Before the arrival of European explorers, Lebanon and the Mascoma valley were the hunting territory of the Squakheag Indian, Mascommah, whose name is still a common word in this locality. The Native Americans had ceased living in this region, however, possibly as early as 1700.
A military force returning from the Battle of Louisburg, Nova Scotia passed through the Lebanon region in 1758, and Rogers’ Rangers came down the Connecticut in 1759. The surrender of Montreal brought peace to the New Hampshire frontier in 1760.
Benning Wentworth, royal governor of the province of New Hampshire, issued a charter to the town of Lebanon, July 4, 1761. Grants were made to 52 proprietors, most of whom resided in Connecticut. Many never came to town but sold their rights to others.
A committee of the proprietors came here in 1761 to survey the first division of 100 acre lots. Their base line was the King’s Highway, a roadway laid out 8 rods wide. Sections of this early road still survive with the original stone walls in place. (1-2 to H-1)
The first inhabitants were four men who spent the winter of 1762-63 in a shelter of bark and boughs they built on the bank of the Connecticut River at a spot later called Camp Meadow. A lonely winter it must have been with no neighbors within 30 miles. (D-2)
The first grave in town was that of Michael Johnston who was drowned while canoeing down the Connecticut River, June 1762. His body was discovered by another river traveler and was buried on “Deadman’s Island” in the river, later called Johnston’s Island. (J-1)
A path was cut along the Connecticut River in 1763 from Fort No. 4 in Charlestown, N. H. by a committee appointed by the proprietors. This trail allowed travel only on foot or on horseback and loads could be transported by packhorse only, not by wagon.
William Downer, his wife and eight children were the first family to settle here. Making the difficult journey from Charlestown with their few belongings, this hardy pioneer family came to Lebanon in 1763 to build themselves a new home on their intervale lot. (M-2)
The first sawmill was built by Oliver Davison on the Mascoma River in the western end of town. The proprietors voted a tax of 10 shillings to aid him in building the much needed mill in 1763. Prior to this time grain was carried to Charlestown for milling. (H-4)
King George III proclaimed the western bank of the Connecticut as the boundary between New Hampshire and New York, which then included what is now Vermont. This 1764 decision settled the boundary dispute but controversies over previous land grants persisted.
The first town meeting was held May 15, 1765. The townspeople, comprising about 20 families, voted a tax to pay a pastor for the summer. In those early days the pastor was a town officer and his ministerial affairs were settled at town meeting.
The earliest burying ground, the Old Pine Cemetery on Glen Road just north of the present U.S. Rt. 4, was started in 1765. Stones marking the graves of many of the town’s early inhabitants can still be found in this old graveyard. (H-4)
The oldest surviving house was the old Hall place in West Lebanon, built in 1766. (Now known as the “Dana House”, it was moved to Seminary Hill, West Lebanon in February, 1988, to preserve it.) The original owner is not known, but the house became the home of Dr. Ziba Hall, Lebanon’s first resident physician, who came here in 1780. (H-2)
The first bridge over the Mascoma River, later called Hubbard’s Bridge, was built in 1767. None of the earliest bridges were covered and most of them had no railings until 1834 when it was voted to put railings on all the bridges in town. (H-4)
The first religious meeting place was in the open air under a gigantic elm tree in West Lebanon in 1768, at a site now marked by a stone tablet. Here was ordained the first settled pastor, Isaiah Potter, who served the community for 45 years. (G-2)
The first schoolhouse was built in 1768 on the King’s Highway in West Lebanon, west of the present airport. This log schoolhouse was the town’s first public building and served as well for public gatherings. The building survived for over 100 years. (I-2)