incorporated in October 1700. Columbia, originally called Lebanon Crank, was established as a separate town in May 1804. As the community grew in population, it was divided into several ecclesiastical societies. The First Society is at the town center and is graced by a large brick meetinghouse and identified by its huge green. Subsequent societies were organized in Lebanon Crank, Goshen, and Exeter. At around the time of the incorporation of Columbia, the First Society was divided in the South and North Societies. Lebanon preserves its original selectman and town meeting form of government and with an area of fifty-five square miles is among the largest towns in the state.
The records of the Town of Lebanon are arranged in nine series and fill twenty boxes. Tax Records comprise the largest one, followed by Administrative Records and Poor Relief Records.
Series 1, Administrative Records, 1775-1858, holds extensive materials of historical value. It contains a variety of papers from bonds and indentures to town meeting and treasurer records.
The collection begins with two folders of loose and one volume of abatements of taxes. The volume, covering the years 1831-1853, provides a good listing of poor property owners for more than a twenty year time period (Box 1, folder 3). The next three folders hold bonds for constables, collectors, and treasurers. The first historically significant group of papers consists of six folders of indentures covering the years between 1782 and 1857 (Box 1, folders 8-13). These contracts, usually between the selectmen and masters, bind poor children who are either orphans or whose parents cannot provide for them into service until the age of twenty-one. The contracts provide a list of prohibitions imposed on the children together with the obligation of masters to provide clothing, education, and training for the apprentices. Series 1 also contains two folders of expenses for inmates at the Retreat for the Insane during the mid-nineteenth century (Box 1, folders 14-15). Town governments devoted considerable time and attention to the construction and maintenance of roads and highways, a subject documented in Box 1, folders 16-24. The documentation consists primarily of petitions to build new or repair and upgrade existing roads, plus occasional assessments of damages for property taken and surveys.
Annual financial reports of the selectmen fill four folders and contain the type of information that is later printed in town reports. The first one that contains useful town report data is for the fiscal year ending in October 1828 (Box 1, folder 25).1 The six folders of selectmen's correspondence (Box 2, folders 3-8) is often routine in nature, but includes a February 5, 1821 letter from the selectmen of Windham protesting the possibility of removing the site of the county court from Windham to Brooklyn, numerous complaints about the condition of roads and bridges, a December 1, 1842 request from Roger Bailey that he be appointed a tavern keeper for the ensuing year, notifications of men employed in but not legal residents of Lebanon beginning in the late 1840s, and a April 9, 1851 letter from the selectmen of Middletown concerning the construction of the "Air Line" railroad. One folder of selectmen papers holds an 1805 agreement between Lebanon and the new town of Columbia to apportion debts and dividing responsibility for maintaining bridges and an 1848 contract to build a town hall (Box 2, folder 9). One folder of petitions includes one from April 13, 1818 requesting the convening of a town meeting for the purpose of "ascertaining the sense of the Town of Lebanon regarding a written constitution for the State of Connecticut," and several concerning cattle running at large on public highways and the necessity of building a town house (Box 2, folder 10).
The collection contains six folders of town meeting records (Box 2, folders 11-16).2 The bulk of the material concerns annual election of officers and adopting of town resolutions.3 On January 31, 1810, for example, the town voted to accept reports of the selectmen regarding the laying out of highways and eight years later adopted a series of resolutions concerning highways, livestock, and town taxes.4 A resolution passed at the October 3, 1831 town meeting stated: "Voted, that (with the exception of one cow to each family) no inhabitant of the town of Lebanon shall permit his cattle, horses, or mules to run at large upon the highway or common on penalty of paying 50 cents for each of the aforesaid thus at liberty or thereby exposing the same to be impounded."5 On occasion, the town meeting issued instructions to its state representatives and senators with regard to issues of state and national import, as in 1836 when it directed them to vote that any surplus revenue from the federal government distributed to the states be divided among the towns in proportion to their grand lists.6 Special town meetings were sometimes also convened, as on January 11, 1847 when the selectmen were authorized to enter into a contract with the Retreat for the Insane in Hartford "for the support & maintenance of Morton Tilden a maniac pauper."7 In addition to listing the election of town officers, town meeting records are useful for tracking such subjects as care for paupers, roads and highways, and tax rates.
Town orders, often called orders on the treasurer, fill Box 2, folders 18-30 and Box 3, folders 13. They consist of orders signed by the selectmen directing the treasurer to make payments to specific individuals for services rendered to the town. They do not, however, provide any information on the nature of the payment.
