South Lebanon

From Ohio History Central

The Village of South Lebanon, once called Deerfield, is the oldest town in Warren County. Major Benjamin Stites, Benjamin Stites, Jr., and John Stites Gano laid out the town of Deerfield. The new village was platted with 144 lots of one-half acre each: a total of 100 acres. Four lots were donated to the public, with the idea that they would possibly be used at a future time for county buildings, should the town become the county seat.

It has a rich and vibrant history dating back to 1795 and was, at that time, considered the most important place on the Little Miami River. It is also credited as being the site of the first tannery in Warren County, and possibly the first tannery in the state of Ohio. The tannery was operated by Andrew Lytle who was among Deerfield’s earliest settlers. His home still stands on this site.

Some other early, permanent settlers included Capt. Nathan Kelly, Capt. Ephraim Kibbey and General David Sutton. Capt. Kibbey, a surveyor by trade, served in the army during the Revolutionary War and was Ohio State Representative from 1803-1804. Of these early settlers, General Sutton was, perhaps, the best known. His house, built in 1795-1796, was used for the first election in which a total of sixteen men voted. The house later became one of the first taverns in Deerfield. General Sutton was the first Clerk of Courts, a position he held for twelve years. The first army raised in Ohio to fight in the War of 1812 was led by, then, Capt. Sutton.

In 1805 there were three towns nominated to become the county seat of the very young county of Warren. Most of the county had been taken from Hamilton County. It was created in 1803 and the legislature had the job of selecting a new county seat. The decision reached a stalemate in the legislature when Lebanon and Deerfield tied. The speaker of the house voted for Lebanon because he felt it was near the geographical center of the county. South Lebanon lost out on a change to have the county courthouse, and the four lots were put to other purposes.

During the Civil War, South Lebanon earned the reputation as being one of the most patriotic communities in the county. This small village provided an abundance of men and finances toward the war effort that far exceeded contributions made by neighboring communities.