Treasurer records begin with a booklet of treasurer accounts covering the years 1793-1795 (Box 3, folder 14). They document the considerable expenditures made to support the town poor who numbered more than twenty in 1795. The bulk of treasurer records, however, consist of bills and receipt covering ordinary and exceptional town expenses. They document the considerable expenditures devoted to care of the poor. A single folder for the 1810-1811 fiscal years, for example, includes bills to board Hannah Payn for twenty-six weeks, for the medical care of William York, for the care of Hagar Brown, and rum for Phebe Squaw.8 Treasurer bills contains hundreds of items that document care of the poor in Lebanon, dozens of which concern the family of Charles Hyde in the second decade of the nineteenth century. The files contain a number of doctor's bills for medical expenses for the poor. One October 20, 1817 bill from Dr. Erastus Osgood requests payment for the medical care of seven individuals.9 A number of individuals appear year after year, for example, Lathrop Davis, Charles and Lydia Hyde, Caesar Jeffers, Thomas Kaple, Lovell Rogers, and Mary Skinner.
A significant quantity of treasurer's bills concern road and bridge repair, as, for example, when Simion Peckham billed the town of Lebanon for $21.00 to pay for plank and work on building a bridge.10 The importance of keeping roads and bridges in good repair is demonstrated by the fact that towns had to pay damages for injuries incurred due to non-repair. In 1845, for example, the town paid Justin Clark $35 for the damage caused to his "horse breaking through a bridge."11 Payment to town officers and expenses incurred in the performance of their duties represent another significant expense. Selectman George Kingsley asked for reimbursement for his time in helping to perambulate the boundary between Lebanon and Columbia, for contracting for the support of town paupers, for making highway tax bills, for examining town records, and for travel expenses.12 In 1845, the town paid John Wattles $10.00 to listing and registering electors for the choice of president in 1844.13 The remainder of Series 1 consists of eight folders of documents concerning bridge and road repairs that were kept separate from treasurer bills.
Series 2, Poor Relief Records, 1787-1856, includes bonds, contracts, correspondence, and other papers concerning the care of and treatment of those who were unable to provide for themselves and much of the documentation is supplemented by that found in treasurer bills. The series begins with one folder of bonds (Box 6, folder 25), bonds for persons who contracted to care for all or a large group of paupers and bonds for those responsible for a single poor individual. The first bond in 1787 from Nathan Loomis concerns the care of Jerusha Laribee that stated that he would support her "in a reasonable and Sutable manner During her Natural Life with Every Necessary."14 Box 6, folders 26-28 holds contracts between the selectmen on one hand and individuals on the other who promised to care for individual paupers or all the indigent in town for a year. One typical indenture in 1797 was between the selectmen and Elijah Mason, Jr., James Mason, and Salmon Champion. The latter agreed to "reasonably & Comfortably support, maintain & provide at their own Expence for all the present poor Inhabitants" for one year with the exception of Walter Alden, Elizabeth Lamb, and Widow Sarah West.15
Twenty folders of correspondence contains much useful information, the most significant quantity concerning disputes between towns for care of the indigent and letters requesting payment for care of the poor belonging to one town and temporarily residing in another. In 1812, for example, the selectmen of Franklin asked the selectmen of Lebanon to pay for the care of Annis Frank "a black woman" who was taken sick in Franklin.16 In a second case, the town of Brookfield asked for reimbursement of expenses of $36.00 to care for Lebanon inhabitant Eli Gay who suffered the "shock of numb palsey which shut his left eye and destroyed the use of his left arm and leg" leaving him as helpless "as an infant child."17 An interesting series of documents concerns Morton Tilden, an insane pauper, who was eventually sent to the Retreat for the Insane in Hartford. They include three petitions to the town selectmen (Box 7, folder 23) and a group of letters on the case (Box 7, folder 14-15), together with treasurer bills and receipts from the Retreat in 1848 and 1849 (Box 1, folders 14-15).18 The series concludes with three folders of papers like agreements and petitions, like the 1820 agreement between the selectmen and Dr. Joseph Comstock to care for all the poor who become sick in the north and south societies for $30 for one year.19
The next series, Series 3, Land Records, 1792-1838, holds little of substance (Box 7, folders 24-25). Series 4, Court Records, 1802-1855 (Box 7, folders 26-27; Box 8, folders 1-3) primarily contains lawsuits and writs of execution directed against the selectmen for failure to pay debts owned to individuals. Series 5, Military Records, 1811-1856, fills just one folder in Box 7 and consists primarily of affidavits of individual members of the militia attesting to performing their military duty
Series 6, School Records, 1820-1885, has more substantive content that the preceding three series and it fill about three quarters of Box 7. It consists almost exclusively of enumerations and returns of children within each school district who "are over four and under Sixteen years of Age."20 They have special value to genealogists who are attempting to find out the names of minor children at a time when town vital records are usually incomplete. To cite just one example, the lists of scholars for the Second School District in the North Society for 1830 and 1831 provide the names of five children of Gurdon Waggs/Wiags who do not appear to be listed in any other source.21 The names of some scholars only appear in a single year, as does Isabella B. Warris, daughter of Richard and Julia Warris.22 Not every school district is represented for every year, but for the late 1850s and early 1860s coverage for virtually all the fifteen districts is extant.
The next two series, Series 7, Church Records, 1838-39 and Series 8. Election Records, 1847 each consist of just one folder. The first holds two resolutions of the annual meeting of the Independent Baptist Society in Lebanon, while the second comprises an 1847 broadside from the Democratic State Central Committee to the freemen of Connecticut.
The final series is Series 9, Tax Records, 1790-1928. It consists primarily of three kinds of records, rate books that just list the total amount of taxed property, highway rates books that do the same for highway districts, and tax abstracts that hold by far the most complete and useful information. The first abstract for 1790 has columns for polls, seven categories of livestock, nine categories of land, two kinds of chaises, two of watches, two for clocks, silver plate, money at interest, and four kinds of fireplaces.23 The kinds of items taxed changed over the years. In 1808, for example, new categories existed for bank stock, sheep sheared, and stoves and they continued to evolve throughout the nineteenth century.24 The box and folder list records the years that contain tax abstracts. Lebanon was divided into four societies and not all societies are represented for all years.
1The categories of expenses are for support of paupers, repairing roads and bridges, abatements, work house, assessors, payments to town officers, and "sundry expences." By mid-century, the categories consisted of support of paupers, repairs of roads and bridges, services rendered to the town (salaries), abatements, and miscellaneous expenses.
2The documentation sometimes includes calls for meetings.
3The meetings were rotated among the meetinghouses in the town until a town hall was constructed in the late 1840s.
4Legal Town Meeting, Jan. 31, 1810, Box 2, folder 11; Ibid, Nov. 16, 1818, Box 2, folder 11.
5Ibid, Oct. 3, 1831, Box 2, folder 12.
6Ibid, Dec. 19, 1836, Box 2, folder 13.
7Ibid, Jan. 11, 1847, Box 2, folder 15
8Treasurer Bills, 1810-11, Box 3 folder 26.
9Ibid, 1816-17, Box 4, folder 11.
10Ibid, Oct. 21, 1836, Box 5, folder 18.
11Ibid, June 6, 1845, Box 6, folder 1.
12Ibid, 1837-38, Box 5, folder 20.
13Ibid, June 17, 1845, Box 6, folder 1.
14Bonds, Nov. 24, 1787, Box 6, folder 25.
15Contracts, Apr. 3, 1797, Box 6, 26.
16Correspondence, June 1, 1812, Box 6, folder 29.
17Ibid, Mar. 11, 1818, Box 6, folder 30.
18Similar documentation exists for Jane Bennett.
19SPapers, Nov. 6, 1820, Box 7, folder 22.
20School Records, Enumerations and Returns, 1842 Aug 1, Box 8, folder 10.
21Ibid, Box 8, folder 8. The children are Gordon, John, Joshua, Julian, and Lydia. The standard reference work on people of color notes that Gurdon Waggs had a number of children but they are not listed by name. Barbara W. Brown and James M. Brown, Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut, 1650-1900, reprint (New London: New London County Historical Society, 2001), 453.
22School Records, Enumerations and Returns, Box 8, folder 13.
23Tax Records, tax abstracts, 1790, Box 9, folder 23.
23 Ibid, 1808, Box 10, folder 13.
Series 1. Administrative Records (1775-1858).
Series 2. Poor Relief Records (1787-1856).
Series 3. Land Records (1792-1838).
Series 4. Court Records (1802-1855).
Series 5. Military Records (1811-1856).
Series 6. School Records (1820-1855).
Series 7. Church Records (1838-1839).
Series 8. Election Records (1847).
Series 9. Tax Records (1790-1928).
Restrictions on Access
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
The State Library has other important Lebanon records that can be found in what is commonly called the Classified Archives, e.g., manuscripts catalogued in the Dewey Decimal System. These materials include: Records of Highways, Strays, and Cattle Marks, 1698-1849; microfilm of town records for the years 1698-1788; Land Records, 1726-1743; and Military Enrollments and Exemptions, 1848-1854. Also included are records for the First Congregational Church, 6 vols., 1700-1783, Goshen Congregational Church, 2 vols., 1728-1895; Exeter Congregational Church, 4 vols., 1784-1920; and Orange Baptist Church, 1818-1881. In addition, the State Library holds voluminous School District Records for twenty-five one-room schools for many of the years between 1796 and 1922; and Lists of Electors, 1855-1860. However, not all school districts are represented for all years and the number of districts increased during the 19th century.
Connecticut. Justice of the Peace (Lebanon)
Deeds -- Connecticut -- Lebanon
Justices of the peace -- Connecticut -- Lebanon
Local taxation -- Connecticut -- Lebanon -- Registers
Probate records -- Connecticut -- Lebanon
Property tax -- Connecticut -- Lebanon -- Registers
Public welfare -- Connecticut -- Lebanon
School enrollment -- Connecticut -- Lebanon -- Statistics
Tax assessment -- Connecticut -- Lebanon -- Registers
Taxation -- Connecticut -- Lebanon -- Registers
Writs -- Connecticut -- Lebanon
Lebanon (Conn.) -- Records and correspondence
Civil court records